Ask most fans about the villains of the sport and the list will likely be filled with the names of promoters and sleazy heads of sanctioning bodies. And, yeah, on the Magno scale of douchebaggery, guys who lie for a living and have mastered the art of dirty pool get a very high ranking indeed.
But, really, how can so much blame be heaped on people we already know to be liars and thieves by nature?
Boxing has allowed itself to be owned and operated by a most heinous group of misfits, carnival barkers, and carpetbaggers. Yet, we are somehow enraged when these guys line their pockets and handcuff the sport in the name of protecting their own business interests.
In today’s boxing scene, promoters run just about every aspect of the game. They pay the officials, dictate to the sanctioning bodies, and even subsidize most of the media coverage. Throw in the fact that they are allowed to sign fighters to exclusive deals and how can things not be royally screwed up?
But, again, it shouldn’t be a mystery when shady individuals do shady things when given nearly absolute power.
A promoter’s primary job is to make money. And like most people looking to make money, they are also going to do whatever they can to protect their interests.
Bob Arum wants nothing to do with a Floyd Mayweather bout for his fighter, Manny Pacquiao. He knows that it’s a risky fight for his guy and he could very well see tens of millions of dollars fly out the door with a loss. It’s a no-brainer that he would want to keep all of his Pacquiao fights “in-house.”
Of course, this kind of thinking is not good for boxing. But who ever said Bob Arum has the best interest of boxing in mind? Who says that any of these guys care one bit about the sport, its fans, or its athletes? They’re looking to make money and trying to secure their own chunks of flesh in the shark infested waters of boxing.
As for the greasy creeps in the sanctioning bodies, well, they merely exist to serve their own interests and gobble up those sanctioning fees. They are leaches, but who ever thought that they weren’t…and why are we surprised when they act accordingly?
The alphabet soup organizations got traction after Ring Magazine burned network TV by supplying Don King-bought rankings for an ABC tournament. The loss of confidence in the Bible of Boxing sent network TV and the print media to look elsewhere for some authoritative source of rankings and title designations. The WBC and WBA stepped up their presence to assume power in the vacuum and, then, seeing all the money to be made in legalized boxing grift, the IBF and WBO joined the fray.
Now, we have a situation where almost everyone involved in the business end of the fight game is there to make a quick buck and the sport, itself, is left to twist in the wind.
Boxing corruption has always existed, but in the past, there weren’t so many grubby hands in pockets with real, above-board power. Before, the sport was strong enough to maintain a fan base even when things looked fishy. Now, the paying customers walking away in disgust aren’t being replaced– and no one in power cares one bit.
Don’t point the finger at crooks who act like crooks, though. There’s plenty of blame to go around and plenty of accomplices to the gradual dismemberment of the sport we love.
Blame the media for allowing themselves to be subsidized by the same people screwing things up and allowing money and free swag to shape their editorial decisions. By letting press releases and obvious half-truths and rumors pass as actual stories, they’ve become more like a branch of the promoters’ public relations department than actual journalists. There have been efforts to organize and create universal, fair rankings and take other beneficial steps forward, but the overwhelming majority of the media has always worked to bury these efforts.
In part, you can also blame the fighters for allowing themselves and their talents to be exploited with little thought of other fighters without the right connections or those future generations of pugilists behind them. When all their money is gone and their talents have been wrung dry, none of the greasy con men who glad-handed them in their primes will be there to help pick up the pieces.
Finally, we can blame ourselves as fans for allowing ourselves to be manipulated by these guys who have turned the bait and switch into an art form. The fans have the ultimate power in all of this and could fix boxing in a a six-month period of time if we cared enough to do so. If Pacquiao and Mayweather sold a combined 50,000 pay-per-views for their next fight, we’d have Pacquiao-Mayweather guaranteed by the Fall.
Instead, we just keep buying the same old stories, falling for the same old tricks, and never take the time to really look at the stuff being dished out.
Ultimately, if anything is going to be done to fix the sport, don’t expect the initiative to come from those same people who are benefiting from the chaos.
You can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch him as he raffles off VHS copies of Diggstown in the first ever “Boxing Tribune Triviapalooza.” Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.
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