“The first ground rule ought to be a certain degree of cynicism. You’re often going to be lied to. It’s important not only to understand where the truth lies, but the motivation of the person or persons who created the fabricated view.”—George Kimball
“George Kimball…knew how to trace the devious paths taken behind the scenes by the money and interests that rule boxing. His passing and the passing of the scene of the professional boxing writer that it portends, is as great a loss as the death of the estimable Joe Frazier.”— Carlos Rotella, Boston College Director of American Studies
“These days, with most writers who regularly cover fights working on websites that pay starvation rates, too many have to do it as a hobby, or for the insider thrill of being at ringside. The result is that too often they write not like professionals but like fans or volunteer publicists.” – Rotella
The main problem with many boxing writers today is that they simply can’t write very well. Sooner, rather than later, most will need a solid day job because boxing journalism as a profession is on the way out. That’s harsh but it’s true, and those who volunteer and/or who write for near-to nothing or for ego satisfaction constitute the order of the day. Their generic write-ups often geared for a heavy hit count demonstrate just how incompetent they are.
Conversely, there seems to be a somewhat new pattern –perhaps even an overreaction on getting things more interesting and avoiding the once acclaimed “boring on-the-beat”: reporting style of the late great George Kimball. This “new” approach includes using heavy drama to give articles stories within the story which stories, of course, often may never have happened. It also includes spinning articles in an almost embarrassingly hokey and melodramatic manner. But then, crafting melodrama where none is needed can be a daunting task.
Also included is the rewriting of history using dramatic and flamboyant prose that borders on literary poetics and doing it as if the writer lived during the applicable historical period. For example, mentioning that “hard times breed hard men” provides entry into any number of quasi-fictional journeys for “life on the rails. “
In the end, however, when journalistic integrity is lost, no amount of cloying overwriting will restore it. That’s the simple point of it all
Now history can be described succinctly and accurately like this:
“It was a fight Greg Page never should have fought, in a broken-down nightclub somebody probably should have closed. The hot air stank. Blood smears stained the floor of the ring.”—Jim Adams, the Louisville Courier-Journal
Or overdone like this:
Greg Page fought in a place where you didn’t want to hold a stare into another fan’s eyes for more than a second. Page’s fateful end occurred in the dingy environs of Peel’s Palace, a seedy nightclub in edgy “hardscrabble,” Kentucky. The sense of danger permeated, and so did the sense that things were not being done for the protection of the gladiators because this was more blood sport than sport and safety was the last thing on anyone’s agenda. Indeed, this one evoked images of “The Set Up.”
Sometimes the stage must be set but never at the expense of historical accuracy or poetic license. For example, if a writer did not grow up in the following setting, he or she needs to corroborate its accuracy before using it, but never ever make it something it wasn’t.
“It was what it was”
“Maybe you can remember the first impactful professional fight you witnessed. I do. …Marigold Gardens Outdoor Arena was on the north side of Chicago. It was filled with smoke on June 6, 1948 … boxing being a bastion of political incorrectness, and all. Of course, none of that idiocy existed back then. The smell of beer, cigars, and Italian sausage mixed with an occasional whiff of perfume and was a comfortable setting for this eleven-year-old. I guess my dad, “Big John,” as he was known, thought it was time I witnessed a professional fight. God knows he had had to break up a few street fights in which I had been engaged, so maybe he was working an agenda (another word that thankfully was unknown back then).
“We had seen plenty of amateur fights at Rock-Ola Stadium, near our home on the northwest side, Parichy Stadium, Blue Bird Field in the western suburbs, or at some beery union hall, but the atmosphere here was different. While there were men of different ages in the seats (and some beautiful women), most of the audience seemed to be men in their late twenties or early thirties that had a devil-may-care aura about them, though many retained a hard look in their eyes even when they smiled. I later learned that many of them had fought in World War II which, of course, ended in 1945. In my young eyes, these were real men…”
…this period is sometimes referred to as “old school,” but, for me, it was neither better nor worse than watching a competitive bout today. It was what it was, and it was a joyous beginning.”
On the other hand, maybe Marcel Berlins gets to the heart of the matter in this article titled, “Why boxing makes for top-class writing “dated January 2, 2007:
“… the world of boxing has initiated, and been the setting for, more top-class writing than any other sport. This is true both of the factual – Joyce Carol Oates, AJ Liebling, Norman Mailer, Hugh McIlvanney and many more – and the fictional. The books I’m thinking of do not depend on the reader being keen or particularly knowledgeable about the sport in question. If they appeal only to the narrow aficionado, they don’t qualify under my criteria. My test is that the novel has to say something deeper about people or about society. David Storey’s This Sporting Life portrays the world of rugby league, but the reader also gains an absorbing insight into the gritty north of England of the late 50s. But that’s rugby league’s only substantial literary link – which is still one more than rugby union can provide.” http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2007/jan/03/whyboxingmakesfortopclass
As the late Cedric Kushner said “there’s nothing more pure than a fight.” Lets avoid mucking up the purity with false ornamentation.
What do you think?