Remember when people said boxing was dead?

Updated 25 April 2017

Remember when people said boxing was dead?

Madison Square Garden was filled with 20,000 boxing fans last month, and they were treated to Gennady Golovkin, Danny Jacobs and a spectacular night of fights.
This week, 90,000 fans are expected to jam London’s Wembley Stadium for the most significant heavyweight fight in a long time. British Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua meets former champion Wladimir Klitschko in a title fight that figures to put a charge into a division that has been neglected for far too long.
A week after that, Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. meet in a Mexican showdown in a pay-per-view bout that sold out on the Las Vegas Strip right after it was announced.
Oh yeah, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev will fight in June in a rematch of their light heavyweight title showdown last November.
The party line has long been that boxing is dead. Crippled by greedy promoters and a lack of heavyweights, it was finally killed off by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight two years ago that lived up to its billing as the richest fight ever, though certainly not the best.
The truth is, boxing is showing plenty of life. Even the biggest star in mixed martial arts can not wait to get a piece of it.
Conor McGregor has no chance against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Not in a boxing ring, though in an octagon, it would likely be a different story.
Still, the riches are far greater than McGregor can make in the UFC. And UFC chieftain Dana White says he w will not stand in the way of McGregor making money. He believes the fight will happen.
Yes, Mayweather-McGregor is more a freak show than a fight, but there is still plenty for boxing fans to get excited about. They do not have to wait long for Saturday’s fight between Joshua and Klitschko, which will be televised by both Showtime and HBO.
“Obviously, the jewel of the crown is the big heavyweight fight,” said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president for Showtime Sports. “It sort of feels like a throwback to the golden eras of boxing when you had big worldwide heavyweight title fights and everyone knew who the champion was.”
The fight matches Klitschko, who dominated the heavyweight division for the better part of a decade, against Joshua, who has won all 17 of his fights by knockout. It will either mark Klitschko’s renaissance after an embarrassing loss to Tyson Fury in 2015 or serve as the passing of the torch to a young and vibrant new champion.
Either way it figures to rekindle interest in a division that has had little to captivate fans in recent years.
“It’s gotten more exciting since I left the top,” Klitschko said. “It’s not as boring as it was with me during all these years. You can like me or hate me, but when one person conquers all it is boring. I totally get it.”
In boxing-mad England, the fight is such a huge deal that all 90,000 tickets sold out quickly. Joshua owns the titles that will be at stake, and American heavyweight Deontay Wilder, who owns the WBC version of the title, will be at ringside hoping to meet the winner.
Just as big for Mexican boxing fans will be the middleweight fight a week later in Las Vegas between the red-haired Alvarez, an established star, and Chavez Jr., a son of the legendary former champion.
If Alvarez wins as oddsmakers expect him to, it could set up an even bigger fight in the fall against Golovkin, the power puncher from Kazakhstan who now lives in Los Angeles. Golovkin sold out Madison Square Garden last month for his narrow win over Jacobs, showing some vulnerability that may help lure what has so far been a reluctant Alvarez into the ring against him.
Espinoza believes that both promoters and fighters have realized that in a competitive market for live events, boxing has had to move to provide better matchups if fans are to pay attention.
And he says that is precisely what is starting to happen.
“Without a doubt boxing is surging,” he said. “We see that in our ratings and in our digital traffic. What has become clear to those in the boxing industry is that in order to attract attention you’ve got to have signature, high-profile events.”
That includes Joshua and Klitschko and, yes, it probably includes Mayweather-McGregor. Eventually it could include a stable of Olympic fighters signed by Bob Arum and others who may turn into big stars.
The matchups are intriguing, and the response from boxing fans has been huge.
Something to think about the next time you hear that boxing is dead.

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.