There was a time, when heavyweight boxing was perhaps the most popular sport in America. With the fevered excitement over Muhammad Ali and then the advent of Mike Tyson, boxing’s glamour division was a riveting spectacle to America. Even the supporting cast, like Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield, were all-time greats in themselves. The magic dust that was sprinkled over legendary fights like Ali-Frazier, Bowe-Holyfield, seem like dreams of a distant past.
The current heavyweight kings, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, have a stranglehold on the division. They are dominating, but not exciting fighters. However, as much blame that as heaped on them for the state of the division, they can only do so much. A division cannot be built around two people, who won’t even fight each other because they are brothers. With no worthy adversaries, their matches are lackluster and disappointing affairs, except to their rabid German fanbase. The Wladimir-Mormeck fight was a joke. The fact that everyone was lauding Dereck Chisora for basically surviving twelve rounds with forty-year old Klitschko shows how much the expectations have fallen for heavyweight boxing. With Dereck Chisora indefinitely banned, David Haye retired, and a scarcity of upcoming prospects Lennox Lewis understandably feels heavyweight boxing is dead.
Lennox Lewis claims that the contenders now wouldn’t even have rated as sparring partners for him when he was champion:
Right now the heavyweight division is dead. The Klitschko brothers and their opponents are just filling their bags (with cash). Their opponents will not improve; they wouldn’t have even made sparring partners for me.
It’s interesting to note that Lennox, and no other boxing commentators, bring up Badr Hari as a potential bright-spot in boxing’s future. They either don’t know about him or don’t care about him.
With Wladimir Klitschko next being rumored to fight aging Tony Thompson and fat heavyweight Chris Arreola, the prospects for another marquee heavyweight fight seem bleak. While Arreola might provide some fireworks, no one expects him to beat Wladimir, and he is considered a limited heavyweight.
Twenty-seven year old Badr Hari, by far, is one of the most exciting newcomers to happen to heavyweight boxing in a while. Surprisingly, though, mainstream boxing media seems to have largely ignored his recent transition to boxing with trainer Naazim Richardson. With the exception of fighthype.com, media outlets have pretty much ignored this story. While a lot of this is most likely due to America’s lack of interest in kickboxing, I also think it’s because they don’t think Badr Hari will make it very far in boxing.
While once a kickboxing prodigy, Badr is somewhat old to be entering boxing. The Klitschkos have been boxing since their teens and Wladimir was an Olympic contender. Not to mention, in general, kickboxing is considered a class below boxing by America, a C-level sport. So Badr doesn’t have the credibility to American media that he has to European sports media. He is basically a nobody to American boxing culture. But can Badr Hari prove the media wrong, and re-ignite excitement in a division that is dangerously close to being dead?
In my opinion, once Badr Hari starts fighting, he will generate the excitement amongst the mainstream boxing media, that hasn’t been seen for quite some time. My list of reasons include:
1. Badr Hari’s already HUGE fanbase from around the world. There is no other heavyweight boxer, other than the Klitschkos, who have the loyal international fanbase that Badr Hari does. They will flock to his fights, and his boxing matches will get coverage all over the world.
2. Badr’s knockout power. Nothing makes people pay attention more than knockout power. While technical boxing skill and endurance are beautiful things to watch and to have, knockouts are what generate excitement. Badr Hari is more than capable of leaving a string of victims in his path in his pursuit of heavyweight boxing domination.
3. Badr Hari’s marketability and charisma. Badr Hari is fluent in several languages, including english, which is a huge plus for promoting himself in interviews and media appearances. He is very charismatic, with the ability to attract both male and female fans. And his Moroccan background will attract a different fanbase than heavyweight boxing already has, from all over the world.
For these reasons, I believe that as long as Badr Hari avoids being brutally knocked out within his first year of heavyweight boxing, he can save the division from completely wallowing in obscurity.