By Rick Farris
Randy . . . I've been unable to compare contemporary boxers and trainers with those of the past, however, the problem is far deeper. It's not just the talent in the ring, but those who showcase the talent. Let's play, "what if". What if we had Manuel Ortiz and Ruben Olivares around today (two all-time great bantams from different eras, both showcased by great promoters), what made them and other greats so good? Besides the trainers, conditioning and natural talent, these guys honed their skills by staying busy. They didn't just fight once or twice a year. When they weren't defending titles they were involved non-title fights. They didn't just train themselves into condition, they "fought" themselves into shape.
It's human nature to be better at thngs that we do often. A fighter is best off when fighting in the ring in front of an audience, which is much different than gym wars. Guys get title fights today that would not have qualified for a non-title match in other eras. Look at the records of past champs, and I'm not even speaking of guys like Armstrong, who defended his welter title 18 times in two years while also holding the featherweight title, and for awhile the lightweight title as well. Besides title fights in three divisions he fought top rate contenders in non-title bouts. Checkout the records of Olivares, Napoles, Carlos Ortiz, just to name a few off the top of my head.
What promoter today is going to risk losing a box-office draw by matching him with somebody who might win? And in the old days, some of these great champs would drop a decision or come up short in a non-title fight. It goes back to the reality that nobody is great 365 days a year. So what? The cream will always rise to the top. And besides, what is more boring than a guy who cannot be beat? A guy scores an upset in a non-title match, and then you have a great excuse to make a title match. When done properly, it's been proven that boxing can take care of itself, but only with the help of brilliant promoters/matchmakers.
While guys like Hap Navarro made it easy for a fan to fork over the cost of a ticket, knowing that they would see a great show complete with great matches, a celebrity audience and a feeling that somebody went out of their way to entertain them. Today, it is not unusual for a boxing audience to feel "strangled" by a weak undercard, and a good chance the main event will be a bore as well. No wonder young fans aren't catching on to the world of boxing, and seeking excitement from the MMA, etc.
To fix boxing, you need not just fix the talent of the boxers and teachers, but the guys who will put them in matches. I truly believe that without the great promoters/matchmakers, boxing would have died long ago. With a majority of today's boxer's weak in talent, and promoters not understanding how to please a crowd, the sport is in a desperate condition.
Boxing has always survived it's challenges, but it always had talent to rely on. Today, we are at a loss on fronts.
My opinion, of course.