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Heavyweight Division No Longer Boring

haye hits chisora2


As the dust settles on this weekend’s melee in Munich, the morality police in the sports media have already more or less picked clean the bones of David Haye and Dereck Chisora.  Fair enough I suppose, as it’s not every day you see grown men smashing Corona bottles over each others’ heads and publicly threatening to find somebody on the streets of London and shoot them.  Before I get too upset about “another black eye for the sport” however, I gotta admit…that was sorta cool.

I know, I know, gentlemen don’t behave that way and there are a lot of people that would list stuff like that as a reason they don’t watch boxing.  As far as the latter point though, I don’t believe them.  Frankly, anybody that is that turned off by seeing a back-alley scuffle break out during a heated argument between two men probably just flat out isn’t boxing’s target demographic in the first place.

I don’t necessarily condone any of Chisora’s antics from last week; from slapping Vitali Klitschko to spitting on his brother to threatening to “physically shoot David Haye” (glad he cleared that up, by the way, as we wouldn’t want anyone to think he was only meaning to metaphorically shoot David Haye).  But I just understand that stuff like that is part of boxing.  Anybody spouting this nonsense about how back in their day fighters didn’t act this way needs to have their memory jogged.  Brawls breaking out before and after major fights is a tale as old as time in the sweet science, and for very obvious reasons.  Namely, a lot of the guys that make up the world’s elite fighters are simply violent people.

Now, of course, fans have every right to celebrate the gentlemen of the sport.  After all, who didn’t like Alexis Arguello?  The Klitschko brothers themselves obviously have quite a bit of discipline and self-control.  These attributes not only keep them on the sidelines during episodes like we saw Saturday but are also a big part of the reason they are more successful athletes than Haye or Chisora.  However, it is not an easy thing to be able to hurt people for a living and just shut that off the second you leave the squared circle.  It is simply part of being a boxing fan to understand that for every Lennox Lewis there is a Mike Tyson.

Lost in all of the controversy in Germany, was fellow heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola being his normally profane self in his post-fight interview on the Paul Williams-Nobuhiro Ishida undercard.  After he knocked his opponent silly in the first round (and standing over him shouting during the count like “The Greatest”) fans were treated to the typically amusing experience of watching Arreola with a microphone in his face.  After making some colorful remarks about his rough childhood and his thoughts on promoter Don King, “The Nightmare” was cut off by the chief of the aforementioned morality police, Jim Gray, who said some nonsense about it being offensive or uncalled for or something.  I can’t be sure about the exact quote, I was too busy laughing to really hear him.

I don’t know if Don King is actually “racist” as Arreola said.  It is possible that Arreola’s comments were inaccurate and his language was certainly coarse, but who cares?  This is adult programming on a premium cable channel.  We just watched two massive grown men try to beat the consciousness out of each other, but somehow foul language and insults are over the line?  This certainly wasn’t the first time Gray has injected his own agenda into a post fight interview, and it needs to stop.  The fighters are the show, not the reporters.  If Chris Arreola wants to get up there and curse out everyone from Al Bernstein to Mother Teresa after a fight, more power to him.  Fans can judge for themselves if they want to approve of his comments or not without being coached on right and wrong by a broadcaster.  Say what you want about the Floyd Mayweather and Larry Merchant’s little debate last year, at least Larry let it play out without storming off with the mic.

The bottom line about all this awesome and/or classless behavior is that it has brought more excitement and attention to the heavyweight division than there has been in a long time.  Controversy sells.  We’ve seen it in boxing with everyone from Tyson to the Mayweather family.  While you or I might not approve of everything (or anything) we saw from the heavyweight contenders this weekend, it’s hard to argue that most of us want to see more of them now.  Seriously, who gave a broken glass bottle about Chisora a week ago?  Do you ever do the Google popularity experiment where you slowly type something and see how long it takes for it to come up on the auto-fill list?  I did it with “Dereck Chisora” last week and got past “Ch” without his name being on top.  Go try it now…

