Things have gone on for far too long now and someone needs to speak up about it. Let’s be honest for a moment here shall we? It's old hat and public knowledge that boxing scribes are some of the most egotistical, self-centered and opinionated people on the planet. Face the facts people. The gross majority of those who write about the sport, live vicariously through idolatry and hero-worship, while they themselves have never even laced up the gloves a single time. Take that amount of individuals and divide those by the number who have never even been in a fight period, be it fist fight, street fight, or even as a gamer on Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on Nintendo back in the day and the numbers are that much more staggering. Yet as writers we tend to think we know better than everyone else, often at the cost of a fighter’s career or how the public perceives them. The written word is a powerful thing and can make or break a fighter as easily as a nicely timed left hook or by having to drop those few last pounds before you step on the scale. Public perception and actual reality are two entirely different animals.
This is a call to action, a call to arms if you will. There is one so-called boxing journalist in particular that needs to be put in his place immediately. The pure beauty of freedom of expression is just that; the allowance and non-existent parameters to say what you will without worry or backlash. Should such backlash rear its ugly, overpaid and over opinionated head... so be it. As Mos Def said so brilliantly and eloquently, “Fear not of men, because men must die”. “Yes” man ideas must die. Ridiculous assumptions and hack journalism must die. So too must the immediate postulation that just because an individual provides written word (pabulum) for a corporate sports media conglomerate on a routine basis, does not make him an expert or authority on boxing. In layman’s terms, typically what this individual tends to pen is nothing more than “material whose intellectual content is thin, trite, bland, or generally unsatisfying”. Sound familiar? It should because the person in question is one Dan Rafael of ESPN.
Way back in 2009, Gary Shaw (Gary Shaw Promotions) responded to a blog written by Rafael that asked Golden Boy Promotions to begin to showcase Golden Boy prospects. In his letter, Shaw laid down the law while asking, “Since when does an ESPN employee, a boxing scribe at that, tell another network what promoter they should be using?” When is it alright for a paid writer to start dictating what a completely other network does regarding any fighter? Never. But the hits keep coming for Rafael. No one is perfect of course, but when someone begins to develop a sense of entitlement and disregard or even disrespect towards boxing to express a particular viewpoint or to stir controversy then they have gone too far. Regardless of what corporate or media interest they serve. Everyone is entitled to their opinions however. Even Dan Rafael. That doesn’t make him right though.
Rafael is not even close to one of the best boxing writers out there today. His position is one of circumstance. With far more legitimately relevant writers on the scene like Thomas Hauser, Steve Farhood, and Thomas Gerbasi just to name a few, you'd think that ESPN would have had their pick of the litter in terms of someone to fill their one and only slot as the network’s only boxing correspondent. That’s right folks, if you didn’t know it already, Rafael is it. No other writers in the bullpen, or co-conspirators, Dan rides solo. And his work shows it. While he very well may be a self proclaimed boxing fan at heart, there is a genuine lack of passion or honesty in his body of work. A sense of underdevelopment coats his writing, as much of his work is as rudimentary as it is self serving at times. To state that Dan Rafael is drunk with his own verbose is an understatement to say the least.
So what is the solution? Well, at present there isn’t one. Seeing as Rafael is the go-to-guy at ESPN and most fans hang onto his every word, the rest of us out here will just have to hope that he either shapes up (no pun intended) or turns his writing into something that possesses a more honest and relevant nature. The appealing thing about Dan to ESPN, something that would be viewed attractive by any large network, is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Rafael sells boxing and the public short with his corporate rhetoric. He doesn’t dig further or speak what’s on his mind and fails boxing and all boxing writers who have came before him and all those who will come along after he is gone. The wordage that gets pumped out by ESPN’s sole boxing contributor is what they want to hear and sadly integrity isn’t part of the equation. He writes just well enough to keep a paycheck yet not well enough to be heard. He falls short of causing anyone surrounding the sport to even think for one minute about what’s really going on in boxing. Rafael plays it safe. Too safe. And that’s a problem.