Is Boxing The Most Prejudice Sport?

12.09.05 - By Michael Montero: I recently got into an argument with a friend of mine about what the best sport in the world is. He screamed up and down that it’s baseball, and of course I pleaded my case for boxing. My friend shot down my claim with the usual phrases you hear from anti-boxing folks: “it’s fixed” – “it’s crooked” – “there’s no league or union” – and so on.. But then came a comment that really made me think. “Boxing is prejudice” he proclaimed – “from the officials to the judges to the fans themselves”. I laughed it off at first, but later on that night I found myself to be intrigued by that comment, and then I took a look at myself. I thought back to the Arturo Gatti-Floyd Mayweather fight (among others) – why was I really pulling for Gatti?

Was it because I personally feel that Mayweather is disrespectful and arrogant? Perhaps it was because Arturo Gatti was the ultimate “blood and guts warrior” that a blue collar man from humble beginnings such as myself could relate to. Or was it because Arturo Gatti was a fellow olive-skinned, wavy-haired, Roman Catholic, Italian man (as am I) in the ring with somebody else? Turns out it was probably a combination of all three, but none the less, I was being biased, wasn’t I? These are hard questions to ask oneself – was I being prejudice? And, if so, was there anything wrong with that?

After much thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that my friend’s comments were correct – but so what? Boxing fans ARE prejudice, on many levels, but that’s what makes us the most loyal fans of any other sport. I know you’re probably thinking “Montero’s crazy” right now – but let me explain…

What separates boxing from all other sports on the planet -what makes boxing truly unique - is the fact that the fans can find themselves in their favorite athletes - i.e. - they can “relate”. That’s why Mexican fans support Mexican fighters, why “little guys” support Chris Byrd when he takes on a guy 50 pounds heavier than himself, why guys from Michigan support James Toney, why men who are “over the hill” love routing for a 40+ Bernard Hopkins, why “ghetto fabulous” thug wannabes can’t get enough of Floyd Mayweather, why bible-toting Christians love a fighter like Lamon Brewster – do you see a pattern here? And in my opinion – there’s nothing wrong with this at all – infact it makes perfect sense. And it’s not just a skin tone thing (which is a popular misconception) – infact I’d say it’s more of a nationality/regional thing.

Think of Schmelling-Louis II, here a German came to the USA to fight the most popular (and accomplished) heavyweight of his time, during a time when Germany wasn’t exactly popular in the states. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who was at the fight was screaming loudly in support of their fellow American. The crowd roared just seconds into the fight as Schmelling hit the canvas screaming in pain. Need a more recent example? Think Hatton-Tszyu earlier this year – same thing here. Do you think there was a mere soul in Manchester going for Kostya – the “foreign guy”? No! M.E.N. Arena was full of proud fans screaming loud and hard for their fellow Brit.

Unfortunately, prejudice does have a dark side in boxing – a VERY dark side. In fact you could say that many of the problems today in boxing come from prejudice. Think of how many times a reporter writes a completely biased article about a fighter (either pro or against) – or about the countless fights that have been decided by a biased judge’s scoring of a fighter (again, either pro or against). Officials, promoters, even fighters themselves can let prejudice cloud their judgment. Here are the three biggest problems I see in today’s fight game that are caused by prejudice:

Extremist fans

You know who you are – well – actually you probably don’t. I classify an extremist fan as somebody who absolutely can NOT look at their favorite (or least favorite) fighter without bias. Some fans become so extreme that they turn into “nuthuggers” – and their favorite boxer can do no wrong. Even when their man loses, they cannot accept it. It must have been foul play, biased judging, an injury, etc. They’ll use ANY excuse they can find to dismiss their favorite’s obvious weaknesses and mistakes – even when there is clear evidence to prove them true. This works in an opposite fashion. For some fans – certain boxers can never do enough. They’ll find ANY excuse to downplay their least favorite boxer’s strengths and accomplishments – even when evidence exists to prove them true. Wanna read comments from an extremist? Just write an article on this website and mention the name “Klitschko” – you’ll see both sides of this equation on the message boards!

Biased media

Again, most reporters write biased articles when it comes to fighters, in my opinion anyway. This can mislead the novice fan, and start a negative media onslaught against an undeserving fighter. At the same time, they can over-hype a fighter and start a media bandwagon, only to ultimately dub their man the “the next great bust” upon his first failure. Another example is the networks promoting their “network fighters”. So many times I’ve watched a fight on HBO or Showtime and it seems more like a showcase of their network fighter, rather than a balanced broadcast of two fighters. Watch between the rounds – you’ll notice these networks show their guy’s corner 45 seconds to the other guy’s 15. And just listen to the commentators sometimes – it’s as if their guy can do no wrong. Again, this misinforms the novice fan who may be watching, and can lead to let downs down the road.

Crooked judges/officials/promoters

Do I really need to go into this one? It’s pretty self-explanatory isn’t it? Even the novice fan has seen a fight end incorrectly due to biased judging and/or officiating. This is the worst part of the prejudice that haunts boxing. Why you ask? Think about it – biased fans and media can do harm to a fighter’s psyche, and even change the public’s perception of a fighter, but they can’t literally control a fight. Some promoters, behind the scenes, can affect the outcome of a fight before it even starts – money talks, right? Judges and officials can control a fight before, during, and just after any fight! In my opinion, the worst judges/officials reside in Germany, but that’s just me. I’m not a conspiracy theorist in nature – but I’m not stupid at the same time. We all know that there have been, and probably always will be, shady shenanigans behind the scenes in professional boxing – and second to greed (money/power), prejudice plays the biggest role.

So what’s my point? It’s that prejudice - whether it be ethnic, social of whatever else - plays a big role in boxing. This shouldn’t be a news flash - and those of us who follow and report on our beloved sport have an obligation to do so without letting bias get in the way. It’s OK to pull for a fighter that you can relate to in some way – whatever way that might be. But you need not let that cloud your judgment, and perception, of your favorite fighters. Fans beware! Don’t buy into the hype that the media spins about fighters – whether it be negative or positive. You will always hear spin of fighters ducking fighters, promoters paying judges off, all sorts of cheating and foul play – just watch the fights with an open mind and let yourself be the judge. Now getting the best possible fights to actually formulate so we could judge for ourselves – that’s another debate for another day – and another article.

Article posted on 12.09.2005

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