Every sport encounters, at some point, a low watermark of behaviour — in or out of the playing arena — that ensures things will never be quite the same again.
Some watersheds are tragic; the Heysel disaster focused minds and laws on ridding English football of its hooligan problem. Though more tragedy was needed — Hillsborough — before people realised treating fans like animals wasn’t a solution.
The Tour de France of 2007 was another cul de sac that opened into a roundabout. So breathtaking was the scale of pharmaceutical skullduggery on display, the sport couldn’t simply stick another plaster over the needle marks, or the last sponsor would soon have turned out the lights.
Other incidents are trivial, in comparison, such as Australia’s infamous decision in 1981 to bowl underarm along the ground the last ball of a one-day international so New Zealand couldn’t attempt a six needed to draw. Disgust was near universal, debate on sportsmanship began and underarm bowling in limited overs matches was banned.
And you can file too under disgusting; the farrago of thuggery, greed, opportunism and disrespect for the sport that threatens to bring David Haye and Dereck Chisora together at Upton Park in July for a clash uglier than anything Julian Dicks treated the stadium to. Staged grudges and related nonsense is hardly a new sales pitch for ringside seats — just part of the hype that has long demeaned the sport. And this pathetic sideshow between immodest men of modest talent might even succeed in packing them in.
But if boxing doesn’t sort itself out and impose some structure on the discredited heavyweight division, so rubbish like this can’t command centre stage; the sport might soon find itself with nowhere left to turn.
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