|The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
By John "Iceman" Scully, DoghouseBoxing.com (Feb 10, 2009)
In the book I am working on "The Iceman Diaries" I have a chapter called "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" and in it I have some specific examples of things I have seen that are, well, GOOD, BAD AND UGLY. Some of them, for one reason or another, didn't make it into the book, so here they are exclusively for Doghouse Boxing. Enjoy!
I often discuss the latest trends of boxers coming to the ring dancing, rapping, shouting, and basically coming to the battle with what would appear to be a very unfocused, unprofessional attitude that sometimes doesn't work out too well when they end up in the ring and more often than not, unbeknownst to them, alienates a large faction of boxing fans in the audience and out in TV land that the same dancing, singing boxer is hoping will pay enough money to watch him on other telecasts in the future that can ultimately make the boxer a household name and a millionaire.
Sometimes even promoters and managers can get into the act on a certain level. Take hip-hop/rap personality Damon Dash who was aligned at one point with Lou DiBella in some fashion related to the boxing business. The two businessmen apparently formed a partnership of sorts that they hoped would allow Dash's connection to the urban market to get hip-hop fans to crossover into the national boxing fan base. Cool. I even read an interview with Dash where said he was a lifelong boxing fan, always loved the sport, wants to see kids put in a good light, etc. Cool again. Then one of the online boxing sites posts an audio/video interview (available to any boxing fan with a computer) done with him at a local New York boxing show where he uses enough curse words that the editors at the website feel the need to post a "Warning: Explicit Language" sticker on it for those readers of the site who planned to listen to the interview. So potential fans of Damon Dash connected fighters from all across the world who listened in were treated to a nice array of four letter words along with some hip-hop swagger. Perfect. Just what the boxing fans want. That genius Damon Dash sure has his finger on the pulse of boxing fans of the world, doesn't he? He knows what they want to see. They want to tune into a boxing site interview and hear some good old cuss words from one of the guys that's supposed to be representing the fighters!
Then to add to the negativity of it all I tune in to see the Winky Wright vs. Felix Trinidad fight and in the ring before the show starts is one of Dash's singers who has been tabbed to sing the national anthem. Guy does it and sounds great. If forget his name, but he was pretty sharp on the mic.
Anyway, the whole time that the guy is on the air for the millions of fans from around the world to see him belt out the song that represents Dash's home country, the good old USA, the newest addition to the game (Damon) is standing right behind the guy. And for the duration of the song his stupid looking, cocked to the side Yankee hat (Dame is in his mid-thirties and a little too old to be cocking his baseball cap to the side anymore) is perched firmly on top of his head. I wonder what all the boxing fans out there with ties to the fire departments, police departments and U.S. military thought of a "boxing promoter" that didn't even have the common decency to remove his hat during the one song that it should be done for, if not for you then at least for the respect of the millions that it means something to. You would think a self proclaimed "good businessman" would have the business sense to know it probably isn't such a good idea to do little things like that, things that give you the very real potential to alienate who knows how many of the fans that are watching you on television as you show absolutely ZERO respect to them and the MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of Americans (many of whom are potential boxing fans) who take such things very seriously. You know?
"Dame" is the guy who is, in a lot of ways, the role model for the kids (or young men for that matter) that he is involved with now and as they get their boxing careers off the ground on the way to what you have to assume is a career that each one hopes will result in him making a lot of money for them, they are viewing their mentor showing this type of disrespect and lack of common sense. Image is everything when you are selling something and the last thing any boxer with hopes of being a respected boxer and reaching enough fans to make him rich needs is to have the image of a guy that is too lazy or ignorant or disrespectful to take his hat off during the national anthem on TV in America in full view of the world. Getting off on the right foot is a good thing and now that Dash is starting to be seen more and more at boxing events it would be smart of him to take heed of the thoughts and feelings of this new and very different demographic of people (fans) that he hopes to lure into buying his product (his boxer).
Damon Dash needs someone close to him, someone with a keener eye for this sort of thing, to lean in close and whisper in his ear as a good mentor should and tell him, "You’re blowin' it, son. You’re blowin' it."
I know a professional boxer here who has been rated in the top ten in the world in his weight class. The guy was an accomplished amateur who won a ton of fights and titles in a career that sees him match up with many of the very best amateurs in the country. He turned pro, though, with a management team that gave him no signing bonus. He has a contract that gives them 30% of his earnings which is actually 3% below the going rate so that looks good on paper. The problem lies in the fact that they give him $150 a week when he is training for upcoming fights. What's the matter with that you ask? Well, I found out today that these guys take all that money back each time he fights! So it boils down to them getting thirty percent plus what they gave him for living expenses each week leading up to each fight. He fights for $2500, for example, but he comes away with just $677 dollars!
