Saturday, May 02, 2009

Is french english BOXING dying?


Paris - They once had Marcel Cerdan, but France has come a long way since the Algerian-born 'bomber' who famously partnered iconic singer Edith Piaf while enjoying his reign as king of the middleweight division.
Cerdan, who had French nationality, died nearly 50 years ago. And for French boxing fans the wait for a man with the skills to take on and beat the world is not getting any shorter.
With dwindling champions, organisers losing the right to stage big fights and only one reigning world champion from any division in WBA light-flyweight champion Brahim Asloum, French boxing has hit a new low.
So low, in fact, that France's secretary of state for sports, the former rugby supremo Bernard Laporte, has launched an emergency audit in a bid to find answers.
On Tuesday, it was top French boxer Jean-Marc Mormeck who followed with a resounding distress call.
"Boxing in France is seriously ill. In fact, it's almost dying. The only thing giving us any optimism is the fact that our neighbours from Germany and England are keeping the sport alive," Mormeck said in sports daily L'Equipe.
As cross-channel neighbours Britain soak up recent ring successes, France can only look on with envy.
Welshman Joe Calzaghe is rated by the respected Ring magazine as one of the top ten pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
Currently undefeated after 46 bouts including 32 ko's, the 'Italian Dragon' who has mixed Italian and Welsh heritage, is the current world light-heavyweight champion having beaten Roy Jones Junior last month.
In what was described as one of the fights of the year, England's Carl Froch dominated Canadian Jean Pascal in Nottingham last weekend to claim his first world title belt in super-middleweight.
Britain's bulging stable of pugilistic charms wouldn't be complete without England's Ricky 'the Hitman' Hatton former Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan and glamour-boy heavyweight David Haye.
Mormeck, one of France's biggest boxing names but who lost his cruiserweight world crown to Haye in 2007, feels it's time for urgent reforms.
"We're all responsible" for the state of French boxing, he said pointing the finger at promoters who "haven't invested in the long-term of the sport", boxers, television companies and the political powers that be.
"We've all played our part, and forgotten the fundamental concept that you reap what you sow and you only get back what you put in."
Firmly on the ropes, the sorry state of French boxing has hit home with Laporte, who is close to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Laporte has commissioned the popular Mahyar Monshipour, a former super bantamweight champion who has recently come out of retirement, to produce a report detailing what should be done to inject new life into the sport.
Iranian-born Monshipour, who was sent to France at the age of 11 as the first Iraq-Iran war raged, believes the solution could be the creation of a professional boxing squad, or affiliate the country's professionals with the national sports institute in Paris.
But he believes he could face a losing battle.
"Boxing just doesn't interest kids of 10 years old," he lamented.
"The few talented kids out there usually slip through our hands because of poor organisation, and in the (boxing) clubs there aren't enough good trainers."
Ironically France usually holds its own at amateur and Olympic level. Asloum won gold in Sydney and three medals were won from the 11 finals in Beijing.
Yet at professional level things are different. There is only one major promoter in France, Michel Acaries, and the lack of cohesion between promoters, fighters and television companies means another Cerdan may be a long time in coming.
Canal Plus, France's main boxing channel, is in despair at the lack of bouts able to draw in the fans.
"In 2007 and 2008 the budgets we set aside for boxing events were not even used up," lamented Jean-Louis Dutaret, head of Canal Plus Events.
"Since Mormeck v Haye, there's been nothing. And that fight was organised in America, by (boxing promoter) Don King. - AFP

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