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Point/Counterpoint: Which sport is more relevant — Horse racing or boxing?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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Horseracing

I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable sports fan. Having said that, other than Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and the Klitschko brothers (are they still fighting?), I cannot name another professional boxer.

How are the ponies not the only choice for this question?

The TV ratings for the Kentucky Derby tell the tale. The Derby’s ratings have been on a steady rise throughout the 2000s, with last year’s race the secondmost watched Derby in more than 20 years.

The 16.5 million viewers (on a Saturday afternoon mind you) put boxing’s most recent heavyweight title fight numbers (only 468,000 viewers) to shame.

Believe it or not, horseracing, or at least the spectacle of the Derby, is much more mainstream than anything boxing produces. Big hats and fashion sell themselves. That’s exactly why NBC can afford to run a record 15.5 hours of Derby coverage (up in the ratings by 15 percent from 2012), hire Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski to talk fashion, and shell out gobs of money to extend its right to air the Derby through 2025.

Mayweather may be the world’s highest paid athlete, but his sport has nothing on the pageantry and tradition of horseracing’s monthlong stretch that draws the eyes of the nation to the possibility of that elusive Triple Crown winner.

Obviously, both boxing and horseracing are long past their heyday. The two sports, once so ingrained in our country’s sporting culture, are mostly irrelevant for all but a few occasions each year. But, unlike boxing, which continues to ride the coat tails of a 37-year-old self-promoter, horseracing has something that only gets better with age.

Each year, the Kentucky Derby churns out a story line. It doesn’t matter who the trainer is or even the horse, for that matter. What matter is that for a few weeks, Americans will tune in, cheering for history.

Boxing will die when Mayweather retires. Horseracing, the Derby, and the allure of a potential Triple Crown winner isn’t going anywhere.

— Joshua Bolander

Boxing

The times have changed since such sports as baseball, horseracing, and boxing reigned supreme. Now, rather than sharing a spot atop the sports world, the question has become which of these sports is even still in the public eye.

The Kentucky Derby is a classic American event, and horseracing in general has an inherent aura of significance, but there is no denying that boxing is more relevant to sports fans today.

Although both sports have taken a step back in terms of widespread exposure, boxing has somehow been able to stay popular with its primary fan base. In fact, the sport is showing an increase in viewership.

In September 2013, Floyd Mayweather fought Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas, and the bout hyped as “The One” showed no signs of boxing becoming irrelevant. According to Showtime, the match eclipsed the record for highest-grossing pay-per-view fight of all time.

The fight was bought by 2.2 million customers and generated $150 million in revenue.

While boxing is able to increase profits and survive in a new age of sports, horseracing is showing signs of falling out of prominence. The Kentucky Derby in 2013 scored a 10.4 in the Nielsen Ratings but fell to only 10.1 this year.

Neither sport is as large as it once was, but in terms of relevance, there’s one clearly headed in the right direction.

— Kyle Mann


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