Has the boxing Heavyweight Championship lost some of its prestige?

Ever worry that the Heavyweight Championship of the World has lost some of its prestige? It used to be THE most prized title in all of sports, but now it’s an afterthought.

Remember when everyone knew who the heavyweight champion was? Now you’d be lucky if a random
person on the street knew who it was.

Is this because of boxing’s decline in popularity, or are there other factors?

I think the Klistchkos refusal to fight each other didn’t help the prestige of the belt, but the rise of MMA dealt a huge blow to boxing overall, and somehow the most interesting boxers of this generation have all been smaller boxers, like Mayweather and Pacquiao.

It’s pro sports. When you say its prestige is declining because the sport’s popularity is declining, you’re being redundant; popularity is prestige in pro sports.

Boxing just isn’t the sport it used to be. There’s a variety of reasons for this, but to point something out about your specific question, let me ask you this; WHO is the world heavyweight champion? For it to be a big deal, you need to actually be able to identify who that is.

However, you can’t. Right now there are four champions; Anthony Joshua (WBA, IBF, and WBO) Deontay Wilder (WBC) and Manuel Charr and Trevor Bryan who, to my confusion, are also listed as champions by the WBA. And that’s actually a reasonably simple picture by the standards of recent history.

There have been different boxing federations for a long time, but historically there was always a concerted effort to have the heavyweight champion be one person. Had you asked who the champ was in 1953, 1975 or 1989, the answers were, respectively, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson, with no serious dispute. Not everyone always agreed, but they usually did. That started to fall apart in the 1980s; the IBF started announcing its own champions in 1983, the WBO in 1989, and it’s hard to care about a championship where no one agrees on who the champion is. It would be like if four different teams won the Super Bowl every February.

You’re like 25 years too late with this thread. Yes, it is massively less prestigious than it was in the 70s.

Exactly. Heavyweight boxing was still pretty relevant in American sports culture through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, but I’d guess that the last time it was really a big deal was when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear, and that was 1997.

As Boozahol Squid notes, those boxers who do have some level of name recognition in the U.S. now tend to not be heavyweights, but boxing, as a whole, simply doesn’t have the visibility or following in the U.S. that it did a few decades ago.

To be fair, the Klitschkos refused to fight each other because they promised their mother they wouldn’t.

I feel it’s worth noticing that the media from a country tends to notice a sport when there’s a local champion, and ignore it when there isn’t. For instance, I understand that men’s tennis was a big sport in the US in the late 90’s, early 00’s with the generation including Agassi, Sampras and Roddick to fall out of fashion when a new batch of American male talent failed to appear.

in the UK, thanks to, among others, Joshua, the heavyweight title is big enough right now to fill Wembley Stadium.

I’m with the theory that the rise of MMA siphoned off a lot of the fans of either combat sports or who just like seeing people beat each other down, as well as siphoned off a lot of the younger fighters who would have been boxers 30 years ago.

The decline of boxing was pretty much in full swing bythe time MMA became a big thing.

In fact, I would suggest that the idea MMA hurt boxing is largely reversed. MMA was able to become big because boxing was already failing. MMA in various forms had been around for a long time - kickboxing is very old - but was always a fringe sport. It was after boxing slid into rapid decline that MMA started becoming mainstream, simply because the space was there to be filled.

You might have known who the heavyweight champ was in the 80s, but the best boxing was in the middleweight division – Hearns, Hagler, Duran, and Leonard.

Oh, I know. But it didn’t help that the belts weren’t unified for several years because they wouldn’t fight a unification match. If there are two dominant fighters at a time, people want to see them fight. Ali wouldn’t have been that impressive without Foreman and Frazier. Holyfield and Lennox made each other. Same thing for Joe Louis and Max Schmeling.

UFC 1 was in 93. I was quite active in MMA at the time. There were some strong fighters at the time - Holyfield, Bowe, Lewis, Moorer among the heavies alone. And Roy Jones Jr., Toney, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Pernell Whitaker at the lighter weights. For whatever reason, Holyfield never got the attention/respect he probably deserved. And after him, the belts were spread among a number of lesser knowns.

I think that was close to the end of the heavies in terms of folk agreeing who the best were. As I recall, the focus shifted from the heavies to who was the best “pound-for-pound.”

My vague recollection is that after that time, the best fighters were at the very lightweights, non-American, and lacked the personalities of an Ali, Hagler, or Leonard. Seemed like I’d be watching a couple of slow heavies slugging it out, or a couple of little guys I had never heard of really going to town.

Since my personal interest was in MMA, it was easy for me to make the switch.

