Writers Before Fighters: A Cautionary Tale
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Writers Before Fighters: A Cautionary Tale
By Jason Petock, Doghouse Boxing (May 3, 2013)

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Since when did it become more acceptable to put boxing writers ahead of the actual fighters that give them something to write about? The trend these days apparently leans towards a grossly biased consensus among some writers that their worth tends to be far greater than those they write about. Boxing is and always has been about its participants and should not be about those who observe, report, and criticize them. Somebody needs to remind boxing scribes of this all but forgotten fact. However, when said writers cross the line or disrespect the sport repeatedly to further their own agendas and make themselves look better in the process, then it is the duty and responsibility of the boxing press to call them out, regardless of what others think. Writers have no problem with ripping apart and continually dissecting boxers and their careers, so why does it become such an issue when the subject matter is a boxing writer instead of a fighter?

Public opinion can and will be swayed by the press and television, there’s no question of that. Whatever tends to be spewed out by the boxing press for mass consumption gets categorized as exactness and truth among fans and even a majority writers, while any opinion that is indifferent or does not align with the status quo becomes inaccurate and unintelligent in review. So what is it that makes boxing writers and fans okay with a subject getting roasted over an open flame as long as they are a boxer, but become so defensive-minded when that person is a heralded journalist? It may just come down to social conditioning and a complete lack of respect for boxers and what they have chosen as a profession when it come down to it.

That’s right, you read that correctly. A complete lack of respect for boxers and what they have chosen as a profession is the root cause. Someone who writes about boxing and makes arrogant observations and criticisms about the discipline is not an expert or authority on the sport regardless of how many Twitter followers, press conferences, television appearances, chats, or blogs they have been a part of. They do not deserve more respect or regard than the fighters that they cover. Egotism and self-reverence are not things to be rewarded or esteemed by fans or fellow writers. When you choose to lift up a scribe solely because they pass judgment on a particular boxer because of a faulty performance or for not showing up to a fight, you only lessen the worth of that fighter by validating an often skewed point of view.

Sadly, many a boxer’s career has been made or broken due to the written word of a boxing writer. Opinions are our right of course, yet when do the opinions become so damaging to boxers that the time comes for someone, anyone to speak up? That’s right, speaking up is highly discouraged in the press, unless the speaker writes what they agree with wholeheartedly, then it’s cool. Boxers get shortchanged in their careers when writers chose to band together and share the same opinion for the sake of fitting in and agreeing with the masses. Public opinion is not always right, and at times can really hurt boxing more than help it.

Don’t agree? Maybe not, but the proof is in the pudding and throughout boxing’s turbulent history the boxing media has always been there, lying in wait for the next big story to make a name for themselves and destroy a fighter in the process. A perfect example is the life and times of “Iron” Mike Tyson (50-6/44 KOs). During Tyson’s meteoric rise in the Heavyweight division as the youngest to ever capture the title, the media was all but approving and accepting of “Kid Dynamite” and the excitement he brought to the boxing landscape with his throwback style and devastating power in the ring. Fast forward from the 80’s, when Mike was wrecking shop and taking names in the division, to the 90’s and the infamous Holyfield ear-bite and Tyson couldn’t catch a break, with the media appalled at the incident, although Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield (44-10-2/29) was leading with his head and head butting Tyson the entire fight until “Iron” Mike had enough. Throw in a rape conviction that was extremely questionable, and Tyson became the villain that the media had been waiting for all those years.

His implosion was imminent and with the goading and continual pressure by the boxing press on and about Tyson, every time he made a misstep or mistake they were there to cover it, and revel in his demise. Today, Mike Tyson has once again endeared himself to a media that once ripped him apart and turned their backs on him by performing in a one-man show, reminiscent of the type of act that Jake “Bronx Bull” LaMotta (83-19-4/30 KOs) undertook after his retirement from the squared circle. The same hypocrites that slandered him now praise him, because he’s more reserved and doesn’t speak his mind, at least as harshly as he used to. A successful athlete of color who isn’t afraid to say what he needs to say is also a threat to the status quo. Tyson is no longer a threat inside or outside of the ring; hopefully he can continue to find peace in his retirement from boxing though.

Would writers be so critical of fighters if they themselves spent a 1/3 of their lives or better in the squared circle trying to make ends meet and get by? Probably not. Whereas the boxing media is responsible for reporting on the sport and giving their opinions, whatever those may be, to a loyal but harshly critical at times boxing fan base, boxers actually have to fight and their performances tend to be literally picked apart as anything they do in the ring is never enough, whether they win or not. So what do we do it about it you ask? Not much we can do really, expect to try and attempt to bring the issue to light that much more.

Why do fans and boxers for that matter have to be subjected to the egos of writers who have never faced the heartbreak and joys of being a professional boxer? To ask this of fighters is not only selfish of us as people but unfair to them and what they do every time they lace up the gloves for our amusement and entertainment. How dare we as writers, or fans for that matter, tell boxers what they are, or are not doing right in our extremely biased and narcissistic viewpoints? Some say boxing is dying, and if you look around at how boxing journalists shred fighters and their performances do we dare wonder why anyone would think such a thing?

Without boxers, journalists would have nothing to complain about, period. No one likes it when the same microscope that they use and point at boxing is quickly turned in their direction and used on them instead. As writers we are entitled to our opinions, whether someone disagrees with them or not. So too, and more importantly for that matter, are boxers who are given that opportunity and right. The difference lies in that when a boxer says or does something that the “chosen few” don’t approve of then there is a cavalcade of writers steadily clicking away on their computers in fierce unison with some of the most reproachable and condemning words ever written.

You will not be given any specific examples here of such writing, however, because if you’ve been a fan of boxing for some time now (which we can assume that most reading this clearly have, in good taste), then you wouldn’t waste your time reading such muck in the first place. You don’t have to agree with what is written here or me for that matter, but at least have the decency to do your homework and have a little respect for boxing and the art form that has given you the privilege to write about it, instead of shooting down ideas that do not correlate with your own. Writers have an obligation to write about boxers and assist in the promotion and exposure of their careers instead of breaking them down into oblivion.

So if you take anything from this piece, then you will hopefully become that much better because of it. And if instead, you chose to continue to view all of the above as nothing more the ramblings from just another arrogant, self-serving and self-righteous writer then so be it. Because the thing that is most important to this writer is boxing and its participants and nothing else. If that means pissing on some egos and stepping on a few toes to get my point across, and protecting pugilism and its fighters while doing it, then I am all in. Boxing writers have been judging and criticizing fighters in a less than favorable light for some time now, and while many of them seem okay with it, this writer will not only fight against it but bring it to the boxing world’s attention. As writers you are who the fans listen to and follow. What you write does and will make a difference and you have to be willing to not only live with what you have written but also the consequences of your chosen words and how they will impact a fighter’s career by your message. Boxing is about boxers and not writers. Get off your high horse and wake the fuck up already.
Jason Petock responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to Jason at: boxingwarrior@hotmail.com

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