Back in the 1960s, 1970s and earlier, nearly everyone could name the person (by name) who was the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World at the time.
Big names like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Sonny Liston come to mind.
By contrast, now-a-days, nobody can name even a single champion of any weight-class, by name.
In bygone times (and even yet today in some circles) boxing matches took place in big arenas such as Madison Square Garden in New York, Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, or at the Superdome in New Orleans.
With the advent of cable TV and pay-per-view, you have many millions of fans watching sporting-events from the comfort of their own homes. The fans watching inside the actual arena composes a tiny fraction of the total spectators and the total revenue of those matches.
A few days ago, I had the rare opportunity to speak to the former governor of the state of New York, David Paterson.
He is legally blind and was the first black governor of New York. Just a mere nine weeks ago, he was still governor of that state, so he has only been out-of-office a short time.
I asked him whether he felt we would ever see a return to good quality, high-caliber, heavyweight championship boxing?
He said “Not until they get rid of so many commissions” (so many title “belts”) and so many weight-classes.
Gov. Paterson correctly noted that we can’t get a prizefight between the “top two best fighters in the land” because big money as contaminated the sport.
I told Gov. Paterson that I met former Heavyweight Champion George Foreman last year in-person.
Gov. Paterson said he had also met Mr. Foreman in-person and found him to be “a delightful person.” I totally agree.
Great Bend is a wonderful town and I wish that it could utilize its existing facilities, such as Barton Community College as a venue for big name boxing.
As I noted above: no longer are big facilities a pre-requisite. They may be preferable; but they are not the sole criteria anymore.
No need to build bigger and better arenas. We can use what already exists.
The key is bringing “talent” to Great Bend.
If the talent comes, people from Wichita, Kansas City, Omaha, and Denver will flood the hotel rooms and restaurants.
Great Bend can utilize its existing facilities to the fullest, and help rejuvenate the sport of professional boxing.
Remember, the great champ Jack Dempsey came from the little town of Manassa, Colo.
My great-uncle, Roy White, used to spar with him, to practice and prepare for his bouts.
Smaller towns can produce great champions.
Great Bend needs to give it a shot.
Ring the bell.
James A. Marples,