The Heavyweight America Needs
By Carl Pottorff: I was 6 years old when Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996.
My father and uncle were boxing fans. I cannot begin to recall all the matches that I watched with them on my uncle’s illegal cable hook-up while sitting on my uncle’s couch drinking Coca Cola on a Saturday night. But one event I can still recall clearly to this day is watching the first Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield fight.
Being 6 years old, my knowledge of the sweet science and sports in general was drawn from my father as he sat cursing the Bears or the Bulls if they had an off night (this was in the midst of the Bulls 2nd 3-peat) or yelling at boxers to go for the body. But one thing was certain: I was a Mike Tyson fan, remembering his knock out of Bruce Seldon in the first round.
So as Holyfield effectively picked apart Tyson, I sat quietly decimated as my uncle and dad cheered with joy. Painful memories.
Why bring up this tragic moment in my young life? Well, even as a wide eyed 6 year old boy, I knew who Mike Tyson was. I knew who (at the time) was the best Heavyweight champion in the world.
Today, I do not believe that any American, other than boxing purists, know who Deontay Wilder is, or any other heavyweight for that matter. And that is a problem for boxing in mainstream American sports.
Sure, everyone knows who Floyd Mayweather is, but he has stepped away and we as American boxing fans need that big time heavyweight champion more than ever.
I know, Deontay Wilder is the WBC champion. But does anyone outside of the boxing world know Wilder? Anthony Joshua has accomplished that Mike Tyson/Muhammad Ali status in the U.K., but why not Wilder in America?
It’s more than obvious that boxing has fallen out of favor with the general public, replaced by UFC. More people know who Conor McGregor and Rhonda Rousey are than Terence Crawford or Errol Spence. And boxing did that to itself, with a record of corruption, horrible judging, and a failure on part of the promoters and boxers of matching up the best against the best.
What chance boxing did have of regaining a hold on the American public went out the window in May 2015 when Mayweather and Pacquiao put up a dud of a fight. There was excitement temporarily gained when Conor McGregor stepped into the squared circle to take on Mayweather. But that was more of a spectacle than a boxing match. Any momentum was lost when the first GGG/Canelo ended in a highly disputed draw.
Back to square one.
What America needs is that heavyweight champion who will be on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a box of Wheaties that captures the curiosity and interest of the public.
Is Deontay Wilder the answer? At the moment no, as he lacks that big time fight. And until he gets a shot against Anthony Joshua, Wilder will remain just another heavyweight champion that goes unnoticed on Sportscenter.
I believe that somewhere out there, a messiah exists. When he arrives is just a matter of time. Until then, patience must be preserved by American boxing fans longing for their favorite sport to be in the limelight again.