Musings of Maestro R: Did Horse Racing and Boxing Just Die?

(By Richard A. Rampello)

There are a lot of conclusions being reached in the sporting world this year, with some of the perceived findings in question form, such as below. Johnny Carson was ensconced as the Maestro of Late Night when Affirmed was the third Triple Crown victor of the ‘70s. So I asked and set out to answer the follow question:

Did Two Sports Just Die in 2015?

There was a concern that ultimate prizefights would end boxing, given that the standard of boxing has declined, not just the ratings. Did the Pacquiao and Mayweather disappointment -- via the media, certainly – exhale the last whispers of boxing lore? Did it get mauled with Mike Tyson’s free fall? Does it matter?

That question extends to American Pharoah’s incorrectly spelled sobriquet. Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery proclaimed inferiority regarding American Pharoah, given the competition he has faced. Yes, the 1970s had a magical run of war-themed horses; however, 2015’s winner had a backdrop story of an Arab owner who re-bought his horse (in a manner of speaking; one ironically born on Groundhog Day), had the equine trained by an American in Kentucky and upon him rode a Puerto Rican (thank you, Tom Hammond, for pointing all of that out). The same rider who literally rode again for a Triple Crown, as last year he reined California Chrome.

With that said, I loved how Mr. Espinoza jockeyed his special ride, because instead of jostling for position after a slow break from the gate, he took the inside rail, led, extended his lead with a slower pace and then pulled away to win by two and a half lengths, which is incredibly good, actually. No, it was not Secretariat’s famed 31-and-a-half trek into history, and while Frosted finished second, as some experts picked (one picked Frosted to stave the Triple Crown another year), California Chrome proved capable, while several other horses have shown some pluck this decade. It took a while for the Big Four in golf to arrive; however, does that mean Tiger Woods' accomplishments are lesser? Or Federer’s in tennis because it took some time for competition to arise? Have many devalue Williams, Serena and her dominance?

With the risk of sounding Vin Diesel-like, a win is a win. Boxing is in disarray by its design and promotion: it is not mainstream, and normally niche sports do not sway the public as a whole. Just look at soccer. But American Pharoah may kick into gear love of a particular sport for a more general audience; horse racing, just like boxing, is a bevy for the well-to-do. After all, mint juleps cost about a grand on the grounds.

Yet, we got we wanted as the public, which is the reason for the question. The Pugilist Parade that was supposed to be Manny v. Floyd was about five years past its prime. Then again, recall that Mayweather and De La Hoya were going to restore the luster of the lost shine of professional fighting. The problem, as I stated, is promotion. Because the best fight in the last 10 years featured Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. Those seemingly undercard warriors at least fought in front of each other, which is dangerous but alluring, almost like a toxic cocktail with positive effects when not overdone.

I credit Mayweather with intelligence and a sound strategy, but stop being shocked by the fact he is a flash outside the pan, if you will. Stop promoting individual draws and focus on tourney-style rounds, which sounds similar to MMA and UFC; however, I would rather watch the protect and surge style of boxing much more. Mayweather is 48 and 0, Corrales had five losses against 40 wins, 33 knockouts. Mayweather has 26 KOs at this time. Get what I am saying about marketing?

It is not glamour for “Money,” but all the same perfection doesn’t get appreciated as it should. The 17-0 Dolphins are never regarded as the “best” football team ever by dominance, merely record. That may apply to Mayweather, yet he will enjoy the riches he accumulated. Again, a win is a win, but it is not the best quality win to myriad viewers.

As for horse racing, it has piqued outside interests. Analysts are looking for potential thoroughbreds to stand out in the Florida Derby, as those horses often race in the Kentucky Derby. Yes, if countless Triple Crown winners pop up, this will have the feel of baseball’s oversaturated homerun race that started in the late 1990s; then again, it creates a constant chatter about the sport.

But to note, horse racing has not changed the field like NASCAR, in who runs against the champions for the championship. They have not lengthened schedules like in MLB and the NFL, which inflates numbers, yet also make it more difficult to win overall. It is about the horse persevering, so the criticism from California Chrome’s owners, although heard, was not rightfully listened to.

Maybe it is one and one with these sports, but modernizing it to the new age appetite is essential, not diluting the past to make the present stand out. American Pharoah is not Secretariat, but its Triple Crown numbers did match up.

Reinventing is not a crime, as sometimes it revitalizes, like with a Triple Crown win.

Richard A. Rampello is the author of the column Musings of Maestro R.
https://twitter.com/r_a_rampello

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