Welcome to the refreshed Bad Left Hook! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite sports and teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. We’re collecting all of the stories here: Come Fan With Us!
Boxing! It may be the world's most frustrating sport to be a fan of, at least in modern times. When it's good, it's amazing. When it's bad, it's infuriating.
We don't always -- or often, at times -- get the fights we want to see. Why not? "Boxing is a business," we are told in many of those cases. But mostly it comes down to petty grudges and beefs and other nonsense that has very little to do with the fighters themselves. Maddening.
I'm not too old, but I'm not too young, either. My boxing heroes weren't Hagler and Hearns and Duran and Leonard, because they were just before my time. Mike Tyson was fading out hard and going to prison by the time I knew a lot of what was going on, though my first Big Fight was Tyson vs Razor Ruddock in 1991.
There are three fighters who were critically important to me as I became a "real" boxing fan instead of just someone who knew about the bigger fights.
The first was Roy Jones Jr, a physical phenom who could do things that nobody else could do, and many over the years have tried to emulate his style. He was one of those athletes who just had a level others couldn't approach. I got the same feeling watching Jones that I had when I watched Michael Jordan. Yeah, other basketball players were good, even great, but Jordan could shift to a gear they didn't have. Roy was the same.
The second: Sugar Shane Mosley. Mosley had an entertaining style, sort of mixing speed and athleticism with a warrior's spirit. His fights with Oscar De La Hoya -- two wins, however debatable -- and Vernon Forrest -- two losses, not debatable -- opened up the "styles make fights" thing to me when I was starting to understand a little bit more. There's just something about Mosley's movement and energy that I always dug. There was some artistry, but there was also sheer violence in his approach.
The third: Erik Morales, who remains probably my personal favorite fighter of all time. Morales' rivalry with Marco Antonio Barrera was hugely important for my fandom. It was a genuine, personal grudge, and ever since I saw that play out between those two living legends, I've been a sucker for a good grudge match where fighters truly dislike one another. Morales had a never-say-die approach to his fights in his prime, and his first two battles with Manny Pacquiao also stand out as events that made me a bigger fan than I was before the bell rang.
And here's a wild card: Ricardo Mayorga. "El Matador" scored one of the most exciting upsets I've ever experienced live when he stopped the heavily favored Vernon Forrest back in 2003, a couple of months before I turned 21. When I was a little kid, Tyson lost to Buster Douglas, and I understood the significance of that, but it didn't immediately hit me, other than suddenly James "Buster" Douglas had a Sega Genesis game with his name on it, and would replace Tyson as special referee for a WWF show.
Mayorga thrashing Forrest with his crude brawling was stunning and thrilling. Forrest was arguably the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world at that point, and this largely unknown Nicaraguan, whose skills didn't touch Vernon's, just smashed him in three rounds with ferocity and raw power. Mayorga, at his core, was a true fighter, and his win over Forrest inspired in me a lust for chaos in boxing. To this day, I love when carefully laid out plans get ruined.
There are specific fights that changed me, too, made me a bigger fan because I just couldn't believe these warriors were doing what they were doing. Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. James Toney and Vassiliy Jirov. Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez, three times. And the deeper you go, the more you want to go back and learn about the rich history of the sport, not just looking up old fights, but reading the stories behind these fights. You watch the legendary nights -- the "No Mas" fight, The Thrilla in Manila, The Rumble in the Jungle, Hearns-Hagler, and so on -- find out about the great fighters from before your time, and then you're even more entrenched. This is true of any sport, if you love it. Boxing is a sport overflowing with amazing, real characters -- not just the fighters themselves, but trainers and promoters and commentators and journalists.
But the biggest thing to me about boxing is simple: the big fight feel. I like mixed martial arts and have watched that sport regularly since about 2002, and rented UFC tapes in the early days of that promotion's existence, when it was half a carnival act while the real talents were separating themselves from a pack of misfits. But even at the very height of my MMA fandom, I've never gotten the goosebumps and the anticipation levels that I have when a big boxing fight comes along.
Even now, 11 years after I started writing about boxing here at BLH, that happens. And I am admittedly more jaded and less enthusiastic about a lot of things than I used to be. Paying close attention to the inner workings of a frustrating sport will do that to anyone, I think. But then a big fight comes along, and I feel it every time, at least a little bit, and it reminds me all over again. I'll feel it this Saturday when Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr -- not exactly mainstream names -- walk to the ring in Sheffield, England. Because even if the unexpected is rare, I know anything can happen in boxing. Douglases beat Tysons. Mayorgas beat Forrests. And you never know when the next unbelievable war is going to happen, when two fighters enter a ring and leave pieces of their souls behind, defying the limits of the human body as most of us know them.
Why are you a fan of boxing?