Boxing is the one sport, outside of the races, where betting is an accepted part of the game, open and above-board.
Even so, boxing isn’t one of the major gambling sports in America now, if it ever was. One reason is that the public is interested only in the heavily promoted fights, notably heavyweight championships.
The only real exception would be any fight involving Muhammad Ali, but his are usually championship fights. Ali did for boxing what Bobby Riggs in his way did for tennis, except that Ali had infinitely more class.
Riggs was washed up as an athlete, riding to fame on his public relations instincts and his eagerness for one more good hustle.
But Ali really was ‘the greatest’, just as he always said, and his towering confidence was always matched by towering performance. Ali gave boxing so much class that even Jackie Onassis went to see him fight.
Unfortunately on boxing, the class lent to it by Muhammad Ali is Ali’s own. When he retired he took it with him. There is seemingly no one else to compare with him as boxer (when he was in his prime) or as a public figure at any time.
Most people accept sports betting as a fact of life, even an exciting one. But some fans and almost all public officials still become very upset at any evidence that sports figures and gambling figures know anything about each other.
Congress has held hearings several times to try to determine whether football or baseball games were being fixed or tampered with by odds makers. Basketball scandals have dramatically proved that it can happen.
Just how prevalent is sports fixing? Team owners and coaches would have you believe that their boys don’t even know what an odds maker is. And it is almost certainly the case that no player or coach does anything but try to win by as many points as he can. On the other hand, it is probably also the case that most big sports bettors and bookies have informants or friends associated with all the teams. Is this unethical? It is not, as gamblers point out, any different from what the coaches do themselves if they get a chance.
A coach who finds out that the quarterback of a rival team is sick has information that will help him in planning his game, selecting his starting players, and so on.
Such information would have to be obtained as a result of someone’s spying, since no coach would volunteer such information to another. But this couldn’t possibly be construed as ‘fix’, since the rival team has no part in arranging the transfer of information and only the coach with the spy profits from it— maybe.
This is the sort of thing that is widespread in sports, rather than any actual cheating. In the course of events, coaches and players sometimes get to be friends with gamblers, just as they do with sports equipment manufacturers or any other businesspeople interested in the game.
But this doesn’t mean coaches and players even try to throw games in behalf of their gambling friends.