The new sweet science: the 100 metres
Boxing is currently taking a standing eight count. The global appreciation for this sport that once existed has dissipated. These once glorified pugilists have been usurped by a pack of men who can complete their race faster than a boxer can be counted out.
The 100 metres race has become the new heavyweight championship of the world – and rightly so. Muhammad Ali, ‘Smokin’ Joe Frasier and Mike Tyson have been replaced by the likes of Bolt, Gay and Yohan ‘The Beast’ Blake.
Heavyweight stars used to be internationally recognisable. However, the dilution of the sport through numerous championship belts and the dominance of the Klitschko brothers has dulled spectator enthusiasm.
Combine this with the discovery of the long term effects of being constantly punched to the head and you have a recipe for disaster. The sight of a punch drunk boxer is unsightly and awkward as they trip over basic sentences and lose concentration without notice or reason.
The decline in boxing is further inflamed by the unwillingness of the top competitors to fight each other for fear of losing their big pay days and tarnishing their records. The sport is more about self-preservation than promotion.
This was never more prevalent than in the Pacquiao v Mayweather fiasco. Both men want to keep their reputation alive by denying the opponent an opportunity to beat him. That way they can both claim to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world with no definitive argument.
The repeated controversy surrounding boxing has made it a farce. Constant speculation of thrown fights and paid off judges does not seem farfetched in a questionable world led by Don King and a sport which has aligned its history with the murky world of sports betting.
Domestic abuse and jail terms have made the boxers seem barbaric and simple minded. They do not appear to be good role models for parents to push their children towards.
This is where the 100 metres is winning, and by a large margin.
There are many aspects of the two sports which are similar. Much like boxing, the 100 metres is an event full of inflated egos and confidence. Before the final in London, each competitor had his own introduction moves much like a boxer entering the ring. They provide a show for the spectators. They wear ridiculously overpriced watches and have a certain swagger about them which seems harmless and fun.
There is trash talk, although it is far more subtle and contains some level of sanity and intelligence. They play mind games with each other in the heats, never performing to their full potential, like a boxer testing their opponent with searching jabs in the early rounds.
As the boxers of old were superstars, so now are the 100 metre men. Young athletes know who Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake is. They imitate their celebration moves and pretend to be them winning the Olympic gold. Parents find the athletes approachable and non-threatening. They are all there to have a good time and compete.
Unlike boxing, the best must compete against each other. You cannot avoid them. If you make it to the final you will be up against the top eight in your field. There is no picking and choosing, arguing about purses or requesting of blood tests. When they are told to take their mark they shut up and go to work.
The 100 metres contains both the raw power and grace of boxing. A runner such as Blake can look to be straining and his running style a little uncouth. It is reminiscent of a brawler in the ring, relying purely on power to get them through. Bolt is graceful. His long strides and running posture mean he glides across the surface in an effortless manner.
Most of all these athletes give a viewer the satisfaction of watching something truly spectacular, an athletic masterpiece, without the guilt of thinking that in five years’ time the athlete may not be able to hold a spoon.
Boxing had its time in the sun but with so much controversy and the lack of variety, it is time to hand the mantle of born entertainers and showmen to the marquee event of any athletic competition.
There is a new sweet science; it’s called the 100 metres.
Kirk Dalziell is one member of the sporting relationship that is www.sportspolygamy.com