RING is a most venerable franchise, having been born in 1922.
In this era, publications staying alive and thriving, that should be celebrated, because the headwinds for print media are daunting.
Doug Fischer has done a helluva job re-vamping and re-invigorating the mag, and in fact, he's done well to grow the breadth of the coverage of the product. RING will now be available in Spanish language format, with veteran boxing scribe Diego Morilla (seen in pic with RING owner Oscar De La Hoya) being tasked with helming that endeavor.
I reached out to Morilla, to get a sense of this mission, and learn more about who is pulling the wagon with this new RING effort.
Q) Please tell us about you, what is your history as a fightwriter, and human being?
Answer from Diego Morilla: Born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1969. Grew up watching Monzón (see below), Laciar, Palma, and idolizing Galindez.
My dad used to take me to the fights when I was 8 years old, and I remember being hooked immediately. Later, my dad became the recipient of my first boxing coverages, when I stayed late watching the fights in the ’80s, Duran, Leonard, Hagler, up to Tyson, and then summarized the action for him at lunch time the next day. I moved to Boston in 1991 to study at the Berklee College of Music, and after a while I managed to get a job at the local Spanish-language newspaper, El Mundo, where soon enough I had my own weekly boxing column.
I was an avid reader of Boxing Illustrated and I used to idolize Bert Sugar, its editor. So it was perfect that on my first trip to Atlantic City, just as I arrived in an almost empty conference room and proceeded to sit down to watch an early fight coming in from Europe (Axel Schulz vs Michael Moorer)…
..the man himself sat right next to me and started asking ME how I was scoring the bout!
To top it all off, the card was headlined by my old hero Roberto Duran facing Macho Camacho. And on that same day, after seeing me talking to Bert, a gentleman from Chicago assumed that I was already a seasoned bilingual writer (I had written a grand total of five boxing columns up to that day…) and offered me a job as writer, copy editor and translator for the Chicago Boxing Magazine, the first of many bilingual publications in which I worked. And I took the job, of course, performing all my duties via fax from Boston, which I guess makes me a pioneer in the world of telecommuting.
Upon my return to Boston, the owner of the weekly newspaper in which I worked learned about all this, and called me up to his office. I assumed he was getting ready to scold me for using his computers and fax machines for my other jobs, but he proceeded to recommend me to contact his friend Ralph Paniagua in New York, who had a trio of sports publications (Latino Soccer, Baseball and Boxing) who could use my services. When that job finally materialized, I found myself sharing the masthead with veteran writers such as Bernard Fernandez, José Torres, and yes… none other than Bert Randolph Sugar himself. Soon enough, a fellow young writer named Douglass Fischer also joined, and he later invited me to be part of the initial group of writers of MaxBoxing.com, one of the first quality websites of the then-uncharted Internet era.
At Latino Boxing…
..and its sister publications, I wrote articles and also translated the content of the entire magazine to either language, with all the content appearing in two separate columns in both English and Spanish. A few months later, Don King bought a share of the company, and we started producing the official programs for his biggest fights. And that’s when it hit me: watching a big Vegas fight in some pub, seeing Jack Nicholson and Sly Stallone reading the program and going “holy shit, I wrote that stuff!” In the pre-social media era, knowing who read, “liked” or disliked your stuff was a guessing game. But seeing those guys actually reading my blurb made me realize I really had to step up my game.
In 1997 I moved to Puerto Rico, where I had the chance to cover the best part of Tito Trinidad’s pro career as well as the amateur careers of fighters like Miguel Cotto, Ivan Calderon and others. I worked for almost every major newspaper in the island, as well as for magazines in Panama and in the US. My graduation night came in September of 1999, when I traveled to Las Vegas for the “Fight of the Millennium” between Trinidad and De La Hoya. I had written a lot of stuff in both languages in the lead-up to the fight, and arriving there to meet guys like Kevin Iole, Wally Matthews (the NY Times scribe back then, whom I idolized) and learning that they had read my stuff (Latino Boxing had a special issue that was distributed as part of the press pack, and I also wrote in the official program) was just amazing.
