by Paul Magno
Like unruly children being lectured on the way to a fancy restaurant, the entire boxing community needs a good talking-to before we ever even think about crossing over to free network TV again.
The most interesting aspect of Top Rank’s recent Showtime deal for Pacquiao-Mosley is that CBS was also tossed into the pot to lure cash cow Manny Pacquiao over to HBO’s chief rival.
While the CBS exposure is limited to a documentary special about the fight and, perhaps, some strategically-placed ads, the optimist in most fight fans can’t help but dwell on the concept that our sport, after several years of no exposure, might have its foot somewhere in, or around, the door.
What we have to realize, though, is that the mainstream is a way different audience than the one usually huddled around cable TV and the internet for a quick fix of fight action.
The networks and sponsors are not like fans. Toyota and Minute Maid get spooked by even the hint of corruption or foul play. Frito Lay does not want to be associated with brutal mismatches or steroid controversies. And the real media has no use for the preening buffoonery of most of boxing’s “journalists” and carpet-bagging management teams.
So, here, hopefully on the eve of something wonderful for the sport, is a list of “Dos and Don’ts” for everyone to follow:
DO: Book quality, competitive matches which actually mean something. They should also tell a back story and be stylistically compatible. It may sound like a lot, but real matchmakers have been doing it for more than a century now.
DON’T: Use network space for mismatches and “record builders.” Nobody wants to see a top rated Olympian beat a Footlocker assistant manager to a bloody pulp. And, please, southpaw counter puncher vs. southpaw counter puncher is not a recipe for thrilling TV.
DO: Pay more attention to quality fights than company ties. It’s understandable to try and keep the money and exposure “in house,” but don’t let that get in the way of a good fight that would energize and engage the audience.
DON’T: Ask for a network sponsor to pay for exposure on anything but the best product. Remember, we’re dealing with Fortune 1000 companies, not Raul’s Used Car Lot on Telefutura.
DO: Makes sure that the guy who wins the fight actually wins the fight. Sounds obvious, but well, it’s not so obvious in boxing. Remember, in the real world, crooked judges and grand theft are for prime time dramas like CSI, not for network sports.
DON’T: Assume that “normal” viewers are as forgiving about robberies and travesties as hardcore boxing fans. One live robbery will end most of their curiosity about the sport forever.
DO: Reward the fans with the fights they want to see, when (and where) the fights make the most sense.
DON’T: Tell the fans to “go f*ck themselves” when it comes to the fights they want to see.
DO: As fans, conduct yourselves as reasonably and as fairly as possible. Support the good fights by actually coming out to see them.
DON’T: Be racist, childish, or just plain stupid. And as much as you’ve been abused as fans, try not to be fickle or jaded. (i.e. in constant complaint-mode about everything)
Admittedly, getting boxing back on free, network TV is a long shot, but there’s nobody who can deny that the sport, when done properly, has the ability to captivate audiences like none other. We just have to realize that the underground society we’ve created for ourselves in the modern era of prize fighting is not really conducive to mainstream growth.
Fans, media, management, and the fighters themselves all have to realize that in order to be accepted among the mainstream sports, we have to act like a real, mainstream sport.