09/19/2013 3:58PM

Dave Tuley: Boxing searching for the excitement of its past


LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather took home more than $41 million for his workmanlike win over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez last Saturday night at the MGM Grand, so his pockets were full. But a lot of us were left with an empty feeling and wondering about the future of boxing.

It was a typical Mayweather fight, as he once again showed he’s one of the greatest defensive boxers of all time, blocking or ducking almost all of Alvarez’s punches while scoring with his jab. The biggest excitement of the night came when it was announced that one of the judges, C.J. Ross, scored it a 114-114 draw. The other judges had it solidly in Mayweather’s favor – though not as lopsided as many observers expected – and Floyd had his win to improve to 45-0 as the –280 favorite.

I already was feeling indifferent to Mayweather’s victory, but it didn’t really hit me as to why I was so unfulfilled until Wednesday, when the news came out about the death of Ken Norton. He was from the era of the 1970s, when I first started following boxing as a kid. Before fading late in his career, he was 41-5 with 33 knockouts, but despite his 1973 win over Muhammad Ali, he wasn’t even considered the greatest of that era, superseded not only by Ali (56-5, 37 KOs) but Joe Frazier (34-2-1, 27 KOs) and George Foreman (76-5, 68 KOs). And he lost to the next great heavyweight, Larry Holmes (69-6, 44 KOs).

That’s a lot of great fighters at the same time, and we also were coming up on a good era outside the heavyweight division with Sugar Ray Leonard (36-3-1, 25 knockouts), Marvin Hagler (62-3-2, 52 KOs), Thomas Hearns (61-5-1, 48 KOs), Roberto Duran (103-16, 70 KOs), etc.

Look at those knockout numbers. As dominant of a performance as Mayweather’s was against Alvarez, it was pretty much assumed he was going to outpoint his opponent instead of going for the knockout. Mayweather is inarguably the best pound-for-pound fighter nowadays, but the biggest argument against him is the level of competition, and what does it say about him when he’s not knocking anybody out?

He has 26 career KOs, which pales compared with the records of the aforementioned great fighters, but it’s also true that since his TKO of Ricky Hatton on Dec. 8, 2007, his only knockout was when he caught Victor Ortiz with his guard down in September 2011 coming out of a break, when Ortiz was trying to hug him. (Note: The most entertaining moment Saturday night came when Mayweather was trying to tap gloves with Alvarez and was refused. Obviously, Alvarez wasn’t going to make the same mistake.)

They say many people go to auto races to see a crash, but it’s also true that they go to boxing matches to see someone get knocked out. It’s a big part of the reason why mixed martial arts has exploded in popularity, as relatively few of those fights go to the scorecards. That also takes the result out of the judges’ hands.

The scorecard from Ross was derided as “either incompetent or corrupt,” neither of which makes the sport look good. I’m not saying that we have to have our gladiators fight to the death, but with less definitive results, boxing keeps losing more and more fans (even those who try to love both) to MMA.

Nowadays, what superstars does boxing have after Mayweather? We don’t even have Manny Pacquaio at the top of his game anymore. And the heavyweight division has just about faded from existence – at least in this country – with the Klitschko brothers holding almost all the heavyweight belts, choosing to not fight on U.S. soil, and also refusing to fight each other. (Note: Wladimir Klitschko is defending his belts against Alexander Povetkin on Oct. 5 in Moscow, but I’m willing to bet this is the first time most of you are even hearing about that.)

Norton’s passing is just another reminder that we could be witnessing the slow death of boxing.

Back to the betting board

Last week, the effort to get over .500 didn’t go as planned, as I lost with Boston College and the Redskins (I knew I should have gone with my play on the Chargers vs. the Eagles as I was waffling between the two) to drop below .500 in both the colleges and NFL. Let’s try to get back on track with a spot play each for Saturday and Sunday.

Tennessee +17 vs. Florida

I really don’t see why this spread is so high. Granted, Tennessee got blown out, 59-14, at Oregon last week, but the Ducks do that to a lot of teams. Florida, however, had a hard time putting away Toledo, 24-6, and then lost to Miami, 21-16, two weeks ago, and now the Gators are expected to beat another SEC team by three scores? While the Gators’ defense is strong, their offense won’t come anywhere near the success of Oregon against the Tennessee defense. That leaves it to the Volunteers’ offense to keep this within a touchdown (and again tossing out the Oregon game, they certainly look capable), but even if they somehow fall behind by 20, I’m confident they can get in the back door.

PLAY: Tennessee for 1 unit.

Giants +1 vs. Panthers

I don’t subscribe to the notion that “the Giants can’t start 0-3” since a team that is 0-2 certainly is capable of losing another (and the Panthers are 0-2 and similarly motivated), but I like the Giants’ chances of getting in the W column better. The Panthers played well in Week 1 at home before letting the Seahawks off the hook, but then couldn’t close the deal against the Bills. The Giants have faced better overall competition in the Cowboys and Broncos and are the ones taking a step down in class. The Giants’ turnover woes have been mostly self-inflicted, and as long as they clear that up, they should win handily as their strength – a passing game averaging 390.5 yards per game – is going against Carolina’s weak secondary. (Note: This line has been as high as Panthers –3, but it was 1 as of this writing Thursday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change in the favorite.)

PLAY: Giants for 1 unit.

NCAA record: 2-3 for net loss of 1.3 units (based on risking 1.1 to win 1). NFL record: 1-2 for a net loss of 1.2 units.