Chances are pretty good that if you’re a well-fed upper middle class blogger carrying a gluten-free muffin in your murse, you’re probably not all that in tune with the sport of boxing, its culture, or its athletes.
At this point, it really shouldn’t be up for debate. Most of the comfortable middle-aged white men writing about boxing– entirely educated by watching TV analysis carried out by other comfortable, middle-aged white men– are fairly clueless about the realities of the sport.
Boxing is one of those endeavors that seems easy enough to understand and truly master. After all, man vs. man, survival of the fittest– this is fairly universal stuff. Throw in some good vs. bad and/or triumph of the human will talk and, well, it’s like any good Rocky movie or Karate Kid flick.
The reality, however, is that boxing, as a sport, is an extremely complex craft while boxing, as a culture, may be even harder to truly grasp for the outsider. There is no sport that has a wider gap between its central figures and the people writing about it. Boxing’s media, in great part, is a subculture of fight fans completely removed from both the audience and the athlete and, over and over again they prove this by missing marks and misunderstanding the market. And this dynamic may be at the very root of why this sport has been so uniquely resistant to reform.
Most recently, high-minded bloggers united in disdain over Floyd Mayweather and his continued main stage presence despite a long history of violence against women. They hoped in unison that Mayweather would be punished for his sins and they predicted a comeuppance via box office flop.
Blogger Tim Starks penned the especially preachy “Has The Public Finally Had Enough Of Floyd Mayweather?” where he hoped aloud for Mayweather to be harmed in some way. Starks wrote: “It would be nice if the public has finally turned on Mayweather, beyond the ‘hate him so much, gotta watch him’ dynamic and fully into the ‘can’t put any more money into his bank account’ category. There are few boxers less deserving from a karma standpoint of his degree of wealth…” and “It would be a good thing if Mayweather’s paycheck was diminished by his outside-the-ring horribleness.”
Starks would insinuate throughout the article that the tide of public opinion may finally be turning, but then hedge his bets and give a list of reasons why Mayweather may not get his comeuppance, generally giving the reader the impression that anyone buying a Mayweather PPV is either an idiot or a caveman-like supporter of domestic violence.
Really, it’s just a lot of hot air that sounds good coming from blogger lips to blogger ears. In the real world, though, Starks should have just typed up his feelings on a paper airplane and sailed it out the window.
His spleen-wrenching diary entry was followed a few days later by the news that Mayweather-Maidana II on September 13 generated about 925,000 buys– making it the biggest PPV of the year so far.
Boxing fans responded like boxing fans, supporting a product they wanted simply because they wanted it. Even front-loaded with mountains of bad publicity, the Mayweather show performed about as well as expected.
As I wrote in Man and Superman (Adonis Stevenson in Full View):
Boxing, even under the best of circumstances and situations, is a circus of the macabre, a collection of men and women willing to fight their way out of poverty and others who are eager to exploit those efforts.
There are no saints anywhere near the boxing business. At some point or another, everyone involved in the sport has blood on their hands– this is something that real boxing people understand and come to accept on at least some level. There is no moral high ground in fighting for profit and even less room for moral indignation when buried in the shady business dealings that make up the infrastructure of the sport.And because boxing walks the seedy perimeters of polite society, the sport will always be full of thugs, crooks, gangsters, wannabe gangsters, and the sleazy human pilot fish that grab at the scraps of flesh that hang from the teeth of the real beasts. Even the purest of boxing souls burns red with an almost obsessive desire to overcome something.
Boxing’s hardcore fans are aware of this and tend to instinctively give fighters a wide berth when it comes to thuggish and insensitive behavior. The casual fan, which accounts for much of the PPV buying power, just wants to see a fight and will not conduct exhaustive research into the character of those connected with the show before pressing the “BUY” button on their remotes.
Unlike all other sports, there is no central authority to handle the issue of moral conduct away from the field of play. Hell, even in the NFL, with a well-defined centralized authority and plenty of corporate sponsorships to contemplate, Ray Rice would’ve gotten off with a two-game suspension had a video of his abuse not made its way to the public.
But boxing is an international entity with no centralized authority. We’ve already seen the issue of true PEDs testing reform straight-out killed by token volunteer testing, which the doping experts agree is absolutely useless in establishing a clean sport.
All of this Mayweather media outrage is nothing more than self-aggrandizement by bloggers with a pathological need to be holier than thou. And Mayweather, with his arrogance and general douchebaggery, gives them the perfect target for safely unloading the kind of self-righteous blather that earns plenty of blogger street cred and a nice boost in traffic. Notice how nobody is writing up a fierce anti-Dereck Chisora piece and secretly sending it off to the Pacland news aggregator. Adonis Stevenson’s significantly more heinous crimes are barely a blip. Deontay Wilder’s own brush with violence, once it was filtered through the media, seemed like little more than a small squabble rather than “domestic battery by strangulation.”
These writers should know as well as anyone that their pure posturing means nothing to actually getting something done about the issue. It’s just a way to get a pat on the back from other bloggers and a few extra clicks on their site. The outside media can be forgiven. The boxing media, however, knows that there is no mechanism by which Mayweather could be punished by the sport, even if it were agreed upon that he should be.
When we can get these preening scribes to give up the high-profile PC slam dunk in favor of the significantly less sexy (and almost impossible) fight to establish a centralized authority for the sport, we may be on the road to a solution about what to do with guys like Mayweather.
And please notice that I’m not saying that Mayweather doesn’t deserve some sort of sanction. It’s just that when you wish upon a star in boxing and know damn well that everything you’re saying is just empty rhetoric, then the posturing looks silly and it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.
But as I’ve learned in trying to discuss these issues with this lot, the more you push the issue, the more they doggedly refuse to understand the sport, its culture, and the more they insist on looking down their nose at the fans, who don’t want to play social worker before every big fight. The end game for them is not problem resolution, but in maintaining a high-profile self-righteous posture.
The reality may be that boxing is what it is and will probably stay largely as it is. If all the bullshit were to be wiped clean from the U.S. game, it would all move over to Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia…If, tomorrow, Mayweather were banned from fighting in the U.S. by order of Congress, he’d be on a plane to the UK fighting to a packed Wembley Stadium for his next fight.
As real “Boxing People” eventually come to understand: We either take the sport for what it is– warts, scumbags, injustices, and all– and learn to stay ethically grounded despite the bullshit, or we leave it all behind.
You can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org and enjoy his many contributions to this “fringe” site. You can also buy his book, Notes from the Boxing Underground! Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.