Jackie Kallen: Trash Taking in Boxing


By Jackie Kallen

Talking smack is not necessarily new to the sport of boxing. It’s as old as the sport itself. Adrian Broner didn’t invent it and he won’t be the last to talk trash. But is it an effective way to win fans? In his case, it seems to be driving fans away and making people cheer for him to lose again. Cockiness is not endearing.

Some say it started with Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion. It was a way for him to strike back at the racial slurs aimed at him. Before taking Tommy Burns title, he told him, “You’re as white as a flag of surrender.”

That seems pretty tame now compared to some of the homophobic, graphic and insulting barbs being slung these days.

Muhammad was the modern day “poet” who could come up with clever poems and one-liners about his opponents. He once said, “Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wild Life.” About another opponent he said, “I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.”

There was something slick and funny about Ali’s jabs. Most were said with a smirk and a wink. They were not necessarily mean-spirited. Just boastful. People smiled when he said things like “My only fault is that I don’t realize how great I really am.”

By the time Mike Tyson was champ, the trash talk turned darker. He was known for saying brutal things like “I try to hit them on the tip of their nose and drive that bone right into their brain.” He told Francois Botha that he planned to “take a bath in your blood.” When he fought Razor Ruddock he proclaimed “If he isn’t dead after the fight, the win doesn’t count.”

The habit of insulting and defaming one’s opponent seemed to spread in the eighties and nineties. It also took an ugly turn and included comments about the opponent’s mother, sister and wife. James Toney was famous for his scathing remarks. He is considered by many to be the “King of Smack.” Most of his comments are not fit to repeat in this article. But they were personal verbal assaults that were guaranteed to incense his opponent. He told everyone he fought that they could “kiss my black ass.”

There were times while I was managing James Toney, that we were fined at weigh-ins for his outbursts. But in his case, James needed that fire and anger to fuel his performance. The more he raged and insulted people, the better he fought.

Iran Barkey was another fighter who could dish it out. When he was set to fight James Toney, he even attacked me. “After I beat your sissy fighter, my sister will beat your ass.” (He didn’t beat James….and his sister never touched me.)

Floyd Mayweather has ruffled more than a few feathers with his bragging, preening, boasting and posturing. He rubs his wealth into everyone’s face and lets the world know how great he thinks he is. He throws fake $100 bills at people and allegedly throws away his clothes after one wearing.

In most cases, the trash talk is just hype for the fight and probably helps sell tickets. When Broner fought Paulie M, a lot of the pre-fight jabbing referred to a woman that both men were supposedly “seeing.” When Broner won, he told the world that he walked away with “the belt and the woman.”

Trash talking will always be a part of boxing. Although people respect a fighter who is gentlemanly after a fight and praises his opponent, those guys are never quoted. It’s the colorful, fiery guys who stir things up. That’s why boxing fans are talking about Adrien Broner now.

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