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Of heavyweight champions and flags at half staff

I’m a big boxing fan or, at least, I used to be. I fondly recall the days of Friday Night Fights on one of our three TV channels and and well-worn magazines touting the next big fight to determine the heavyweight champion of the world scattered around the barbershop.

Everyone knew who the champ was. He was famous. I had to google the current champion. His name is Tyson Fury and I only have vague name recognition of him.

The first champ, James J. Corbett was crowned when he defeated John. L. Sullivan after a 21-round slugfest on Sept. 7, 1892. Famous names from the division over the years include Gene Tunney, Jack Dempsey, Joe Lewis, Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston.

The sport changed drastically when Cassius Clay, the flashiest heavyweight ever at the time, knocked out Liston and taunted him. Clay became Muhammad Ali and ruled the sport.

He had epic battles with Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes and others. Atlanta’s own Evander Holyfield wore the belt for an extended period in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then Mike Tyson took over.

With the proliferation of various martial arts fights, the heavyweight champ has faded from the limelight. There are so many champs that being the champ is not the big deal it once was.

I started thinking about this last week when I wondered for the umpteenth time why the flags around town were at half staff. For the uninitiated, a flag on land is at half staff. A flag on a boat is at half mast.

Back in the day, it was a big deal when the flags went to half staff. It required the death of a president, some great statesman, medal of honor winner or the like.

Now the flags are at half staff more than they are at full staff. And, it is hard to find out why. Local, state and federal officials can order the lowering of the flags and do so more often, perhaps, than they should.

In making the honor so easily bestowed, we have taken the honor out of it.

So, I will continue to wonder who is being honored when I see the lowered flag. I’m betting a lot of you are right there with me.

Maybe I am living in the past but things were better when Ali and Frazier were duking it out in the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’ and flags were only lowered on special occasions like Memorial Day and Pearl Harbor Day and for great Americans like MLK, Patton, Eisenhower, JFK, Lindbergh, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart.

What do you think?

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