I was just taking a stroll through memory lane by going onto Sports Illustrated's web site and browsing the back covers. This is a fun exercise if you haven't done it. I might have to pick-up a Gary Payton cover from 1990 and the original Michael Jordan rookie cover from 1984.
That aside, I was astounded at how many times SI featured boxing on the cover.
Back in the 1980's and up until the mid 1990's, there were three to four covers a year devoted to boxing and, sometimes, more.
Mike Tyson was a large reason for this. He was on two to three covers a year. Muhammad Ali, even in his 50's and 60's, still made the SI cover almost once a year.
Those two aside, there were a host of other boxers including: Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney, Michael Spinks, Roberto Duran, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mancini, Pernell Whittaker, and even Alub Kalule (who?).
In fact, between 1980 and 1997, there were an outstanding 45 SI covers that featured boxers.
Between 1998 and 2010, guess how many boxers have been featured?
In thirteen years, Sports Illustrated, the most celebrated sporting magazine in the country, featured exactly one cover featuring the sport of boxing.
It was the Oscar De La Hoya - Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight with Oscar in the foreground and Floyd in the background.
One needs look no further to see the decline of boxing than it's representation on the covers of Sports Illustrated.
I've been an SI subscriber since 1983. I consider it to be "The Bible" of sports journalism. For an athlete and a sport to really make it in America, they've got to be on the cover of SI.
So what's going on?
It's not like there haven't been epic fighters and fights in the last 13 years.
Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Oscar De La Hoya should have each been on a couple of times. I think Julio Cesar Chavez was deserving of a cover, as was his historic fight with Oscar De La Hoya.
One could even make the argument that the Mickey Ward - Arturo Gatti trilogy could have made front cover.
True, the heavyweight division has been sorely lacking since Tyson retired, but there have been a host of lower divisions that have featured great fights and fighters.
I'm especially perplexed at Oscar De La Hoya's lack of exposure. He can definitely be considered an iconic boxer in the same category as a Sugar Ray Leonard or Roberto Duran.
He's also Hispanic and I'm sure SI is familiar with the Latino demographics in the country.
No, I think it's something a little more subdued than that.
I think the lack of SI covers are indicative of the wimpification of the United States.
Since the mid-1990's, the political correctness movement has run amok in this country. It's reached our school grounds (where some schools banned playing tag because calling a child "it" might damage their self-esteem), to our workplaces (where you're not even allowed to give someone a bad review for fear of a lawsuit), to our sports fields (where youth sports don't even keep score because nobody wants to be a loser).
We live in a society where everyone is a victim and people want credit and acknowledgement for simply doing a job they're paid to do.
Boxing, of course, is the antithesis of the PC movement.
There are no ribbons for 13th place, or even 2nd place, in boxing. If you lose, it's because you probably got knocked out or the living s-it kicked out of you.
It's violent. Very, very violent. Parents just can't have their children subjected to violent images of men beating up on each other (no, we'll ignore that "Grand Theft Auto" the kids have on their X-Box and the Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt on little Johnny).
Seemingly everytime a child is bullied at school, CNN is putting it on their screen and 60 Minutes is doing a feature story (I'll make one concession on this point, some of the bullying that is happening in today's world is far and above what I experienced as a kid).
That said, too many parents would rather call their child a victim than teach them to fight back and stand up for themselves.
That's exactly what boxing will do.
There are no victims in boxing, just as there are no short-cuts. You get out of it exactly what you put into it.
Sports Illustrated has gone down the rabbit-hole of categorizing boxing as a ghetto, white trash sport. Somewhere along the line, some wimpy PC editor probably decided that boxing just didn't meet SI's demographics and they didn't want to glorify violence (again, the irony of a magazine that glorifies football).
It's a shame because I think boxing does have a place in our society. It's still a way out for many, many youths in the ghetto. We still are a violent species and boxing is a healthy outlet for that aggression (a lot healthier than going to war or shooting up the local post office with an Uzi.)
Perhaps a Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. fight would warrant an SI cover; I'm not so sure. I can't believe they didn't put the two on the cover daring them to make the fight. It would have been a lot more interesting than yet another baseball or golf cover.
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