By Ivan G. Goldman
A well-known boxing writer took money from one of the big promoters for years. It wasn’t hard to spot, and lots of other fight scribes knew about it.
The economics of boxing are such that it’s just about impossible for someone to live off their fight writing, which this guy was trying to do. Most of us have other kinds of gigs, day jobs, and the like, so we can afford to be honest, if that’s what we want to be, and I believe a hefty majority are on the up and up.
Two writers who can actually live for the most part off their boxing earnings are Dan Rafael of espn.com and Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports, though Iole covers MMA as well. Rafael is definitely the most powerful boxing writer out there, and I’d guess Iole is Number 2, but he trails Rafael by a full furlong.
Those boxing writers still left in the newspaper world do it on a limited basis and cover other sports too. Some of them don’t really know much about the sweet science, but their editors don’t know much either, so it works for them, though not for their readers. Most of them will tell you Sugar Ray Robinson is the best fighter who ever competed, but few of them have seen so much as one full round of a Robinson fight clip. They just repeat what someone else tells them. It’s kind of like reporting news from a stool at Denny’s. The guy next to you tells you something he heard and you report it as a fact.
Anyway, newspapers are becoming more and more irrelevant in this new media age. But that’s not such a good thing either. Journalists who used to have good union jobs and probably knew something about what they were doing are replaced by Internet scribes who work for little or often no money and can be spectacularly ignorant blowhards. Others are quite good at it. It’s all over the map.
Boxing guys on TV have their own problems. For the most part they make a good living but sometimes have to whore themselves out or quit, and they never quit. Right now the Showtime guys are in an Al Haymon jam. Stephen Espinoza, their network boxing honcho, trails after Haymon whispering compliments in his ear like he was sent over by an escort agency. The on-air Showtime guys consequently pretend like none of that is happening and that farces from the Haymon-Espinoza factory are serious fights.
Showtime is basically a co-promoter of these Haymon-created cards. Question: How different are its on-camera commentators from that scribe who was on the take from the big promoter?
Back to Rafael and Iole. I read only a fraction of what they write, but I’m sure they know quite a bit about the sport and have a lot of highly prized numbers in their address books. Rafael pissed me off once when he openly celebrated his supposition that James Toney was punchy. It was like Count Dracula laughing about some victim whose blood he just swallowed.
Iole likes to stay on the good side of Floyd Mayweather and ends up repeating obviously shallow, ridiculous remarks from the Mayweather camp as though they were serous facts, just like that crappy reporter on a Denny’s stool. When Mayweather in early 2012 said he offered $40 million to Pacquiao for a showdown to be promoted by Floyd and his entourage, that was, Iole wrote recently, “the most proactive step in order to get the fight done.”
He then went on to quote Leonard Ellerbe, the Number One guy in Floyd’s entourage, as being “astounded” that Pacquiao didn’t jump at the chance to get no share of the pay-per-view revenues, to let Floyd’s people control the event, to fire his promoter Arum, and basically to work as Floyd’s towel boy. Iole treated Ellerbe’s reaction as though it were an honest assessment.
Poor writers often create a false equivalency, sometimes because they’re lazy, sometimes because they’re unethical. They say everyone’s equally to blame. It’s an easy thing to write. So what if it’s not true? Iole goes beyond that. He blames everything on the wrong guy. People who really understand the boxing business know that Floyd’s illusory forty million wasn’t a serious offer. It was just a trick to send the hounds off in the wrong direction.
Later that year, when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Pacquiao, thereby possibly cooling demand for a Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown, Floyd jumped around his mansion in delight, clearly relieved that he wouldn’t have to pick up what would have been the fattest purse in history. Something didn’t make sense. But the guy at the next stool apparently forgot to inform Iole.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More Information Here