In a time when boxing continues to reach a marginalized audience, mostly through premium television subscribers and pay-per-view customers, the survival of the sport increasingly depends on well-known fighters and the money they're able to generate in pay-per-view matches.
But what happens when those fighters don't deliver? Well, that's exactly what has happened in the sport's two biggest fights of the past month. Now, boxing promoters are looking for ways to shake off devastating blows to their reputation.
This Saturday, Bernard Hopkins, the 46-year-old fighter who recently broke George Foreman's record for being the oldest boxer to win a championship of significance, lost against challenger Chad Dawson after dislocating his shoulder in the second round.
After Hopkins threw a right hand and missed, he clenched Dawson, holding him at his abdomen before Dawson lifted him up off of the canvas, then slammed him onto his left shoulder. After several minutes of confusion, referee Pat Russell stopped the fight, giving Dawson a TKO victory at the 2:48 mark of the second round.
The first round stunk because nothing really happened, says one reporter from ESPN who was in attendance during the fight. The second round was more of the same until the miserable end.
The TKO victory could have been avoided if the referee would have decided to rule the slam a foul. Instead, the referee ruled the slam unintentional and, therefore, a legal move, leaving Hopkins with no other choice but to end the match because of his injury.
The bizarre ending to the fight is the second strange ending to a pay-per-view boxing match in the past month. During the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Victor Ortiz pay-per-view that took place less than on month ago, Mayweather knocked out Ortiz while his hands were down at his waist. The two had been separated after Ortiz landed an intentional head-butt. Although experts agree that the blow was legal, many felt that the knockout punch was unsportsmanlike. Some even called it a suckerpunch.
With every boxing match of significance costing roughly $60 to watch, promoters are effectively restricting their audience--and recent performances from top fighters aren't helping generate any more fans. It may take long for some people to rekindle their appreciation for boxing after a month of unusual finishes. If there's ever a time to do it, it will during the third meeting between Manny Pacquiao and his biggest rival Juan Manuel Marquez who meet November 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In their first fight, Marquez was knocked down three times in the first round, but fought back to earn a draw. In the second fight, Pacquiao won in a split-decision victory. The third fight will end the trilogy of one of the greatest rivalries in contemporary boxing and many boxing fans hope the fight will white-wash a year of disappointment.