Top Rank: Boxing Wildly Popular with Young Fans

AP HayeBellew
The Associated Press

Boxing used to be king in the United States. Listen for sports references in popular music and they’re almost always about boxing or baseball. Today it’s all about Brady and LeBron but it used to be names like Johnson, Louis, Marciano, and Ali that were all the rage.

The fight game was number one for a very long time. It will never get back to that prominence in this day and age of team games and all the other combat sports, but just because boxing isn’t the top dog doesn’t mean it isn’t top notch.

Look no further than Top Rank Boxing for proof that the fight game is once again worth watching. Talented boxers from all different weight classes are shining in the sport and some of the very best are part of the Top Rank Boxing team. This past weekend a tremendous card was held in Philadelphia capped off by a match-up for the super bantamweight WBO World Title between Jessie Magdaleno and Isaac Dogboe. It was good stuff. Hard hitting stuff. Old school fighting. Those who missed it, missed out.

You may have heard about the pre-fight salvos thrown between these two boxers. The insults and potshots covered everything from aliens to chickens to children to border walls to President Trump. These two cut promos the WWE would be proud of.

While verbal attacks won’t win you a fight, they may very well win you fans. In a day and age in which MMA and pro wrestling are popular pastimes, boxing can use a little trash talk. It put butts in the seats during the time of Ali and it works today too. The brash boxer is often the better boxer. It’s a brutal sport. You almost have to be an egomaniac to thrive in it. Mixing it up with words before throwing the fists also creates villains. Good vs. evil, whether real or perceived, is always good for business in entertainment, in sports, and in sports entertainment .

Top Rank Boxing, as it has done for decades, continues to present interesting bouts between interesting men. The boxing fan is drawn in by the back and forth leading up to fight night and then validated by the tremendous in-ring skill when the bell finally rings.

The quality boxing is out there. Now, the sport needs to attract new fans.

The way to do that is simple exposure. Nowadays, a lot of Starbucks sipping, soccer parents shield their children from the sweet science. If football and its concussions is the devil to the touchy-feely, boxing is their hell. Getting those kids to tune in to boxing is about as likely as getting their parents to vote for Trump in 2020. However, there is an untapped audience of young people that would absolutely love boxing if it is presented to them in the right way.

While countless American kids have their noses and eyes glued to phones, there are still plenty of children who are immersed in more productive activities. Church, school, and lots of sports fill the days and weeks for my kids. After playing sports, my kids love watching sports on television. We are a big baseball, football, basketball, and hockey house. My 7-year old and 9-year old also love wrestling and yes, boxing. Perhaps they’re old school. That’s a good thing.

After watching lots of bouts on TV and online from old film of Duran and Hearns to live footage of Mayweather and Prograis, my kids have taken an interest in boxing. This past week I took them to their first live boxing event. I think they may be hooked.

Like any event, you see and hear things live that you don’t see or necessarily hear on the tube. During the Dogboe-Magdaleno fight and the bouts before them, my son and daughter were fully focused. They heard the punches land, they saw the sweat fly, they cheered for the fighters, the ring girls, and the music. They had a blast.

They even scored the fights. The heavyweight tilt between Bryant Jennings and Joey Dawejko went the distance. All three judges had it 98-92 Jennings. My kids both had it 97-93 Jennings. Pretty good for first timers. Just a few years after learning to score baseball games, both my children enjoyed scoring boxing. That’s definitely worthy of a ProudDad hashtag.

Their first time at a live boxing event was really special for my kids. Not only did they take in all the fights and soak up the atmosphere they got to meet two of the men they saw fight. During the main event both Jennings and Dawejko made a post-fight appearance ringside. Both took the time to pose for a picture with my children. It was an amazing gesture.

So often you hear people say that hockey players are the best guys and the most fan friendly. That may be the case in team sports, but boxers are certainly right there with them. It seems like a simple thing, but for two men who just got their brains beat in for 10 rounds to stop and enthusiastically take the time to talk with fans and pose for pictures, that goes a long way. Nothing creates lifelong fans quite like genuine kindness and athletes who care about their sport’s future.

Top Rank Boxing in particular is a positive for the sport. At the event in Philadelphia last week, the only people who worked as hard as the boxers were the Top Rank Boxing staff members. The men and women who make up the Top Rank Boxing team go out of their way to make sure the production is top notch and that those enjoying it are getting the best possible product. Their work ethic comes across in a well oiled production that is professional and sleek in person and on TV.

The only disappointment my kids had during their first foray into live boxing was the night ending. They could’ve watched another card they were so fired up. They react the same way at baseball games. While the suits try to speed up pace of play, real fans, no matter how young, are loving every minute of it. Other kids would have similar thoughts about baseball and boxing if they were given a chance to truly love these sports early on.

The future of boxing will all depend on the quality of fighters and the ability to recruit and keep new fans. The boxers are there. Isaac Dogboe is young and hungry. Shakur Stevenson is ready to make his big splash. The Rougarou is on the loose in New Orleans and beyond. The fighting is there to be enjoyed. Now, parents need to give their kids the opportunity to tune in and fall in love with one of the oldest sports we know.

My son was throwing combinations at me for days after the event. My daughter was so excited after taking in the Dogboe-Magdaleno fight, she even wrote her very own article about it when we got home. There are plenty of new fans out there to be had. Some may even be the next Mayweather. Or in my daughter’s case, the next Bert Sugar. Boxing is alive, folks. It has the potential to be alive and well in the near future.

Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @kevinscholla

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