Discrimination in Boxing... Is There a Place For It?
By Anton Santiago, Doghouse Boxing (May 4, 2011)  
Hang up the Boxing Gloves
“Mexico!, Mexico!, Mexico!”…” Beat L.A.! Beat L.A., Beat L.A.”…”You suck! You suck! You suck!” are some of the things you have heard at sporting events. Then come news about a group of fans attacking a sports team like during some Association Football games or a Liga de Baloncesto Superior Nacional basketball game in Puerto Rico or an NBA game between the Pistons and the Pacers.

Sports, I hate to admit, feed off from differences between social groups. Boxing benefits even more. When Kostya Tszyu and Sharmba Mitchell had their rematch for the world Junior Welterweight title, I asked a fellow in attendance what does “chilango” means to Mexicans. He told me that that is the word used to describe people from the federal district of Mexico. No wonder, I thought, that Tijuana’s Erik Morales kept calling Guadalajara’s Marco Antonio Barrera, a Mexico City resident, “chilango”! Even when there is big pay per view fights; one can feel an underlining of social divisionism as part of the promotional effort. In New York City during the golden era of Madison Square Garden boxing, major ethnical groups made for the biggest rivalries, what with Italian and Italian Americans, Irish, Jewish, Latino and even Blacks and Whites getting into the act. After Barney Ross and Jimmy McLarnin starred in 45 of the fiercest rounds in boxing history (three 15 rounds bouts, Ross winning fights number 1 and 3), they embraced because they felt it worthy to let the crowd known that even when Ross was a Jew and McLarnin a greener Irish than a leprechaun, there was no animosity between the two.

These past few days I have engaged myself in my own sports debate with someone from a “rival” group at a YouTube page. It concerns me, a Puerto Rican, and a Mexican kid who has insulted me over the career of the great boxing legend, Wilfredo Gomez. As you know, Mexico versus Puerto Rico is, in boxing, what Argentina versus England is in Football, the Yankees and the Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, and Canada's Toronto Maple Leafs. This kid has, however, crossed the line and gotten personal with me, causing me to cross the line back at him. And when it gets personal, that’s when this entire rivalry-for-economical-benefits kind of scam persistent in sports begins to worry me.

Puerto Rico and Mexico have produced some of the finest boxers of all time, with fights like Salvador Sanchez-Gomez, Gomez-Carlos Zarate, Gomez-Lupe Pintor, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.-Edwin Rosario, and Chavez Sr.-Juan Laporte, Wilfred Benitez-Carlos Palomino and Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto among the ones we the true sports fans will never forget. However, there are people who seem to think they are personally involved in the fights even if they are sitting on a couch as they take place. Me? I could not watch the Chavez Sr.-Rosario fight live because I had a ninth grade test the next day, on Thursday morning. Plus I had a feeling the 57-0 Chavez Sr. was going to win. When my dad woke me up to tell me Chavez Sr. won by 11th round technical knockout, I just shrugged it off and went back to sleep!

Another particular event I remember is recently when Lebron James returned to Cleveland for the first time to face the not so Cavaliers these days, after joining the Miami Heat late in 2010. ‘Bron went to be friendly to former teammates. Jeff Van Gundy, who is a very funny man (and a brave one too-would you have grabbed on to Alonzo Mourning’s legs if you stood 5-0 like Van Gundy??) criticized Lebron for being too friendly, saying there is no space for camaraderie in basketball. What happened then, to the days when it was ok to say “my bad” after a foul? What happened to being able to say “good shot” to the one shooting on the other side of the court? Where went the days when it was fine to pick up an opponent’s quarterback and ask if he or she was ok after a sack?

Next, little league kids will not shake hands after a baseball or softball game. They will instead attack each other with their baseball bats, causing a Bowe-Golota like riot among parents in the crowd. Talking of which, Bowe and Golota….and that was like, 15 years ago??

It’s ridiculous even. San Juaneros hate people from Ponce. Chilangos hate Tijuanenses, New Yorkers choke Angelinos (and Chicagoans, and Bostonians). Real Madrid’s fans spit on the faces of FC Barcelona ones…you see, it even happens between people of the same country and even of the same state or province!!

Look, I know and understand that in the end, dollars, pounds and euros are really what matter in these things. I understand there has to be a promotional angle to it, and that the money the players and organizers-or, as in boxing, fighters and promoters-and trainers and all get has to come off somebody. I understand that for sports to be important in a vibrant society and for boxing to go back into being a major sport in the good ol’ USA, there has to be money made, and we should-to an extent that excludes the Pay Per View option-have to pay a bit if we want to watch.

When Jack Johnson and Sam Langford were around breaking many a bones, most White fighters drew on what was called “the racial line”. Many did it because they possibly felt scared, but the more I watch sports, the more I see where it made a bit of sense. Hey, at least people weren’t thumping each other after fights when that happened!!

The question then is, to which extent are we willing to sacrifice our dignity and our human relationships with one another for the sakes of a sporting event?

We need to ask ourselves that because, when discrimination and nonsense take hold of sports activities, promoters and organizers are the big winner$. And we are the big losers.

Let's not accept that huge defeat.

Please send all Questions and comments to Antonio at TJ69662094@aol.com.

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