Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Things Are The Way They Are

Last night, Alan told me that Mary asked him why the numbers of people in the adult boxing program were down.  Over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable drop off in people coming to the gym.  It seems to be that way in the youth boxing program, too.  I have my own theories.

1.  Boxing vs. MMA
Since the rise of mixed martial arts began a few years ago, boxing has been derided as "the sport that old people like".  MMA's fans are mostly younger, under the age of 35 years.  They cite that MMA matches are quicker and more exciting than boxing matches.  Indeed, boxing used to be on the same level as baseball, football, and basketball.  Matches were shown regularly on network television back in the day.  Now unless one has cable, one can't see boxing often, and even some of the cable outlets don't broadcast as many matches as they used to do.  Also, there doesn't seem to be as much of the confusion and underhandedness in MMA that has characterized professional boxing for the past decade or so.  When there are matches to be made in MMA, they are usually done.  People are still going 'round and 'round about a Mayweather-Pacquiao match that now looks to be dead in the water, among other boxing matches that should be made, but haven't been.  There are a lot of people who are frustrated with the state of boxing, and I can't blame them.

2.  People Are Uneducated About Boxing
As I've noted on this blog many times, too many people walk up in a boxing gym all hyped up without having done their homework.  Some think they know all there is to know about boxing since they've seen a few matches on HBO, Showtime and ESPN.  Too many think their street fighting skills will translate to the ring easily.  A lot of women in particular expect a boxing gym to operate like Women's Workout World or the East Bank Club, and are surprised to find that they don't work like that.  The lack of knowledge leads many to drop out of the sport before they get into it well enough.

3.  The Cost
I've wondered why boxing program fees vary across the Chicago Park District.  It appears that Loyola Park has one of the highest fees among the Park District gyms (but I could be wrong).  The average age of people who come into Loyola Park Boxing is around 25 years of age, and they are predominately male.  From what I've observed, most of the young men that have come through are struggling to make it.  They either are looking for jobs, working temporary gigs here and there or trying to stretch the short money they receive from the jobs they have.  Some have responsibilities, such as their own young children to take care of, or older parents/guardians whom they are trying to help out.  Quite a few are attending school, and that's another bill to deal with.  Forty dollars every two months or so is a lot of money to someone who's already on a tight budget.

4.  The Sparring Issue
If one plans to compete, sparring is essential.  When Steve was the coach, we'd often go to other Park District gyms to get in extra sparring practice.  The coaches and boxers from the other gyms would come up to Loyola Park in return.  This would happen a lot around the time fights were on the horizon, like the Chicago Golden Gloves tournament, for example.  That has not been the case since the gym re-opened under Alan's watch in late 2008.  The rules have tightened, and Mary does not want anyone in the gym who hasn't paid to be there.  I understand; it's a liability issue.  I don't dig people just showing up looking for a freebie workout, either, especially where security in the gym is concerned.  But a boxer and their coach is not going to pay a full term fee just to come to another field house occasionally to get some sparring in.  There should be a reciprocal agreement among Park District boxing gyms in terms of sparring.  The way to keep down conflicts and confusion is to always make sure that the field house manager is aware that a coach and their boxers know in advance that they are coming by to spar. Coaches shouldn't just make arrangements between themselves and leave the field house manager out of the loop. Boxers from one field house shouldn't just show up to another field house on their own. Their coach should be with them, so that both coaches can monitor the sparring that takes place.  Word gets around that there is good sparring to be had, then that may prompt some to want to sign up for boxing.

5.  The Audience Has Changed and Become Smaller
The last professional fight I went to, there were a lot of empty seats in the stadium.  If you saw it on cable, the cameras made it look like the crowd was bigger than it actually was.  Boxing, unfortunately, has become a niche sport over the past couple of decades.  I noticed that the spectators were largely Hispanic, and much of the advertising was geared toward that ethnic group.  Many Hispanics are still strong supporters of the sport, and there is a major Hispanic presence in boxing these days.  However, whites and African-Americans don't seem to be as enthusiastic about boxing like they used to be.

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