50 Years After “The Sunshine Showdown,” Boxing Looks Nothing Like It Did

Sergey Nivens / shutterstock.com
Sergey Nivens / shutterstock.com

The infamous line “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down Goes Frazier!” is one of the most widely regarded statements in boxing. Uttered on January 22, 1973 by Howard Cosell, it represents the culmination of the battle between George Foreman and Joe Frazier at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

With Frazier just two years out of his “Fight of the Century” against Muhammad Ali, Frazier was unable to come to terms with the great fighter, so Foreman stepped up to the plate. Foreman came in at 6’4” and 217 pounds, while Frazier was listed at 6’ and 214 lbs. This size advantage put Frazier at a significant disadvantage from the get-go, and it was one he couldn’t shake the whole fight.

Fights like this don’t happen these days.

Fighters are now overprotective of their “legacy,” and that has driven many people away from the sport. If you stopped 100 people on the street and asked them to name 3 boxers who are actively fighting, at least 80/100 couldn’t name but one or two. The obvious Floyd Mayweather would be said (incorrectly) by most. Tyson Fury would likely come in second.

This lack of passion has taken boxing out of the limelight. You don’t see it on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” programming these days. Even ESPN only shows fights from Bob Arum’s Top Rank, and 90% of the card is only shown on ESPN+, so only big fans are going to tune in. The days of grabbing some beers with buddies at the local bar while watching the big fight are gone.

Without a resurgence of the Foreman-Frazier kind of fighters and promotions, the world of boxing will eventually fall by the wayside. With MMA organizations like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) constantly in the news, and the resurgence of classic brawling in Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), boxing has become stagnant.

Instead of pride and titles, boxers are now competing for clout on social media, and padding their record against tomato cans so they can claim to be the greatest and demand more money. These demands fall largely on deaf ears, and it leaves many arenas 75% full compared to what they can fit.

While people like Jake Paul are attempting to revive the sport by getting the younger generation interested, it may be too little too late.