Mancuso: Heavyweight Division Is No Longer a New York State of Mind

Once upon a time the heavyweight division was the King of New York.  Then there was Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Shannon Briggs, Evander Holyfield, Shannon Briggs the pride of Brooklyn, and a brawler named Mike Tyson. Before that, of course Jerry Cooney, Leon and Michael Spinks, Jimmy Ellis, Ron Lyle, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, and the icon Muhammad Ali.

A boxing Hall of Fame list of names in heavyweight championship history, and all we have now are the memories because trading punches and brawling for what once was the most prized title in boxing is no longer in New York.

There are many factors to this known Once Upon A Time theory. But with the heavyweight division in a resurgence, and with a new and young breed of hope, New York boxing is dark because of a million dollar insurance bond per fighter that promoters can’t afford and there appears to be no end in sight for the blackout.

So Madison Square Garden, “The Mecca” of boxing that was built around the classic heavyweight title fights, will not be a part of this resurgence that was seen on the two major boxing television networks this past weekend on HBO and Showtime.

Instead, Anthony Joshua and Eric Molina traded punches for the IBF heavyweight title in Manchester England. Wladimir Klitschko will now take on Joshua, the 27 year old undefeated star from England for the title and not in New York.

Yes, another heavyweight title fight and hosted at the Wembley Stadium on April 29th. The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, Joshua defending against the veteran and soon to be 41-year old Klitschko who defended a majority of his long title reign overseas.

Same can be said for Joseph Parker. He defeated Andy Ruiz Saturday night for the vacant WBO title before the hometown fans in Auckland, New Zealand.

New York, unfortunately has been out of the heavyweight business for a long time and it has always been the dream of a fighter, more so the heavyweight, to fight in New York. But, that was Once Upon a Time and when the sport of boxing was thriving.  

Blame the alphabet soup of titles and various sanctioning organizations, or the controversy that always surrounds the sport as part of the decline.

But in New York, and not just for the heavyweight, it is the tax structure of how fighters and promoters are at the mercy of the political masters who pass the legislation. Promoters, in particular Hall of Famer Bob Arum of Top Rank will no longer stage fights in New York.

Nor will they go across the Brooklyn Bridge at the Barclays Center though Lou DiBella and Floyd Mayweather Jr., with the PBC, are hoping to overcome an insurance issue and bring boxing back to New York with a title stacked Showtime televised card on January 14th.

Arum, promoted many of those icon heavyweight title fights at the Garden. His first one, Ali against Oscar Bonavena, December 7, 1970, one of many that sold-out came 46 years ago. Ali was boxing and the heavyweight division in New York, and then Tyson would carry the reign.

“New York was a tremendously sophisticated city for boxing,” said Arum recently. “ They had a plethora of newspapers, every one had a boxing writer so it was a place to fight.”

However, it is no longer a place to fight and for the heavyweight title. Arum and other promoters have to battle this insane insurance issue, a ploy, maybe that was comprised with the MMA and New York legislators for approval to stage their shows in a state that banned them for years because of the brutality.

However, MMA does produce revenue as was the situation last month with an all-time gross at the Garden. Boxing promoters can no longer feed off newspaper media as the internet writer now prevails the industry, and casino hotels in Las Vegas pitch in with room deals and throw some income to the promoters.

As Arum said, “We lose money before they open the doors,” Meaning, New York State taxes get a hefty punch before the opening bell and in Nevada, that is not the case.

So the promoters have gone elsewhere. The heavyweight division makes profit in arenas overseas, Wembley with 90,000 and now with a heavyweight champion from New Zealand and the Klitschko brothers, who dominated the division for years had a majority of their title defenses in England and Germany.

Yes, it was Once Upon a Time. The heavyweight fighters who now have their opportunity to cause some noise and resurge a division that was a face of the sport for years, well they know where the income is.

It isn’t in New York and fighting at Madison Square Garden. Until this ludicrous bond issue of insurance is resolved, the heavyweight title will continue to be contested overseas or in the city of sin, Las Vegas.

Once Upon A Time, and all we have are the memories.

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso  

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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