Here is an issue which hits people differently depending on their age. The Ring magazine—yes, that is the correct titling for the publication born in 1922—will no longer be something you can buy at the newsstand, should you be able to find one.
Word dropped in the latest (last ever) issue, sporting Jack Dempsey on the cover, with copy courtesy of editor in chief Doug Fischer indicating that the times are not changing, they’ve changed.
End of last week, the news hit the internet, and the development got discussed on Twitter. The breakdown of who felt what went like this: most people didn’t care one way or another and a narrow few weighed in on the meaningfulness or lack thereof that the “Bible of Boxing” now ceased to exist as an entity which relies on felled trees as a component of its delivery vessel.
Same reaction happened when in 2020 Playboy management capitulated to bean counters. Costs of production have risen, paper, ink, transport expenses, not to mention monies directed to the humans tasked with sorting the process.
“Lean and mean” is the smartest course of action, the budget watchers had told Hef, who fought off this “inevitability” for years. Playboy made it 66 years, outliving Hefner, who died in 2017, while Ring lasted 100 years.
Those born before the late 80s saw the Playboy decision as “progress,” if they had any reaction besides a shrug. They’d been seeing what could be seen in the pages of Playboy on the internet, and then some, so they didn’t have any emotional attachment to the switch.
Same thing with the Ring decision, which editor in chief Doug Fischer had been staving off for years. Fischer, a 53 year old California resident who came up in the boxing coverage at the start of the transition away from print, to digital, politely declined to get detailed with his quixotic parrying of Golden Boy managers and consultants who’d periodically pitch shuttering the mag. He did, though, break the news in the latest and last issue.
“Yes, this is the final print issue of The Ring,” Fischer wrote in his “Ringside” column, after referencing founder Nat Fleischers’ 1972 in print toast to “the old, virile and persistent publication.”
Persistent, yes, eternal, no.
Randy Gordon, the NY fight game lifer who ran the NY State Athletic Commission from 1988-1995, before that did a stint as Ring editor in chief. I asked “the Commish” his thoughts on the news that the Ring run is over.
“When Bert Sugar and I took over The Ring in 1979, the magazine was–for all intent and purpose–dead,” the 73 year Sirius/XM host told me. “We revived the magazine with our first issue–October 1979–with a handsome, frameable cover shot of Muhammad Ali. Fight fans bought every magazine. Casual fans bought only the recognizable. Sugar Ray Leonard sold. Michael Dokes didn’t. Thomas’ Hearns’ “Hitman” cover set records in sales. Greg Page didn’t. Alexis Arguello sold. Salvador Sanchez didn’t. Larry Holmes sold. So did Aaron Pryor. So did Gerry Cooney.
Through we had thousands of subscribers, we also had scores of “impulse buyers,” the consumer waiting in line in a supermarket, convenience store or book store, who saw The Ring, on a shelf, saw a familiar face on the cover (Howard Cosell, Robert DiNiro), picked it up and bought it for our early 1980’s price of $1.75. Then, the world changed. Life changed. In came the internet. Down went sales of newspapers and magazines. Up went printing and publishing costs. Companies with foresight headed to the internet and many flourished. Ones that didn’t, struggled. Or sank. The Ring was among those which took up residency on the internet. (Note: The author contributed from 2014-2021.) As publishing costs rose, the amount of impulse buyers dropped, with fewer outlets carrying the magazine. It made no sense for The Ring to continue to print magazines, when their internet version was providing the bulk of the magazine’s sales. So, the November, 2022 issue of The Ring will be its last. Yes, everything has a beginning and an end. However, despite the fact that The Ring will no longer print a magazine you can touch, turn pages, read and carry with you, “The Ring” will carry on through the internet. You’ll have the same great content in writing, editing, photos, ratings and reporting of your favorite sport, plus timeliness and other features that a printed version is incapable of doing. No, “The Ring” is not dead. “The Ring” is not going away. If anything, “The Ring” will continue to be here for us, bigger and better than ever. “The Bible of Boxing” has withstood the test of time.”
Bless Randy and his take. The stance he takes on the matter conveys his character and POV.
Steve Farhood, another NY lifer, sat in the EIC chair for much of the 1990s, before getting smart and shifting his attention to TV work. He also provided NYF a view on the demise of the paper version of the publication.
“Both personally and professionally, I'm quite saddened by the fact that “The Ring” will no longer be a printed monthly magazine,” said the 65-years-old ultra classy historian, who lends Showtime his expertise.
“I was the editor from 1989 to 1997, and I will never lose that connection. Add the fact that the magazine is more than 100 years old, and the magnitude of the loss is unmistakable. Think about it: Over the decades, are there any brand names that have been more closely associated with boxing than “The Ring” and Everlast? This is a sign of the times. At least in terms of sales and subscriptions, the magazine's heyday was probably in the '50s, when, dare I add, “The Ring” was not always particularly well-edited. The '50s was a million years ago. Given a monthly magazine's lead time, it's been difficult for “The Ring” to provide fans with the timely information they crave. That was an issue before I was editor and when I was editor, and it has remained as such.
Or to put it another way, it's tough to compete with the immediacy of the internet and social media. “The Ring” may no longer be printed, but the dozens of magazine binders behind my desk serve as a constant reminder that it will never die.”
The venerable Nigel Collins, yet another lifer, held the EIC title. The 76 year old Pennsylvania resident, who has authored a new book, “Hooking Off the Jab,” gave his thoughts to NY FIGHTS.
“I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner,” said the Englishman who was Ring chief 1985-1989, and again from 1997-2011. “Digital is so much cheaper. It was a matter of survival. At least The Ring is still alive, which is better than no Ring.”
That summation, and those takes from the ex EICs, contain laudable wisdom and pragmatism. Me, I won’t lie, it stings a bit, because it’s part of a bigger, sadder picture. The diminishment of journalism as a whole, the savage reduction in newspapers and magazines and commitment to quality reporting and journalism jobs is nothing resembling “progress.” This about expediency, so called efficiency, cutting costs and yes, making money. That more than ever before is the name of the game, and that quest usually disregards things, like kindness, selflessness, character and courage, that make us humans, in a good way. We can hope and I do expect that plenty of those less tangible but ultimately crucial traits will be found either on RingTV.com or via a revamped digital edition. Me, I am resigned to the news, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit sad. Change is inevitable, yes, but it isn’t always an improvement over what was.