I’m not going to bullshit you. I’m going to tell it like it is. I don’t hold back. I don’t pull my punches. Here’s what I think. This is me talking. What I’m saying is important. Why? Because I’m the one fucking saying it.
Sadly, the above sentences represent the kind of attitude that, believe it or not, can take a person far in the sport of boxing in 2017. Just ask Conor McGregor, who has never stepped inside a professional ring but will next month engage in one of the most lucrative bouts in fight history. An interesting side note, an incoming college student the other day told me he doesn’t like boxing, but he really digs Mayweather vs McGregor. This defines the prevailing silliness as well as anything I’ve come across. But I’m not just talking about McGregor here. If only that were the case. Then the whole thing could be shrugged off as an oddity. Besides, I’ve already wasted enough words on the Pop Culture Event Of The Summer, so let’s move on.
The sad fact is you don’t have to just be a loud-mouthed MMA fighter to cash in on the contemporary fight game. Adrien Broner, whose mouth has been as big as anyone’s, is going to pocket a pretty hefty payday when he fights the talented, skilled and serious Mikey Garcia in a few weeks. Although it’s a legitimately high level fight, the reason it’s getting attention to the extent that it is can be credited to Broner’s trash talk more than his considerable ring ability. Were it Garcia and, for the sake of argument, someone like Shawn Porter, who doesn’t engage in verbal silliness, who were getting set to rumble instead of Garcia vs Broner, there would, in my estimation, be far less public interest and anticipation.
And yet Porter beat Broner, and quite handily, thank you very much. The point is, although he’s relevant by virtue of his talent, Broner is popular by virtue of his big mouth, which he may hopefully now be toning down. That’s a fine distinction and one which seems to be dominant in boxing’s current landscape. Not that I’m unhappy with the state of boxing, mind you. The sport in 2017 may well be entering a golden age, no kidding. Still, The Big Mouth Factor can’t be denied or ignored. And in fact sometimes it’s necessary. I can recall promoter Butch Lewis lamenting the poor showing of 1987’s Michael Spinks vs Gerry Cooney fight essentially because neither man acted like an asshole during the promotion.
Still, things have definitely taken a turn for the insane more recently. Broner. Tyson Fury. Shannon Briggs. McGregor. These guys got attention, not to mention some rather large paydays, by being more than just fighters. They got it – and may continue to get it – for being (or having been) entertainers. And, although it’s been said that boxing is entertainment as much as it sport, if not more so, people might want to start reconsidering that assertion in light of recent events.
The terrific second battle between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev, for instance, was seen by few and cared about by even fewer, and yet it may have been a more relevant and consequential fight than even Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin. If boxing is more than entertainment, more than a diversion and a series of Twitter wars, than the popular failure of one of the best matches it can offer is something to be concerned about.
Yet this goes beyond the action inside the ring. Check out some of the YouTube sites that talk about boxing. The vast majority this writer sees deliver the kind of “no bullshit, here’s how it is” assessments that are all the rage. And, believe me, these sites get hits. The same goes for those keyboard warriors out there who have no time for what they feel are pussified niceties like, say, objectivity.
Anyone can be a mouth – and, believe me, it’s tempting to be one when you have a platform – but few can be a mouth who delivers the goods. And, yeah, for the record, there are some very good, “tell it like it is” types out there. The reason they’re good, though, is that they present the case of the “other side” in a thorough manner before attacking that particular argument. That sort of thing is good opinion journalism. The rest is often crap.
The truth is there will always be those who prefer the real thing, and those who prefer to be entertained. Another truth is that there are very few out there who can entertain while also being legit masters of their chosen field. Mark Twain comes to mind. As does Muhammad Ali. The rest of us generally have to choose one lane over the other. Broner, for instance, clearly chose his mouth over his craft through a large percentage of his career. It still paid handsomely for him, too. Yet there have been defeats and setbacks as a result.
And Mikey Garcia is waiting to offer another should Broner again decide to place his mouth before the seriousness of his work. Let’s hope he doesn’t. Because a serious Broner is some kind of fighter. — Sean Crose