After returning to Argentina, I worked for ESPN for about 8 years, and towards the end of my tenure I joined HBO.com and RingTV.com as a freelance writer. In 2015 I took the first prize in the column category of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s writing contest, for an article posted by Michael Woods in The Sweet Science. That accolade opened a dozen new doors, including a lengthy tenure at that website and its sister publications, all leading up to the call from my old Latino Boxing pal Doug from to engage in this new project of bringing The Ring to a Spanish-speaking audience again, after a 30-plus year hiatus.
Q) What sort of coverage can we expect… and what is your intention for the product and brand in your sphere, now?
A) Right now, the mag is a “mirror image” of its English counterpart. I assume that soon enough there will be specific parts of the content that will differ between the two versions, and I hope that this leads to more voices being added, but I assume we’re a long way from that right now.
Q) How did this project come to be?
A) Well, apparently those bilingual magazines in which we worked together 25 years ago left some good memories in current Ring editor Douglass Fischer, because he pitched that idea to me a few months back and I never hesitated to say yes. Of course, throughout my on-and-off tenure at RingTV.com I occasionally joked about being the “mandatory contender” for an eventual job at “El Ring,” in case they decided to do a Spanish version of the magazine again (it appeared in Spanish between 1977 and 1985, published out of Panama and with an almost completely different content than the original US version). I guess my perseverance paid off!
Q) When will first issue come out?
A) It’s out already! Although only in the digital version. The cover piece is available as a freebee, and there may be others coming as well, but the rest is “behind the paywall” for usual subscribers to the digital English version.
Q) In what areas-sectors will this issue be available?
A) Anywhere in the world, in digital format. The paper version may take a while, if it ever happens. But for now, a subscription to The Ring’s digital version can get you the Spanish version as well. Whether there is a stand-alone Spanish subscription available in the future or not, or if other options arise, remains to be seen.
Q) What is the meaningfulness of having this version of the magazine be available?
A) It is huge, in my opinion. The difference (in tone, quality, goals, and more) between Spanish and English boxing writing is quite big. They are two different worlds, and there is a very different knowledge, expertise and point of view available in each language that could eventually help to change a lot of minds when both worlds get to know each other. A crossover publication featuring the best possible boxing writing in both languages, available to both communities, would be an eye-opening experience for many. There are things that a Mexican fighter will only tell to a fellow Mexican reporter, and the same applies to all nationalities and ethnicities, because there is a deeper understanding of the person and his background that cannot possibly be grasped by a reporter who just parachuted in armed with a tape recorder and accompanied by a translator. As an avid reader of the best of both worlds, not a week goes by without me thinking “I wish my fellow (Spanish or English)-speaking writers and readers could read this piece and appreciate it in their own language” after reading an exceptional article. And The Ring, in time, will help to bridge that gap, hopefully.
Q) Tell us about you…what is your history in the sport…and what are you seeking to do with this project, what is best case scenario for this project?
A) My history with the sport goes back even further than my first trip to the fights with my dad. The doctors nicknamed me “Bonavena” when I was born (“He’s just as big, hairy, ugly and feisty,” they told my beleaguered dad). My first birthday invitation card had one image only: a drawing of a toddler in diapers wearing boxing gloves. And for my second birthday (caught on film) I got boxing gloves as my only gift (the cake was a ring, of course, with breadsticks laced with shoestrings instead of ring posts and ropes).
To me, boxing is part of my life’s journey, a human endeavor from which I draw endless inspiration. And now, having the opportunity to give something back by doing something as relevant as bringing back The Ring en Español…
…is a chance to become a bridge between two completely different, even conflicted points of view in a sport that needs certainties and clarifications to succeed. That’s my goal. I consider myself lucky enough to be well respected by my peers on both sides of the linguistic aisle, and I consider myself wise enough to understand and appreciate the best of those two sides. If I could help my fellow writers learn about each other, read each other, respect each other and improve their mutual understanding, our readers will get much more than what they paid for, and the world of boxing will gain an insight that was simply not available before. Not a bad goal for a kid who was happy to be articulate enough to describe last night’s fights to his dad at lunchtime, I guess!