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WOLF: Tyson vs. Paul doesn’t evoke memories of ‘The Sweet Science’

COLUMN: Novelty fights show how far sport of boxing has fallen
FILE - Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson stands on the field before an NFL football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 24, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

I used to love boxing.

I still do but I used to, too. (Glove tap to Mitch Hedberg).

When I was a kid, I was sports mad. My entire existence revolved around sports.

If I wasn’t playing, I was watching (harder with the dozen or so channels and once-a-week games, as opposed to today’s smorgasbord).

I’d be up late, listening to Victoria Cougars games on my transistor radio. My grandpa had a magical, mystical powerful radio in his garage, and I could sometimes find games from far-flung locales like L.A. or even St. Louis.

I spent all kinds of time in there, listening to random matches and honing my darts skills on his old board.

The rest of the time, I was reading.

I’d be up at the crack of dawn to rush to grab the paper, eager to pore over baseball boxscores or hockey summaries.

Many a magazine from my elementary school library would mysteriously find a path to my house, where they would remain until I either took them back near the end of the year, or deftly figured out a way to slide off the label so no one would notice where it came from.

And among the sports I loved and illicitly researched was boxing.

It was still wildly popular then, not like the horse racing and prizefighting days of the generation before, but still popular.

My one buddy had two pairs of (oversized, thankfully) boxing gloves. Myself and another pal would sometimes go to his farm and we’d try to beat the stuffing out of each other in one of the outbuildings.

One-minute rounds. If you won, you kept going. Third guy was the judge.

You’d go home with a little mouse under your eye or blood on your shirt.

“Have fun?” your parents would ask.


Zero chance I’d sanction those bouts as a parent these days.

I had as many ‘borrowed’ copies of The Ring magazine has I did Baseball Digests or Hockey Illustrateds. I may have been the only 10-year-old who thought (boxing writer) Bert Sugar was kind of cool.

When a coveted Sports Illustrated arrived in the mail and it featured boxing on the cover, I was immediately enthralled.

My favourite athlete outside of team sports was Muhammad Ali. From minute one, I was captivated.

The speed, the skill, the flash. Howard Cosell as his willing foil. The title of ‘heavyweight champ’ meant something around the world.

Even though as I became a fan, Ali was well past his prime, he was still ‘The Greatest’ to me.

And so many other great fighters: Leonard, Hearns, Hagler, Duran. Frazier. Norton. The list was endless.

I thought of Ali recently, when they announced social media sensation turned boxer Jake Paul had agreed to fight Mike Tyson.

Tyson, of course, was a formidable force in his prime 30 or so years ago.

When this fight is scheduled to take place (I’m still not convinced it will) on July 20, Tyson will be 58 years old.

I heard the news and I immediately thought of Muhammad Ali and I thought “man, boxing has hit a new low.”

READ MORE: WOLF: The TV might be on but is anyone actually watching?

The sport, of course, has fallen out of favour in terms of being a mainstream sport.

Usurped among fight fans by the UFC and lacking in compelling personalities, especially among the heavyweights. Not to mention, the popularity of activities whereby parents allow their children to be punched in the face, however well-protected, has plummeted.

Now, it’s almost an actual circus, with the most notable bouts being between celebrities and pseudo celebrities. It always was about making money, but the practioners of the sweet science when I was a lad were exceptionally skilled and dedicated to their craft.

I miss that skill, the subtleties of what made a great fighter.

I also thought of Ali, and very specifically, one old SI cover (I still have it and it was mine, not borrowed).

Ali was 38 years old and was scheduled to fight Larry Holmes, his former sparring partner – younger and a formidable fighter himself.

Ali was magic in the leadup to the fight. Lost a bunch of weight, looked great.

“He’s no Liston. He’s no Frazier,” Ali boasted on that cover, posing with the impish look that charmed us all.

And we believed him. Sure, he was older but it was never a big leap to recall who he once was.

But he wasn’t.

Holmes totally dominated the entire fight and probably held back against his hero.

After the fight, the next SI arrived. It was a picture of Ali, slumped on his stool, eyes swollen and looking entirely defeated.

I hated that cover.

Now, I see videos of Mike Tyson training, and he looked as formidable as ever. Many people believe he’ll demolish Paul, known more as a YouTuber than a pugilist.

But I wish Iron Mike wouldn’t fight.

He lost three of his last four real fights (an exhibition against Roy Jones, Jr. doesn’t count), the last when he quit on his stool against a guy named Kevin McBride. In 2005.

If he’s doing it for the cash, I get it.

But in terms of what it does for a fading sport, I’m not sure. I don’t want to see Mike looking like Ali did back in the day.

Paul either loses to a 58-year-old guy, or beats a 58-year-old guy. Either way, not a good look. A big-money look, but still not a good one.

Bring back real boxing, or let it go altogether.

PQB News/VI Free Daily editor Philip Wolf welcomes your questions, comments or story ideas. He can be reached at 250-905-0019 or

Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
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