Convicted Artist Magazine

May 28th
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boxing-defenseYes, I am gratfeul that EPIX, Versus, and ESPN 3 all occasionally grace us fight fans with air time.  However, this is not the answer.  There are so many outlets nowadays, that someone with only a basic DirectTV package can watch the same FOX Sports Golden Boy card on 7 channels simultaneously.  A bit better package gives you the Top Rank cards in real time.  If you have those channels, you also likely get the British Prizefighter Series.  In addition, Versus has gone back on their stance to abandon boxing, as they air both Toughman reruns, as well as the World Series of Boxing.  It's not top shelf, sure, but it's boxing, and it's on TV.  Sounds like a great time for televised boxing... but if we ever hope to return our beloved sport to the mainstream, we should actually be encouraging the opposite.

I am a stand-up comedian by trade, and as such I have seen this kind of oversaturation before.  It does far more harm that good.  In the 1980's, stand-up comedy experienced a boom.  There were not a ton of comedians, but there were a ton of clubs.  Comedians you have never heard of, were getting regular TV spots, and headlining clubs every week of the year for $2500 a week, plus airfare.  It was a golden era.  But then, two things happened, and the industry has never fully recovered.

First, there were so many TV channels, all offering stand-up both in showcase and hour special-formats (HBO, Showtime, MTV, VH1, A&E) , and two entire stations were devoted to comedy (HA!, Comedy Central).  Now, people saw it as a viable career option, and the talent pool increased considerably.  Then, from 1989 to 1993, the economy was in a recession.  People stopped going out to see live comedy, instead settling for watching it incessantly on the TV shows.  The result was pronounced.  By the late 1990's, there were 1/5 the amount of clubs.  They paid 1/3 of what they paid in the 1980's, sometimes even less.  The business has never recovered.  It all started, and was exascerbated, by too much exposure for the mid-level shows.

If we want to increase the profile of boxing, the actual answer is less televised shows, but of much higher quality.  Friday Night Fights is fine, but what about Sunday Night Fights on a national network channel (CBS, FOX, NBC, or ABC).  Networks still matter, as much as we like to pretend ithey don't, because everyone has cable.  They do, but somehow it just means a bigger audience to have a network.  Daytime afternoon weekend boxing, like back in the 80's, with legitimate championship fights, is another great option.  Make the fighters household names again, have them guest star on that networks' b.s. reality shows, and let the new names bring the casual fans back.

We also need a new attitdue toward smaller, local, record-building fight cards.  If people want to see the lower level shows, they should have to go watch them live.  Fighters should earn their way into TV coverage, not simply expect it, because they happen to fight in a TV-heavy town.  We are in a unique postion with MMA bringing new white middle-class audiences to boxing.  Let's make them work for it, but only give them the good stuff.

Chris Strait

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