Friday, April 01, 2005

15-rounds…One more time – I was right, they were wrong

By JE Grant

In my recent article calling for the reinstatement of the 15-round championship distance, I was alarmed by the weak-kneed responses by those opposed to the change. Yes, I expected some would be against it – virtually any idea calling for change is challenged.

What surprised me was the fact that most of those opposed worried about the length of the championship distance being too much to ask of professional fighters. One dissenter even said rounds 13-15 would be fought in “pure exhaustion.”

I am worried that the essence of the game has been lost on some who consider themselves fans of the game. The object is to beat your opponent by knocking him loose from his senses or, if necessary, to outbox him over the distance. Needless to say, this is not a safe sport and the intentions of both opponents should not be misconstrued --- this is a hitting and hurting game.

Society determined at the end of the 1800s that bare-knuckle fighting would have to end. And, it was a good change. Why? Was bare-knuckle fight resulting in death and destruction? No, it was boring. That’s right it was boring. Fighters rarely wasted punches to the head because of the damage it caused to their hands. There was much clinching, wrestling, and inside body-punching (kind of like a John Ruiz fight) and occasionally some shots to the chin. Rounds were fought until one of the fighters went down and were given one-minute to return to “scratch,” a line in the center of the ring that both fighters had to put a toe on in order to signify they could continue. Fighters often went down repeatedly in order to gain rest time.

Gloves came about as a measure to protect fighters’ hands and allow for more exciting fights. While there was some added protection to the fighter’s face, it was a secondary concern.

The change to 12-round fights was merely a clever way of fending off substantial criticism following the nationally-televised bout between Deuk-Koo Kim and WBA Lightweight Champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. Kim died after being stopped in the 14th round of the bout.

Boxing has often been seen as a renegade sport and there will always be an element of society calling for banning the sport. Boxing will never be a women’s fitness sport or work for the weekend homebuilder. It is a tough, brutal exchange of blows to the head and body.

Surely changing the distance of title bouts to 15-rounds will not alter boxing’s relative standing in either the sports world or in society at-large. It will, however, make the sport better, by allowing the world’s best fighters the full opportunity to prove their ability.


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