If you’re like me, you find the lack of boxing programming on a weekly basis more than just discouraging.
Despite the fan base arguably being the most rabid outside of soccer around the globe, that fandom has not translated to large scale coverage by the major sports news outlets stateside.
Aside from the big tent circus environment that an occasional Pay Per View fight may bring, most boxing news is buried both online and on television. No matter how great the fighters, the story behind them or the outcome of the tilt, boxing finds itself buried behind Brady, LeBron and eight months of Baseball.
Despite the attempts of stand-alone shows like “The Fight Game”, “Max on Boxing” or “Inside the PBC” that seem to come and go- it’s hard for casual fans to be exposed to the deeper storylines that make the sport so intriguing. For all intents and purposes, boxing both inside and outside of the ring operates outside the microscope of the mainstream sports media.
Sometimes this can be a blessing in disguise. To be frank, it can be downright exhausting listening to round the clock coverage given to the stories off the field, ring, ice, court etc. That’s not to say that there is no interest in these public figures and thus a certain amount of coverage dedicated to all aspects of them. However, it can seem at times that the agenda turns from reporting outcomes and scores to showcasing faults and flaws in the personal lives of the athletes that we follow. While what happens off the field of play can affect what happens on it, there comes a time that the coverage of these stories can damage not only the athlete and their families. People make mistakes.
But gratuity and grace commonly don’t beget ratings and purchases. So, the negatives are the narrative. Redemption and forgiveness often only comes after the preverbial dead horse has been beaten by the networks who cover the big 3 sports from all angles and perspectives.
No matter your political or religious stances and viewpoints, it's undeniable that American culture has made some large-scale shifts in recognizing, acknowledging and therefore (rightfully so) criticizing and condemning actions that long lived in silence and without ramification. Abuse. Racism. Homophobia. Sexual Harassment. Over the last 2 years, mainstream media has shown a light on injustices in a variety of professions and persons that in the past found themselves able to operate in the dark. The collective masses making a stand-in movements like #metoo and the forms of solidarity in their race, their beliefs, and their rights.
These shifts have led to many positive impacts on the world of sports. Over the past years, we have seen female referees and coaches become part of the NFL and NCAA. Racist fans and owners have been condemned and punished. The sexual harassment cases involving Michigan State gymnastics, Jerry Sandusky and Penn State football alongside a cavalcade of wrongs have had large scale attention and condemnation. And not just by the major sports networks but by national media outlets. This has led to the opportunity to heal, restore and teach on so many levels that one could never write down in one article. And while there is still much work to be done and many stories untold- eyes have been opened, ears are listening and justice is being served to many who have had their rights, religion, and beliefs threatened.
But it has to be stated that many also find coverage at times to be extreme. We live in a divided society across all spectrums with every side seeming to find it easier to dig in their heels as opposed to finding common grounds to stand on. So, when discussing topics of race, harassment, and homophobia, often we can find ourselves immediately finding ourselves on one of those sides, or simply not wanting the discussions to find their way into our sport. The thought being that boxing has operated outside of the spotlight, impervious to our current climate and we want to keep it that way. I may have found myself in that fan base to a certain extent.
Last week, a video clip of Adrien” The Problem” Broner made the rounds on social media. Speaking to his cellphone, spurned by allegations from a social media personality, he began a tirade against homosexuality.
“If any f*g, punk ass n**** come run up on me, trying to touch me on all that gay shit, I'm letting you know right now — if I ain't got my gun on me, I'm knocking you the fuck out.” “If I got my gun on me, I'm shooting you in the fucking face, and that's on God and them. I'm not playing with none of these n****s. I don't like gay shit.”
This clip was immediately condemned by a variety of activist and gay rights groups along with many expressing outright disgust and outrage towards his vitriol- demanding something be done about this “Boxer” and the horrible things that were voiced in the video. While this may have been his worst, this was definitely not his first.
Rare is the month that video clips can’t be found of him in the strip club making it rain or voicing his opinion on his next opponent. For the majority of his career, Broner has been more successful with his promotions outside of the ring than his performances inside of it. His verbal jabs having a much higher output than any punches that Compubox has tallied. Adrien has become just as well known for his low blows and controversial if not outright inflammatory comments regarding the race or sexuality of his opponents.
In 2014, stating post fight he should be known as the “can man” and that “anyone can get it, Af-ri-cans, I beat the fuck out of a Mex-i-can.”
In 2018, after a majority draw with Jessie Vargas, Broner was asked if he would like a rematch- to which he responded Yes- “But let's go to my town. I want to fight him where I'm from. There's hella Mexicans that are in here, they kept booing me and shit. They want rice and chicken. I want some motherfuckers that want Coney's around me.” Adding- “Look at his face. It looks like I beat him with what they beat Martin Luther King with.” “We ain't go at it. Going at it is gay.”
