Ever since I was little I remember watching boxing with my uncle. He raised me to be a boxing fan almost since birth and I was the only kid in school talking about Sugar Ray Leonard Larry Holmes instead of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. He took me over his brother's house to watch Mike Tyson unify the heavyweight title and in the process he got so drunk he forgot to take me home with him (I've long since forgave him for that). He would beam with pride while telling the story of the time he was stopped at a light and Tommy "hit man" Hearns pulled up alongside him and nodded his head towards him so as to acknowledge his presence.
When I got complimentary tickets from our friends at HBO for the Timothy Bradley/Devon Alexander fight at the Silverdome he was the only guest I even considered taking. With him in his late 60's now I was a little leery about dragging him to Pontiac in the middle of the night and even more so about dragging him down 60 stairs to get to our main floor seats. But despite all the worry I wanted to check back in on boxing. Years of bad matchups and disappointing performances forced me over to MMA land where I've been enjoying fierce competition and hand to hand wars once or twice a month.
I wanted this fight to be a hit. Not so much for the Silverdome or for the city of Pontiac but for the sport itself. Detroit hasn't had a main event fighter since Hearns ruled the middleweight division in the early 80’s. The closest we have is “The Contender” star Cornelius “K9” Bundrage who stopped Corey Spinks in the 5th during their fight last year. I wanted for Detroit to be a fight town again. I wanted to hear about fight parties and young kids to pick Bradley or Alexander to be their favorite and debate in class about who was better.
Not so much.
Gate attendance for the fight in the east corner of the Silverdome was just over 6,200. Had the fight been held in the MGM Grand Garden Arena that would have made for over 10,000 empty seats. While my uncle and I were enthralled with the lights and production value of a live HBO fight the rest of the crowed seemed disinterested at best. On the main floor people were more concerned about looking good and been seen than watching the chess match go on in the ring. In the stands hordes of families filled the sections and many were there thanks to free tickets given to fill the arena.
When the fight was stopped during the tenth round after an injury due to accidental head-butt most of the crowd got up and left, disinterested with the score up until that point or what the fighters had to say. While my uncle and I were pushing through the crowd to the ring to get a close-up peek at Larry Merchant during the post-fight interview most were picking up their fur coats and heading out the door.
What I took away from the atmosphere is that no one “got it”. Many didn’t know who was fighting or that they were two undefeated fighters who were fighting to unify the title. They didn’t know or care who the top contender was or if he was actually in attendance or not. Going online the following day no one had anything good to say about the fight or the venue. All in all the experiment failed. Boxing is going to have to wait it’s turn for Detroit’s attention. As for my uncle, he’s vowed to never walk up or down a stair again for the rest of his days.