Boxing, hands down. Sure, its brutal, arguably barbaric, and politically corrupt in a way that boggles the imagination.
But its also what every other sport strives to be, with less artifice and window-dressing. The whole idea of athletic competition doesn’t get any more straighforward than boxing(well, any kind of racing is pretty close, I suppose). The stories in boxing represent all the best and worst things about humanity; there is an amazing amount of real drama and pathos in the ring.
But on a functional basis, the thing I like the most is that you’re following an individual. Next year, he’ll be the same guy; he won’t change teams, move to another city, or play for a team that changes cities. Roy Jones Jr may be a jerk, for instance, but he’ll always be the same jerk; unlike the Browns, say, he won’t move halfway across the country, change his name, and be replaced by a totally different Roy Jones Jr in a couple of years.
However, I bemoan the fact that for some reason, writing about boxing brings out every sportswriter’s frustrated poetic instincts, leading to some of the worse hackneyed prose you’ll ever suffer through. And the boxing industry’s treatment of aging and retired fighters is just criminal, and I hope will change if the sport is to thrive in the future.