The reemergence of boxing as a sport marketed towards the average consumer, instead of being mostly reserved for pay-per-view and casino audiences.
Fighters are fighting more in their hometowns in front of their adoring fans (middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik's last fight being in Youngstown, OH, Roy Jones fighting tonight in Pensacola, FL, etc.) and making ticket prices affordable so fans, regardless of their economic hardship, can purchase a ticket to see their guy. This is a marked change from the trend that encapsulated championship boxing from the 80s until maybe just a year ago, where most big time fights took place in Las Vegas and unless you were a casino high-roller, it was almost impossible and exorbitantly expensive ($2000+ a ticket for some fights) to get a seat near the action.
Which brings us to what is happening at 6:00pm EST this evening. Something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. A world heavyweight title fight, headlined by a big name in the sport, champion Vitali Klitschko, taking place not on pay-per-view, not on a premium cable network like HBO or Showtime, but on basic cable! As far as I can tell, this hasn't happened since the 1980s. ESPN Classic is televising the Klitschko vs. Gomez at 6:00pm with an immediate replay on ESPN2 at 7:00.
Klitscko is a very well known name in boxing, with Vitali and brother Wladimir (the recognized best fighter in the division) dominating the heavyweight scene. Not only are they great fighters, but they are both great men as well. Both hold doctorates, and their nicknames reflect that. Vitali is introduced as "Dr. Ironfist", and Wladimir as "Dr. Steelhammer". The brothers are also very involved in politics and charity work, with Vitali losing a race for mayor of Kiev, Ukraine and the two brothers working with UNESCO. Vitali is probably best known for his 2003 fight with then-undisputed champion Lennox Lewis, where the fight was stopped due to a horrible cut over Vitali's left eye, even though Vitali was arguably winning the fight:
Lennox Lewis retired from boxing after that fight, even though the boxing world was clamoring for a rematch. Vitali Klitschko is still here, though, and at the age of 37, seemingly still at the top of his game.
This evening, Vitali fights former cruiserweight champion Juan Carlos Gomez, a defector from Cuba now fighting out of Germany:
Both fighters have incredibly strong records and incredible knockout power. In fact, Vitali Klitschko has the best knockout percentage of any heavyweight champion in history.
Having top-level boxing back on basic cable and in fighters' hometowns is amazing for the sport and for America in general. In my opinion, boxing at its best is the greatest thing in sports. An epic fight is better than an epic Super Bowl, World Series game, anything. Here are two of my favorite rounds:
Gatti vs Ward I Round 9:
Corrales vs Castillo Round 10:
So if you're one of those former boxing fans that got fed up with the politics, rigged fights, sanctioning organizations, I ask you to give boxing another shot, and this time, you can see it on basic cable.