The sport of boxing entered the fast lane of American life during the 1970’s, with the release of the major blockbuster Rocky series of films. Now, the sport was prevalent for many, many decades before the film was released, with the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier, but the release of the Rocky films certainly shined a public light on the sport which had never been seen before. When Sylvester Stallone’s titular character, Rocky Balboa, knocked out champion Apollo Creed so hard it looked like it would take a floor jack to pry him off of the mat, the idea of “rooting for the underdog” took a sudden grip upon American culture that exists to this day. So, why has the popularity of the sport faded in prominence, while this idea of rooting for the underdog still persists? Well, there are a couple of theories, one of which is examined below.
First, boxing still enjoys status in American culture as well as on a worldwide scale. Major fights, many times involving Floyd Mayweather and company, are still televised from fabulous Las Vegas via “prime-time” pay-per-view events through cable and satellite subscriptions. It is still promoted as an exclusive event, and many parties in man-caves across the world are still gathered in the name of boxing. However, the days of George Foreman and Evander Holyfield appearing as paid endorsers on many of our everyday household products, such as the fabulous “George Foreman Grill,” are long gone. Now, these endorsements are generally linked to work-out supplements and protein powders. Why did the decline occur in this fashion; or more appropriately, why has the shift from everyday products to speciality products occurred? Hopefully, this theory will aim to explain these two questions.
It is the belief of this writer that the American appetite for the “same ol’ event” diminished and evolved to favor the newest form of professional sport fighting — mixed martial arts in the format of the “Ultimate Fighting Championship.” These events, which are designed to resemble the format of actual street fights, came into the public view after exposure to films such as Fight Club, where the lead character decided to form an underground club of men who met at certain locations to fight for the sake of fighting. The popularity of this movie directly fed the rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship form of professional fighting. Now, just like the former product endorsements of professional boxers, there is UFC-labeled merchandise for just about any occasion.
So, what does this say about boxing? Well, let’s understand that the main push of boxing into the public eye was with the story of a washed up underdog who fought his way back to the top through majestic training sessions through Philadelphia. Can the entire sport of boxing, now the underdog to the more popular UFC, stand a chance for a comeback victory to the top of public opinion? No one can answer this, for certain, but as a fan of the two red gloves and the magic that happens inside of a boxing ring, one can only hope that this will eventually be the case.