The Heavyweight Champion Of The World
The Heavyweight Championship used to be the "shining bauble in sports." It used to be THE title - the most prestigious in all of sports.
It was so in Dempsey's time, in Louis' Time and later in Marciano's time.
Kids used to skip to songs of Joe Louis during recess. There were literally dozens of songs about him, or songs referring to him. He was chased by corporations desperate to have his name on their products.
Harlem and other places used to go ballistic whenever Louis won or lost. People would line the streets, shouting and cheering and savouring the moment of his wins. Of course, his fights (as well os those of Dempsey's and Marciano's) made news headlines, at least on the sports pages and sometimes even on the front page.
In Marciano's time, it was said that you could look down the main street in Brockton on fight night and not find a single soul walking around - they were all listening to Rocky fighting on the radio or watching him on TV.
Back in these guy's times, the heavyweight champion was THE man. Everyone knew who the heavyweight champion was.
Looking at things today, you have to wonder where it all went wrong. The fall of boxing as the second most popular sport in the US has surely not helped, but I'd still imagine most people should know who the heavyweight champion is.
Honestly, I have trouble naming the current belt holders. There's Klitschko whom I enjoy watching, but the other guys just aren't signficant in any way. I don't know their records or who they have fought. Trouble is, I don't really care either.
It's not just today's crop of fighters.
How much of a splash did Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis or Larry Holmes make in the greater scheme of things? Were they a symbol of their times the way Ali, Dempsey, Louis or Macriano were?
Sure, Evander was hugely popular in Atlanta where he lived, but did kids in New York or elsewhere go bananas when he won? Did people fill the streets laughing and singing his name?
Lennox was probably not even the most popular heavyeight in his own country, never mind anywhere else.
Holmes? He has a street named after him, but that's about it.
Tyson for a spell, seemed to be taking the heavyweight championship back into mainstream conciousness and would for a while, enjoy (almost) the same kind of attention that his predecessors enjoyed by the media and public at large. In the end though, he became more an embarrasment than an asset to boxing, and people wanted nothing to do with him.
At least though, he did show that it was not purely boxing's decline as a popular sport that made people not really care who the heavyweight champion was.
Why have attitudes changed?
How much significance does the heavyweight championship of the world still carry?
What will the situation be like in the next 20 or 30 years? Will there be a revival of 'the biggest title in sports' or will it now and forever be a title only boxing fans in particular care about?