It also needs to be pointed out that while they are the manager of record it is a situation where they really have no input into his career in terms of the direction it takes, opponents he fights, etc. The promoter and the trainer take care of all that. I classify guys like this as "financial backers" more than anything. This is a very common practice in the game, I might add. Many managers are not actually managers at all. They don't actually manage anything to do with the guys career and that is the case with these guys and their fighter. I mean, so they give the guy $150 each week and pay for his medicals each year. So what? How about if I myself just let him borrow $150 a week like these guys do and then he pays me back after his fight and he gets to keep the entire thirty percent that he has to give them? The promoter and the trainer do all the real work anyway so that's covered, you know? The point is these so called managers aren't risking anything. If this fighter lucks out and makes a million dollars per fight someday these guys will have risked nothing for the chance to make $300,000 dollars every time he fights! What should be done here is that they should be giving him at least $150 a week for expenses and take only 33% when he fights. If he makes it big then they will get paid off and will have had a successful investment go through. If not then, well, they lost the gamble they took that comes with backing a professional fighter. As it stands now they are essentially getting a third of his purses because they allow him to borrow money from them that he still has to pay back.
I have to be honest when I say I am not sure of what the Muhammad Ali Act really covers in terms of protecting professional boxers but I hope things like this are among them because guys like this, up and coming boxers who turn pro without money to pay a lawyer to look over his contract or a trainer who is supposed to be on his side but is instead on the side of the so-called managers (maybe he gets money from them to train the guy each week?), need someone or something to look out for them. Definitely.
To me, one of the biggest injustices ever committed in boxing was Larry Holmes as the reigning and defending world heavyweight champion being forced to come out first to the ring when he defended the title in 1982 against Gerry Cooney in their superfight at Las Vegas. I was reminded of that recently when they did a feature on Larry on the show "Beyond The Glory" and I get mad just thinking about that. How in the world could the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Don King and Larry himself allow that to happen? In the history of boxing it every champions right and honor to be introduced last and, to me, it is part of what the glory of being a world champion is all about. Why Larry would have allowed them to do that to him is beyond me. They did it to him but he had to agree to it for it to actually go through. A fight that huge, what would they do if he demanded that he come out last or not fight? Cancel the biggest fight of the entire year? HIGHLY doubtful and, actually, I would say it would be almost impossible that they would have canceled the fight. In any event, that is a serious black mark on boxing history and I am waiting for boxing to somehow at least attempt to make it up to the man because that whole episode was UGLY with a capital U.
Politics. Politics in the boxing game is a wide ranging topic that could cover a few hundred pages. The outcomes of fights can be swayed and decided by people other than the judges at ringside. Back in the early 90's we had a guy in our gym who a rough and tough middleweight that would fight anybody if given the chance. He was a journeyman type of guy who could pull an upset on the right night and if he had better management, discipline and self-control outside of the ring he could have probably done something. He didn't, however, and ended up being a journeyman-opponent type whose training habits went from stellar to almost nonexistent after he realized that his boxing career wasn't going any further upwards. One of the highlights of his career, though, was pinning the very first defeat on a future top ten contender and world title challenger via a fifth round stoppage (with me as his chief second) back in June of 1993.
So, anyway, there was this one instance back in the early 1990's when he is offered a prelim fight on an ESPN televised show at Foxwoods Casino with an up and coming middleweight who was being heavily hyped. He takes the match, of course, with no hesitation. Now my friend did not have a heralded amateur background (we fought each other twice on local shows back in 1986 and 1987 and I won two decisions over him. I was the only nationally ranked amateur he ever fought). He went into the fight with this kid as an unknown local pro with just a few fights under his belt and probably four people in the audience, including his cornerman, who came to see him fight that night. His opponent, on the other hand, was undefeated at 13-0 with a contract that tied him to one of boxing's super promoters and if four people in the audience were there to see him then the others in attendance were certainly there to see his opponent. It was his opponent’s show, no doubt about it.
So the fight begins and by the end of the first round there were two factors that should have come into play but only one of them actually did. The round ends with my stablemate sporting a cut at the corner of his eye. Not bleeding profusely or anything but a cut all the same. Just as significantly, though, is the fact that the round also ended with him smashing his heavily favored opponent with several big shots that leave the guy disoriented and stumbling in the ring. The bell rings to end the round and his trainer sees enough distress from his man that he feels the need to enter the ring and help him back to the corner. Before the bell rings to begin the next round the fight is stopped on a technical knockout.
The crowd is in disbelief as they have to assume the fight is being terminated because my friend's opponent is too wobbly to continue. What an upset! The unknown journeyman stops the local hero, right?
The fight is stopped because of the cut suffered by his eye but the crowd at first doesn't realize this and thinks the fight is stopped because the other guy is too dazed to be let out for the next round. Now you might sit there and say, "Well, a cut is a cut and maybe it was bad enough to stop it. Safety first, right?" Maybe so, but from what I can see the cut wasn't bad enough to not let him at least get a chance at doing something in the next round. They couldn't give him just one more round? Considering the condition the other was in?
Looking at the entire picture a little bit closer, this is where my point in all this comes into play. To me, it was a situation where the status of both fighters coming into the fight was the main factor. The kid was the house fighter, the local hero, the up-and-coming fresh face with the promoter behind him while his opponent was pretty much the opposite in almost every way. This was not a fixed fight or anything like that but, to me, it was a situation where the assumed favorite was given the serious benefit of the doubt and the other guy was given the short end of the stick as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Put it this way: If the roles were reversed and it was my friend who was hurt badly and the other guy had the cut and the fight was at Foxwoods on a show promoted by one of boxing's biggest promoters? The fight goes on and the guy is given the opportunity to get him out of there. Definitely.
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