LARNED — Quick now. Can you name the last American heavyweight boxing champion?
Muhammad Ali? No. Larry Holmes? No. Mike Tyson? Forget it! If you correctly named Shannon Briggs go to the center of the ring and let boxing announcer extraordinaire Michael Buffer call out your name and his famous, “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!"
The point is, what was once America’s domain is now in the hands of the rest of the world. Americans once owned the heavyweight boxing division. There hasn’t been an American heavyweight champion since Briggs in 2007. In fact, it is hard to even find an American in the top-10 rankings.
Have Americans become too prosperous to produce world-class boxers? Boxing, after all, is the domain of the underclass, the underdog, the streetfighter. Maybe it is too much to ask for a young man to want to box when he’s busy munching on a Big Mac and jiving to rap music.
The disappearance of championship boxing on television on a regular basis might also have something to do with this spectacular decline. We old-timers remember The Saturday Night Fights. Now the only thing fighting on Saturday night goes on in the strip-mall parking lots to see who gets the best skateboard position.
Has our affluence moved boxing to a Third World sport? Are our top athletes so focused on the NFL, NBA and Major League baseball and the vast amount of money there that they don’t give boxing a break?
The art of pugilism developed in the years of 600 B.C. by the Greeks and has been maintained as an art, a skill, or a heinous exhibition of brutality ever since. It all depends on your view of two men beating each other senseless until one is the winner. Yes, I know that now we have women fighters but, hey, that goes back to the days of the cave man. Besides, in this modern era, not many pay to watch women fight, with the possible exception being one of those mud wrestling things.
Will the next Olympics unveil the new Rocky Marciano? Joe Louis? Or Muhammad Ali? We can only hope. It just doesn’t seem right to not have an American heavyweight boxing champion.
The second round of the NBA draft last week produced some interesting matchups, especially concerning players with Kansas connections. Jeff Withey, former Jayhawks center, was taken early in the second round by the Portland Trail Blazers. Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey told the Portland Tribune,“we couldn’t believe our good fortune, to find Withey available at the 39th pick. He can play significant minutes for us.”
Then over the weekend, former KU All American Thomas Robinson was traded from Houston to the Trail Blazers. That move was made to free up salary-cap money for Houston, so they can make a run at signing Los Angeles Laker free agent Dwight Howard. Portland is a great place for both Robinson and Withey because the Trail Blazers were weak in the middle last year and are looking for new blood to turn that around. Both former Jayhawks will get an excellent chance to earn lots of playing time.
Sometimes it is more important to get with the right team than how good you are. All players that make NBA rosters are great basketball players but , due to circumstances on the team they are with, don’t get enough playing time to show their value. Both Withey and Robinson caught a break. Now they’ve got to take advantage of it.
Charles Tabler is a contributing writer from Larned.