By Aaron Reynolds
If the London 2012 Summer Olympics were any indication of what the future sport of boxing looks like, the crystal ball blatantly made it clear that the United States will not be playing much of a factor.
0. That was the number of medals (gold, silver, or bronze) boxers representing the United States took home after Errol Spence – the final remaining boxer from Team USA -- exited the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Leaving the Olympics empty-handed is a shocking revelation for the most successful Olympic boxing team in the history of the sport, and, it just might explain the recent downfall of the sport within the States.
The Hispanic population has a number of top ranked fighters to support. The same goes for Puerto Rico, Russia, Cuba and The United Kingdom. Why not the United States? The country has won a record 108 medals at the Games, including what would become the first platform into stardom for legends like Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, and Oscar de la Hoya. Where did it all go wrong?
The recent rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts is the easiest (not to mention laziest) explanation; however the factors in the equation are far more complicated and deeper than that. Some say that kids from the 'hood don't box anymore because they're too smart to take repeated shots to the head when they could, for example, earn millions in a more attractive way catching a football or dunking a basketball.
However, sports columnist Jason Whitlock recently attributed the decline of U.S. boxing to the lack of its representation at the collegiate level (http://msn.foxsports.com/olympics/boxing/story/dominic-breazeale-usa-boxing-on-the-ropes-because-of-neglect-bad-decisions-080212). Whitlock argued that, contrary to popular opinion, kids in the ghetto are not afraid of taking a punch, but they are more inclined to play a sport where they have a greater chance to escaping the 'hood and earning an athletic scholarship. Football and basketball offer that opportunity. Boxing? Not so much.
Whitlock might make a good point, and, hypothetically, if the U.S. did install a larger, more popular boxing program nationwide – and a number of stars arrived from said program 10-15 years later would it reignite the sport of boxing?
The truth is that boxing does NOT need a U.S. superstar to return to its golden era. Boxing is, and will always be, popular among the Latino populations. Why can't TV ratings still soar? Do you really need a Caucasian or African-American to succeed?
No, but in the past Americans have had a boxer to call their 'own'. In ten seconds could your average fan even come close to naming the top American boxer in the world right now? I'm not even sure I could.
American boxing may never return to its prime, and, sure another U.S. hero would help the sport's popularity, but it's time that Americans stop dwelling so much on the past and focus on the future. Other countries are producing some big-time talent, and boxing is still a sport to be appreciated even if the biggest names no longer belong to the United States.
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