If this were 1937, or even 1977, today would be the biggest sports day of the year.

The biggest events in horse racing and boxing are taking place today, and there was a time when they would be dominating the headlines and casual conversation. But here in 2007, they’re little more than curiosities.

The Kentucky Derby will give thoroughbred racing its two minutes in the spotlight this afternoon. Then tonight, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya will enter the squared-circle in what some folks are laughably calling the fight to save boxing.

It’s actually kind of a sad day for those of us who remember when both sports were more than a curiosity. The excitement surrounding a big fight or a big race back then was comparable to the Super Bowl.

Sure, there’s a buzz surrounding tonight’s fight. Guys here at the paper are talking about it like they haven’t talked about a fight since Joey Gamache hung up his gloves. But that’s the point: They A) haven’t talked about a fight like this since Joey fought Arturo Gatti seven years ago and B) are all over 30.

Don’t think boxing’s dying? Get 10 guys between the ages of 15 and 30 and ask them to name five boxers. Then ask them to name five Ultimate Fighting champions.

They probably couldn’t name five horses in today’s field, either. But at least horse racing has found its niche and seems to be comfortable in it. A lot of people will stop what they’re doing at post-time today and watch The Run for the Roses. A fraction of those will tune in a couple of weeks later for the Belmont. Then, if there’s a chance for a Triple Crown winner, the audience will swell again for the Preakness. Barring someone winning the Triple Crown, or a horse getting seriously injured, that will be it for horse racing in 2007. But at least they’ll have their month as part of the sporting landscape and can dream of the day when someone finally wins the Triple Crown again.

Boxing, though, has nowhere to go but down after tonight’s fight. De La Hoya’s probably going to retire, especially if he wins. Mayweather, if he is victorious, will take on a bunch of no-names. There’s zero potential for a similar marquee match-up in any of the other weight classes. Even if there were more big names, the sport is still under the control of a bunch of slimy promoters who have either made current fans feel like suckers for paying $55 to watch countless sham bouts involving Mike Tyson and some tomato can or blacked-out future generations of fans in favor of making a quick pay-per-view buck.


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