We now, for the first time in a while, actually have some light at the end of the giant Ukrainian tunnel.  When the dominant brothers are gone, maybe we’ll one day see Chisora and Arreola fighting for a belt.  It may not be all that classy inside the ring or out, but I promise you I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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Sean Morehouse is a life long boxing fan who started writing about the sport in 2009. His all-time favorite fighters include a wide range of names from Jack Johnson to Kelly Pavlik. He is currently a student at Iowa State University and is also a fan of college football and the NBA. He can be reached by email at morehouse1734@yahoo.com or followed on Twitter @morehouse17.

4 Comments

  1. David Payne (@TheBoxingWriter)

    February 20, 2012 at 4:18 am

    Sean,

    I have to disagree one one key point. The fact any ethical or etiquette transgressions occur after “We just watched two massive grown men try to beat the consciousness out of each other” is not a defence.

    Boxing is a sport, a noble art, a sweet science. It is not simply two men beating each other up. To suggest such, to offer this up as a rational defence of ‘anything goes’ in post fight discussion or indeed, the promotion of a bout, stinks of desperation to be relevant and risks undermining the morale high ground we all clamber for when a case is made for banning the sport.

    Clearly, there is an underlying objective to the sport of causing harm to another. But it is the control, the discipline and the morale fibre the sport imparts which distinguishes it from the gutter.

    Throw that over board in order to permit the type of appalling culture the weekend brought us is to push the sport closer to the abyss.

    True, Haye and Chisora, if they escape custodial issues placed themselves firmly in the public eye and probably made themselves richer in the process, but we must protect the code of honour and dignity the sport is built upon otherwise we endanger the integrity of the sport we love.

    And in truth, is that integrity which makes it what it is.

  2. Sean Morehouse

    February 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    David,

    First of all thank you for your eloquent response. I appreciate your point, and your concern for the consequences of having this sort of sensationalist attention directed at our sport.

    I do disagree on a couple points. If the sort of nonsense we saw last weekend “stinks of desperation to be relevant” than boxing has stunk since day one. Certainly nothing done or said in Texas by Arreola or in Munich by Chisora rivals some of the nastiness that was directed at say Jack Johnson in the beginning of 20th century.

    From the “Great White Hope” era through the race baiting Muhammad Ali tossed at Joe Frazier to Mike Tyson’s countless transgressions boxing has remained, and in fact these controversial figures have often been the driving force behind it’s popularity.

    The reason boxing “works” is because unlike football or basketball, fighters have to get in the ring and back up their tough talk. For over 100 years this has happened without the political correctness brigade getting involved. While we live in a sensitive age where public figures are expected to walk on eggshells with regard to their behavior, a lot of folks still like to kick back and enjoy some profane violence.

    Finally I think it’s important to note that none of the prefight or postfight antics last weekend did anything to harm the actual bout between Dereck and Vitali, which was fought with honor and skill and great determination. That is where the integrity of the sport lies, between the ropes. What boxers do once the fight is over is not something I’m worried about.

    Thanks again,
    Sean

  3. FightClubWriter

    February 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I still haven’t seen Arreola’s post fight interview, but Don King did use the word “wetbacks” during a press conference a couple of days before the fight. I’m sure that’s why Arreola went off. King’s comments shouldn’t be brushed under the rug, but all the pre and post fight antics that we witnessed this past weekend has happened many times before. This is boxing. It’s a pleasure to watch the sweet science of it all, but let’s not romantize it by saying its a noble art and integrity makes it what it is. I believe integrity does not exist in boxing. Boxing isn’t a game it’s a business where men willingly risk their lives to earn a living by entertaining the masses.

  4. Sean Morehouse

    February 21, 2012 at 7:22 am

    @FightClubWriter

    I agree mostly, but to me there is great integrity in the actual boxing, what happens in the ring. As long as the fighters and officials follow the rules during the fight, I don’t care about their behavior before and after.

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