*Some 5000 years ago, the Romans held events in the Coliseum in which individuals would enter the dirt floor of the arena with their fists and forearms wrapped with spiked leather and engage in hand to hand combat until someone was left dead.
It was such a brutal sport at that time, that even the people who were arranging these events simply got sick and outraged at the brutality of it and eventually some 100 years before Christ was born, they decided to outlaw it all together.
In the beginning of the 1700’s boxing had a sort of rebirth. There was a guy named James Figg who happened to be a very popular athlete in England at the time, who brought the sport to modern society by establishing an institution that taught men how to fight with bare knuckles.
This manner of fighting would continue on through the era of the great John Sullivan, who thought he could “whip any sumbitch in the house”, as he would always say.
The only way that the sport would get publicized was through the print media and word of mouth.
Sullivan by the way refused to fight any black fighter although there were plenty of them that were willing, and able to fight him.
On December 8, 1908 in Ruscutters Bay, in Sydney Australia Jack Johnson finally caught up with Tommy Burns, who also refused to fight anyone that was black. He only relented when he was given a cash offer that he couldn’t refuse.
At that time, the bout was being covered by the print media from around the world, and being filmed with reel to reel cameras using black and white film.
The interesting thing about this event was the fact that the promoter Hugh Macintosh was also the referee.
Jack Johnson would beat Tommy Burns so unmercifully throughout the bout that the cameramen would be ordered to stop all filming. The would go fourteen brutal rounds and at the end of the day, he would become the first black heavyweight champion and eventually return to the United States not to a hero’s welcome, but to race riots that would take place from coast to coast.
Things have indeed changed quite a bit since those days of bare knuckles.
Promoters no longer double as referees, and fights are being telecast live around the world with people paying exorbitant amounts of money to see the likes of Floyd ” Money” Mayweather, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, Andre “SOG” (Son of God) Ward, and Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins just to name a few.
In the old days, there were just a hand full of guys like Hugh Macintosh, and Tex Rickard promoting fights and getting paid through the live gate and from the fight films being shown in theatres.
Now we have not only the well seasoned veterans like Bob Arum, Don King, Gary Shaw, and Kathy Duva (just to name a few), but people like Oscar De La Hoya ( who has over 100 fighters signed) Floyd Mayweather, and now even rap mogul, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, are all going after the big bucks that is waiting at the end of the rainbow through pay per view, sponsors, etc. And there’s no end in site.
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself the question, who has the most power in the sport? And where is all this headed? Only God knows.
This one thing is for sure, we’ve got some exciting bouts to look forward to as Canelo Alvarez is set to go against Austin Trout in San Antonio, Texas on April 20. Danny Garcia and Zab Judah come together on April 27 at the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, New York,( these events will be telecast live on Showtime Championship Boxing). And Floyd “Money” Mayweather goes against Robert Guerrero on May 4 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in an event that will be telecast live on Showtime pay per view.
And speaking of Mayweather, I had a chance to talk with newly crowned 154lb champion, Ishe Smith recently at the Mayweather Boxing Gym the weekend of the Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado match up.
He says he is grateful for winning the title from Corneilius Bundrage, and for all the support and opportunity that Floyd Mayweather has given him. He’s the first fighter to be born in Las Vegas to win a world title, and we look forward to seeing more of him.
That’s all for now, don’t worry, boxing’s not going anywhere.
Mohammed Mubarak is a boxing writer and his column can also be seen in the Pace News, the Inland Valley News, and the High Desert Inland Valley News. He can be contacted at [email protected] for your comments.