It’s been in decline since WWII probably, in the big picture, given its status pre-war.

Find these threads odd - AJ is the most talented and exciting HW champ for 20 years, since prime Lewis, if you don’t know who he is then you’re not interested in boxing. Which is fine of course, yet this seems to sit wrongly with some folk, like you have no interest or passion for a sport but somehow think that you should be able to passively consume it anyhow? Following boxing by osmosis isn’t going to work in this era of fragmented entertainment, you need to actually like it.

Boxing as a whole is going through a purple patch at the moment with superb match-ups and quality up and down the weights - not just HW. Lomachenko looking like an ATG, GGG, Canelo, Usyk dominating the cruiserweight division and looking to move up, Smith at SMW, the welters are absolutely stacked deep with fighters like Crawford and Spence - and they’re just names off the cuff as a casual fan. Fury v Wilder will be an absolute cinderella story if Tyson can do anythingn there at HW after his recent journey.
There is exceptional quality out there fighting regularly - if you’re not interested that’s OK, there’s plenty of other sports out there vying for our attention. But it’s not nothing to do with a failure of boxing - you’re just not interested in a sport that’s better than it’s been for years.

OK, say I’m curious about boxing and want to see a match. Can I just turn on my TV and watch it?

Boxing in general was in a state of decline by the time of MMA’s rise, especially after the fall of Mike Tyson. But MMA’s rise further exacerbated Boxing’s popularity problem. For the longest time, people thought of boxers as the baddest guys on the planet, which was part of the sport’s appeal. Now it was clear that MMA’s guys were, in fact, the baddest.

But I actually feel like boxing’s kinda making a comeback. There’s some interesting new talent, particularly in the heavyweight division, with Joshua, Fury, and Wilder. I think people also appreciate the differences between boxing and MMA. Boxing’s also recognized as an important element of MMA, just like kickboxing or wrestling.

Wilder’s management team could have done a lot more for him I think - his profile in the US sounds wretched, he’s prob a bigger name in the UK actually despite never having fought here. I don’t rate him all that highly, but he’s a legit champ, unbeaten and extremely explosive - deserves to be celebrated more widely outside of Alabama. If he can put Fury away, which is a complete unknown quantity at this stage, then he’ll at least get a monster showdown with Joshua.

Alessan I wouldn’t know how televised sports works in Israel but the structure where I live in the UK is that the low profile domestic and European level bouts can be seen on our free channels like ITV and BBC, but higher profile world title stuff would be pay per view. Either through a year round subscription or buying it one-off. The biggest fights can just be watched at the pub - boxing is that popular at the moment here that it is common for major bouts to be put on.

I really like listening to boxing on the wireless (I’m not 80 years old, either). Just something about it, plus the main BBC commentator Mike Costello is superb, best voice of a sport we have IMHO.

I think that’s the crux of it – at least, here in the U.S., boxing has largely fallen off the radar for most sports fans. 20, 30, 40 years ago, even a casual sports fan (heck, even a non-fan) would have heard of Ali, Foreman, or Tyson, and known that they were champion-level boxers (even if they might not have known if those men currently held a title). They weren’t simply boxers – they were media celebrities.

I don’t think that it’s solely a function of fragmented sports entertainment, either – most casual sports fans in the U.S. will have heard of (and know at least a little about) Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, LeBron James, Stephan Curry, etc. Boxing is just so far off the radar now that even its biggest stars aren’t really household names anymore.

people will lose interest when you have 3 or 4 different “champions” in any sport.

I would point to Holyfield-Lewis as when boxing really started going down hill. The corruption was obvious. Everyone paid a lot of money for the unification bout which ended in an outrageous draw so that we could all pay money to watch it again.

Then Lewis finally unifies the titles but is stipped of at least one because each body required its champion to fight its own #2 contender which paid cash under the table to get that ranking.

At the same time, the top boxers were multi-millionaires and fight may once per year instead of every couple or few months. I don’t get excited waiting ten months to watch Lennox Lewis fight his mandatory title defense against some guy from Germany who got used as a punching bag.

The last boxing match I watched was the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight from a few years ago. Before that I hadn’t watched a boxing match since back in the early 90s. I went in hoping it would be an entertaining event, and instead the match turned out to help confirm my thoughts about boxing and why I don’t have any interest in it. Back in those days the way I remember it is that after Tyson started to decline the sport became boring. IMHO most matches seemed to mostly consist of two guys dancing around and hugging each other. What happened when I watched Mayweather fight Pacquiao? I got to watch two guys dancing around and hugging each other. I think the perception that most boxing matches will turn out like that is what led to the decline in interest, at least on my part.