Many pundits have long claimed the death of boxing for a host of reasons. Some cite the absence of big stars such as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, while other say the growing popularity of the UFC has caused the shift in recent years.
“We were in a dark place but now we’re coming into the light,” WBC’s heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder tells FOX Business.
Wilder, who goes by the nickname “Bronze Bomber” after he won an Olympic medal in 2008 as an amateur, has become the first American world heavyweight champion in 12 years, which is the longest period of time in boxing history without an American at the helm.
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark says Wilder’s 39-0 record with 38 knockouts is one of the reasons why they have invested heavily into the sport and why it’s seeing a bit of a “resurgence” in recent years.
“If you think of all the distribution channels that are now covering boxing, you haven’t seen that before. Obviously, Showtime is a leader in the space and then there’s HBO and ESPN,” Yormarks, who is also the chief executive of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, says, adding that social media has also drummed up a new popularity from younger generation.
Since 2012, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has hosted 27 championship boxing fights, with three of them featuring Wilder.
According to a recent Washington Post/University of Massachusetts Lowell poll, 28% of U.S. sports fans call themselves boxing fans today, with some of that interest coming from multicultural audiences and women.
“Even in Europe boxing has seen a bit of resurgence,” Yormark adds.
Yormark notes that the uptick in boxing gym franchises such as Title Boxing and Rumble is an “entry point,” or a way in which people become fans and attend events.
“We’re also engaging with the fans at the grassroots level to sell the sport and to sell the personalities of the fighters and we’re seeing that it’s resulting in record breaking tickets sells for Barclays and I hope other arenas are experiencing the same thing,” he says.
Boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya said earlier this week he’s also seen the sport pick up steam in recent years.
“Boxing is slowly but surely coming back. It’s about making the best fights happen and that’s what we have here,” De La Hoya told FOX Business’ Charles Payne.
Wilder is set to defend his title against Cuban fighter Luis Ortiz on Saturday, and if he wins, it will be his third-consecutive year as the heavyweight champion.
“I think about the Golden era of boxing with Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Joe Louis, when Americans gravitated towards the [sport] and it’s one of the things that I want to bring back to America and we’re trying very hard,” Wilder says.