And just this year in the lead up to his largest payday as a fighter against Manny Pacquiao, Broner addressing the Philippine Senator's fans in attendance- “I got a cat for you for dinner. I got some sautéed German Shepherd for you in the back.”
One would think that any of these statements causing serious damage to his career. But this is the real “Problem” with Broner and Boxing. It has worked not only in his favor but for Showtime and the PBC. Despite his best victory coming against an aging Pauli Malignaggi and fighting in a weight class bursting with talent- Adrien’s mouth has brought successful ratings and Pay Per View buys. His commentary leading to eyes on the events and butts in the seats with little to no condemnation by those profiting who stand to profit the most by his antics.
Remember, boxing on a whole has operated in a bubble and outside the bright lights that the NFL, MLB, and NBA have been subjected to. These comments were met with little to no attention outside of blogs and blurbs at the bottom of the bylines. And while that would disturb some, it only takes a short look back to see that boxing and its promoters have not only stayed silent to his racist and homophobic comments, but to his mentor as well.
The king of Pay Per View and the most financially successful boxer of the era, Floyd Mayweather, laid the foundation as the villain that fans would pay to hate. Whilst his skill set far more dominant than anyone in his weight class and vastly superior to someone the ilk of Broner, he found himself verbally in the same class. The same gutter. In 2012 leading up to a Pacquiao fight saying- “As soon as we come off vacation, we’re going to cook that little yellow chump … Once I kick the midget ass, I don’t want you all to jump on my dick. So you all better get on the bandwagon now … Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make that mother fucker make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice … we’re going to cook him with some cats and dogs.” This was met with little blowback despite it being boxing's biggest star.
During a press conference before his fight with Connor McGregor in 2018, Mayweather referred to him as “a faggot”. And while he said the comments were spurned by the racist comments of Connor, Mayweather apologized for crossing a line, the promotions continued and towards the second largest Pay Per View in history.
There is no telling how much of Adrien’s comments came from a sense of bravado and comfort that has been afforded to him by the actions of his predecessors. It could be argued that there has been a steady decline towards the derogatory for decades, no step far worse than the one before. After all, we had seen some of the same homophobic and racist remarks and gestures from the same legends we glorify. Tyson and his homophobic confrontations with the press before fighting Lennox Lewis. And the press itself since the beginning of the 19th century defining boxers by the colors of their skin. The Brown Bomber. The Mahogany Mauler. The Boston Tar Baby. Boxing history is laden with stories steeped in bigotry, racism and the encouragement of abrasive behavior from both the fighters and those that promote the fights.
I just can’t seem to find myself in a grouping of fans that want to remain impervious to the racism and homophobia that is being tolerated by those in power within our sport. It takes no imagination to see what the backlash would be if an athlete in a major sport in this country were to refer to an opposing player with homophobic slurs or racist taunts. The owner of the Clippers losing his team for similar toned remarks. And yet, no light is shown, no media scrutiny is put on the sport and so the promoters and networks continue to turn the same blind eye.
Even scarier still, the thought that boxing fans have come to accept this as part of the sport itself. That low blows and dirty tactics outside of the ring face no point deductions and are just par for the course. That even if there was more programming, the attention again would be on highlights and contracts over these low lights and controversies. Has boxing become the bastion for behavior that in any other major sport would lead to financial penalties or removal from the sport in its entirety?
Much of the conversation around boxing has been about the investments being made by the major networks into the sport, citing a renewal of attention and fandom and boasting that boxing is making its way back to the mainstream. If such is the case, I wonder if those in power are ready to face the reality that they have, to a certain extent, embraced aspects of operating outside of the limelight. And in turn, it has led to a toxic allowance of some of our societies ugliest underlings. A sport deeply intertwined with its countries history, continuing in its reluctance to make the progressive strides that the country has made.
Truth be told, I do not know what the ramifications should be for Adrien Broner. There is no precedent for punishment. Whether the PBC, Showtime or affiliated organizations should make a stand to not promote this behavior by not promoting future fights is something yet to be discussed. How that would even be enforced is an unknown, more because of unwillingness to address. Despite what seems to be a glaring problem from one of the sports larger draws, in a situation like this, it is unknown what steps could be taken by the powers that be.
The only step that I can advocate, is a step forward. One towards establishing fighters that show the power of their fists inside of the ring and utilize the power of their voices for the betterment of the sport and all of whom are involved outside of it. These steps will not come voluntarily by those who profit to stay in the bubble and away from upsetting the apple cart. For the sport of boxing, the people that pay the pugilists must make their voices heard. There will be no major sports media outlets that work to address homophobia or racism in a sport that does not acknowledge itself that there is a problem. The consumer needs to make a louder statement than the one Adrien Broner did- and the powers that be did not.
That the sport, while considered primal, has evolved.
That the fan base is international, dynamic and diverse.
And that the oldest and ugliest aspects of American history are not going to have an empowerment in the voice of its athletes or the blind eyes of those that refuse to punish their bigotry.
That would be something worth shining a light on.