If you ask someone to play basketball with you at a park, it is a fun activity. If you ask someone to box you at a park, it could be labeled a felony. Boxing at its very core is a fringe sport. Yes, it is a sport, but just barely, and under close observation from a state athletic commission. For this reason, I, as a boxing writer, feel like everything about our sport is always looked at differently.
I played in an member-guest golf tournament, and the host asked me what I did, and after a long answer, boxing came up. The general tenor was that I worked around a lot of criminals, or people doing wrong, which is essentially how I find a lot of people look at our sport.
I would like to believe we carry a moral compass a sport, but often I am confused about the judgment we use when evaluating situations in our sport.
Right is right, and wrong is wrong. Simple.
Sometimes we have gray areas, and that requires judgment, yet boxing now has become a social club. Something that if you want to accumulate friends on the internet you need the following to enter:
—A die-hard unwavering fandom for a fighter you will defend at all costs
This has made boxing Twitter and the internet as a whole such an enjoyable place. You can see a bunch of people who enjoy boxing, or enjoy talking, as I think some more so enjoy talking to people about business matters and stuff, more so than the sport, but that is fine. You get a pulse for what is occurring. Think of it as a SEO in real-time, and you get to meet like-minded people with aspirations and goals somewhat similar or different than yourself.
Yet with each prevailing descent the sport takes, each young fighter who carries baggage with them, we see the goalposts get moved as it benefits the media outlet. You might hear “innocent until proven guilty”, or “I don’t believe it”, while it is doom or gloom for a situation that is very similar. We’re no different than politics. If you subscribe to a political party, you will often look past the indecencies of your own political party, as you subscribe to the general tone of the overall message. Like, Niccolo Machiavelli once said, ‘The ends justify the means.”
Meet the new weapon in the public platform, which Robert Caro wrote about in ‘The Power Broker,' a book about Robert Moses. It carries over to boxing so well.
“Hospitality has always been a potent political weapon. Moses used it like a master. Coupled with his overpowering personality, a buffet often did as much for a proposal as a bribe.” –Robert A. Caro, ‘The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York'
In short, you want access to the best fighters in the world, you need two things, access, and viewership, and typically those go hand-in-hand. So in short, those you align with politically probably are willing to grant you access, or even more so – give you shares so you can obtain the new modern currency in the social media world – ‘clout’. The credibility of the demigods, who have blue checkmarks, or hang around celebrities, or even the celebrities themselves deeming you as cool and reputable, thus spawning a wave of people to follow your platforms, which can be monetized, but also allow the one in this position to obtain more power.
Yet, how can we build a beacon of credibility in boxing journalism, when essentially the most shocking, and negative content will be shared on social media platforms, as platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and many others reward negative content with their algorithm based on engagement and views as opposed to dense factual based stuff? Well, I firmly believe the market will correct itself, and that older folks like me need to adjust. Like rapper Larry June said, “The game changed, so I did, too.” That is what we have to do, find ways to create new content. I see many doing a great job, like iD Boxing, which has had some of the most innovative work in recent times.
That doesn’t stop the thesis point though, that powerful fans with agendas will be armed with fans wanting to hear a fan point of view which could spew, negative, unhelpful, and often slanderous content about certain fighters. We can say we will ignore it, I actually do, but those accounts get a lot of traction, and a lot of fight fans will be truly engaged by that content.
The fandom for some or the monetization of content around Gervonta Davis has now created a new industrial complex, the boxing denial industrial complex, one in which fans will want to tune-in, and learn how to talk about and spill verbiage that reframe the picture. I saw that in motion when Davis was booked and arrested on Tuesday, Dec.27th, that occurring while he has an ongoing court case from November of 2020 in play. The word I would use is troubling.
We live in a world in which the fans are now the reporters, the reporters are now looking as though they’re the fans, and the promoters are essentially looking to create all of their own content limiting the need for reporting in general.
The journeys of the boxers are interesting, but most of the conversation now seem to be around mythical match-ups…why? Well, we have been trained to believe that fights take a long time to get signed, and that fictional bouts or the business aspect is the best way to engage with the biggest names in the sport. More than likely it will not be until May in which we see a top-10 consensus pound-for-pound fighter in the ring, that is five months into our sporting calendar, if that isn’t a reflection of where our sport is, I don’t know what is?
That being said, those who support the sport, truly do. They love it, and I would trade anyone of our boxing fans. They watch week-in, and week-out, as to be fair, we have had a great year so far on all the major networks, as the young fighters are taking over the sport, and moving past the fighters who used to be at the top of the division, but just simply don’t fight enough.
We normalize unhealthy and bad behavior in boxing since it is a ‘bad boy’ sport, but we have no Mendoza line for equitable treatment. Now, add to the fact that when a social issue occurs often boxing, like MMA, has a pretty terrible response, no matter what your view on the issue is. Want to see a fighter or a personality heat check a take, without thinking through it, wait for something to happen politically in this country, and watch Twitter, to see a few opinions that will make you cringe. Education is devalued in this sport, and aspects of that show. But the grandiose nature of greatness through suffering is so fulfilling in someone reach their dreams. It keeps all of us coming back.
If this was a major sport, we’d have major conversations about everything going on in the sport and outside of it. Boxing isn’t a major sport, and this shows us why. Most people are too scared to say anything – they want to keep access to a big, marquee fighter, so as long as a fighter makes a blog or vlog a lot of money through clicks, you will see an endless supply of people waiting to defend him, thinking his riches will also line their pockets as well.
I watch the fights, I watch the pressers, I listen to the fighters, but beyond that I am about as far removed from the sport as ever.
Ask me about Ryan Garcia vs. Gervonta Davis, and I will give you this answer – “I don’t care.”
Until it is fight week I don’t find speaking about it interesting. I have been through the ringer, heard about fights prior, and done it before. Too many good fighters are fighting for me to put my energy into famous people, walking us through the journey of making a marquee fight. If I wanted to be a manager this might be fun, but I don’t enjoy a ton of human interaction on a day-to-day basis let alone having to deal with people on their terms, so why would this be entertaining, I ask all of you?
Some might say I am burnt-out, and maybe I am. But I think it's more so, I just enjoy what I enjoy. I enjoy the plight of a fighter, I enjoy the gym, I enjoy watching the fights, preferably at home, or near my home, and I was raised to not let business be public matters. Gossip is often other peoples business, it is fun to hear, but if I listen to much it starts to take away from my own personal life pursuits.
Thus, moving forward, do I have to rekindle my boxing fandom to accurately cover this sport, or simply enjoy my time with young fighters looking to emerge, people who life hasn’t beat up yet. I personally prefer the later, but pay me enough, and I am sure I can make the other happen.