By Charles Jay
One of the things about boxing fans, when you think about it, that makes them so unique is their sense of justice.
You could go into the four “major” sports here in America, which have risen to a level that makes them more popular than boxing an overall basis, and if a home team wins a game on a blatantly bad call by an official, they don’t bat an eye. Frankly, they don’t care, as a “W” is a “W.”
Photo: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
You can go into that same city and see a fight, and if there is a horrible decision, even if the hometown hero wins, you’re going to see an awful lot of boos.
That’s called a sense of fair play.
Don’t people like that deserve the best you’ve got to offer them?
Then why aren’t they getting it?
With many of these pay-per-view events, you just get the impression that the people in this sport who “really matter” aren’t getting it.
Do they understand that these are like mini-Super Bowls? That they are showcases for the sport; an opportunity to demonstrate what they have to an audience that might not be watching otherwise, but may be open to watching in the future?
Well, they are, and when you have a showcase, and are demanding premium prices, you need to trot out the sport’s best. That applies all the way down the line, because you’re only as good as the worst link, and sometimes that weak link can cause all the damage. I’m not kidding in the least when I say that.
Promoters who work with the true marquee fighters – and there are only a couple of such outfits – are the faces of the sport as far as the general public is concerned.
If you read this website on a regular basis, by the way, it’s quite unlikely you are a member of the “general public” I am referring to.
No, I’m talking about my Marine buddy, who is so disgusted he says he will never pay the PPV fee, nor go in his car in a sports bar to watch this kind of stuff again.
There’s only so many times fans will take a slap in the face and keep coming back. And those more casual fans are the ones this business needs to conduct the so-called mega-fights for the mega-money that the Pacquiaos and Mayweathers have become accustomed to.
There are sure-fire ways to lose them.
One of them is to simply insult their intelligence.
When Golden Boy Promotions puts old, worn-down, washed-up Steve Forbes, who had lost five of his previous seven fights, in a dull, predictable, meaningless, non-competitive farce against an 18-0 prospect (Jessie Vargas) and makes it part of a pay-per-view telecast, as they did on May 5, it is a clear signal that they value THEIR agenda over YOUR time, and therefore, don’t get it. Not by a long shot.
When Top Rank puts the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux and Jorge Arce on a show that is supposed to be aimed toward the general public, they don’t get it. They are telling you that they are more concerned with their contractual obligations that they are about their obligations to the paying audience.
You are certainly not cultivating fans for the future that way. When you have to assure everybody, as Top Rank’s Bob Arum did, that his showcase event, selling for $54.95 or thereabouts, wasn’t going to interfere with a basketball game or a hockey game, it sends a clear signal that you know you don’t have a strong enough overall product, and that there’s nothing worth watching before the main event goes on.
So what happens? People figure out ways to sneak into a sports bar or some other group venue just in time to watch the fight for nothing. Because after all, who cares about Guillermo Rigondeaux?
That is not the way to market your sport.
And what about the boxing commissions? Do they get it? Well, not entirely. By and large, they have ignored any input from the sanctioning bodies, which sometimes results in a hometown fighter being graded by hometown judges. There are cronies put into positions of authority, whether it’s on a commission or as a referee or judge.
Would there have been a more satisfying, justifiable result if the WBO had full control of the officials on Saturday night? Well, we couldn’t go that far, because that organization has demonstrated its own level of corruption. But there are a lot of politics on the state level too. It almost can’t be avoided, because those who sit highest are political appointees. Could a balance be struck? Who knows.
Let me put it this way, and I don’t give a shit about who is considered experienced enough to conduct judging seminars: if scoring a two-point fight, EITHER WAY, in Saturday’s main event represents the best this sport has to offer, then this industry is better off either (a) turning the voting over to the fans, who can push a button on their smartphones, or (b) folding up the tent completely.
Back to my Marine friend, who figures he knows what’s coming next.
“And so now they’re going to have another of those Senate investigations,” he said. “Do you think that’s going to make for good public relations?”
No, we don’t.