Boxing is losing out in the fight for its life

by Jared Rogers-Martin

The words “Fight of the Century” whipped from my lips as I helped my significant other catch up on 80 years of boxing history. We approached a bar on the West Bank, which advertised a viewing of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight.
At the bar, the woman working the door swirled her hand in a trough of ice and fished out a canned beer before telling me the entrance fee for two was $40. 
I cringed. 
That’s a heavyweight price for my welterweight wallet. 
She corrected herself, saying we couldn’t come in because the bar was at capacity.
I turned to my right and witnessed three police officers and a small entourage of people huddled around a window looking inside and asked, “How much to watch over there?” 
A shrug of her shoulders suggested the price was “free,” so I grabbed my partner’s hand and continued the lesson at a large pane of glass that separated us from the inside. From here, we watched two fighters swirl around each other with anticipation. 
I recalled the historical importance of boxing to the lower- and middle-classes. Boxing is the last resort sport. It was for the athletes who didn’t make it playing ball and turned to slugging heads in a last-ditch effort to cash in on their god-given athleticism.
One hundred years ago, Jack Dempsey went from sleeping in parks in New York, homeless, to working as a miner between fights before booking America’s first million-dollar fight. Boxing is the American dream actualized, a symbolic representation of class mobility. If you fight as hard as you can, you just might win and make it above that glass ceiling. 
This fight felt different, though. Something was off, and it left me feeling green. The old school boxing luster was there in conversation — even the sports desert of National Public Radio ran stories about the fight. However, it also advertised the fact that Floyd Mayweather would make an estimated $120 million, win, lose or draw. 
Boxing is a dying sport riddled with chronic financial issues that bar most of its average fans from watching. The $40 bar entrance fees, a $100 pay-per-view cable package or a $6,000 average ticket price to the fight all price out the middle-class viewer.
Furthermore, the sport is no longer offering the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” narrative that is crucial to its survival. The world champion 
fighter Mayweather was born into a family of successful boxers. Famously, he once told his mother, “I think I should get a job.” She said, “No, just keep boxing.”After 12 rounds devoid of earth-shattering punches and knockdowns, the world was informed that Mayweather, the world’s richest athlete, was the unanimous victor. 
From where I was standing, on the other side of the glass, we were still waiting for a fight to begin.