There once was a time when boxing was considered the sport of kings … the sweet science … the merry art of fisticuffery. To the disappointment of many, that time has long since passed, as boxing has been marred for several years by shady promoters, criminal pugilists, and downright boring fights.
If you want to pinpoint the exact moment of boxing’s decline, you’d have to start with the arrival of an upstart organization known as the World Video Boxing Association (WVBA) — because that’s when everything started going to hell.
There’s nothing wrong with a new league trying to establish itself in the market and competing with the bigs. In fact, the more professional organizations, the more opportunities there are to make a living in combat sports. A win-win situation for everybody, right? Unfortunately, the WVBA made a complete and utter mockery of the sport of boxing, to the point where it still hasn’t — and probably never will — recover.
The Early Years
The problem started with the types of boxers that the WVBA attracted to its organization. The promoters didn’t try to emulate the WHA of the 1970s, which successfully picked off numerous NHL superstars with insane contract offers. No, the WVBA pinched its pennies by hiring a bunch of scrubs and tomato cans from around the globe — the cast-away boxers that either couldn’t draw in the bigs or simply couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag.
It didn’t matter if you were grossly overweight, had a raging substance abuse problem, a history of concussions, a 99-fight losing streak, or were a comically insensitive racial stereotype — the WVBA hired you on the spot. Indeed, with sad-sacks such as Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and Don Flamenco filling out its roster, in addition to rampant allegations of cheating by fighters such as Great Tiger (all of which were conveniently ignored by league officials), the WVBA was home to the most pathetic collection of professional boxers in recent memory.
The only reason the league was even able to scrape out a niche for itself was the explosive brutality of its champion, Mike Tyson. This man was a killer, a heavyweight boxer with knock-out power second to none. And when this man was shockingly upset by a scrawny kid in a pink tracksuit by the name of Little Mac, the WVBA promoters collectively shit their trousers, as they had lost their one and only meal ticket. Without Tyson, they had no star attraction — after all, who in their right mind would want to pay to see jerks like Piston Honda and King Hippo fight for a shot of Little Mac’s title? Nobody, that’s who.
The Next Generation — “Boxing’s Greatest Sideshow”
With attendance plummeting and the organization leaking money, the promoters had to figure out some way to put more butts in the seats. And so, in the mid 1990s, the WVBA dropped any notion of professionalism and opened its doors to any chump who knew somebody with a pair of boxing gloves. Lumberjacks? Clowns? Lucha libre wrestlers? Actors? Old geezers? Welcome to the WVBA!
To accommodate these less-than-stellar athletes, it no longer mattered if you actually knew how to box. In fact, the boxing rulebook was tossed out completely, with fighters actively encouraged to use headbutts, flying kicks, wooden sticks, juggling balls, and a variety of other weapons and illegal tactics. Boxing purists were outraged, but the fans absolutely loved it. The WVBA was back in business!
The WVBA’s new business model was to put on the craziest, zaniest, most extreme boxing show on the planet. Even though boxing insiders and sports commentators deemed it a “laughing stock”, the revitalized WVBA routinely sold out arenas across the country, as everybody wanted to know what sort of freak show would step inside the ring on any given night. As a result, the league’s promoters often found themselves sleeping on top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.
But it wouldn’t last forever.
Fresh off of its crackdown of Vince McMahon and the WWF, the United States government came down hard on the World Video Boxing Association — not for match-fixing, gambling, or even its profane mockery of the once-great sport, but for its unchecked steroid usage. The evidence was quite damning — just one look at top attractions such as the Bruiser Bros. or Super Machoman and you could practically see the bull shark testosterone and HGH oozing from their pores.
Even the league’s champion and all-around good guy Little Mac had been on the juice, directly supplied to him by WVBA officials. Indeed, millions of children wept openly as their hero confessed to his years of steroid abuse in a federal courthouse. Boxing’s one true shining light — the one-in-a-million shot from Brooklyn, the kid with a heart of gold and determination of a lion — had been extinguished.
Devastated by the scandal and financially ruined by tremendous legal fees, the WVBA was forced to shut its doors in the late 1990s. By then, however, the damage was irreparable. Boxing was now seen in the eyes of the public as a fraud and a joke (a froke, perhaps), no longer worthy of its time or attention.
As the years went by, the WVBA became an afterthought in the world of combat sports, remembered only be a few lonely souls on the Internet basking in the nostalgia of larger-than-life characters like Bear Hugger and Mad Clown.
That is, until recently …
Over the past few weeks, rumours have been swirling like crazy that the WVBA is being resurrected by an unknown group of foreign investors. If this is true, all sorts of questions need to be answered.
First, what sort of fighters will we see in the revived World Video Boxing Association — the broken down has-beens of the early years, or the cartoon characters of the mid-90s? Is the public ready to forgive Little Mac, who has reportedly pledged his support to the new WVBA? What is the target market that the promoters are going after? And finally, can a revitalized WVBA bring boxing back to the top of the sporting landscape?
Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.