Power Shots: News and Views On The Heavyweight Division
by Johnny Walker
BOXING WRITERS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS, PART 1.
It’s coming. In fact, it’s already happening. A heavyweight revival, at least a small-scale edition, is underway. There is hope. It’s just not of the “great white” variety. — Eric Raskin, Grantland
Another establishment boxing writer ended up with egg on his face this weekend.
Eric Raskin–formerly of The Ring magazine and now penning pop culture infused boxing commentary for ESPN’s floundering Grantland vanity web site–decided to meet his latest deadline for “content” with a lazy, unfocused diatribe about the world heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers, hot on the heels of a very similar piece by AP sportswriter Tim Dahlberg.
Entitled “Heavyweight Boxing and the Need to Rope a Hope,” Raskin’s attempted hatchet job on the Klitschkos is even more offensive than Dahlberg’s, mainly because the former scribe thought it would be cute to descend into the mine field of race in his attempt to ridicule the Ukrainian champions.
“Our century-long search for the Great White Hope is over,” writes the snarky Grantland scribe. “We found him. Two of him, in fact. And we can’t wait to be rid of him.”
Like Dahlberg, Raskin employs the old trick of using inclusionary language in the effort to convince his audience that he is speaking not only for himself, or even for American boxing fans, but for all boxing fans across the globe. However, he’s too self-conscious about this rhetorical trickery to really put it off, and gives the game away in the next paragraph, in which he ultimately comes off like a megalomaniac who knows all, and sees all:
“The pronouns in play here could probably use some clarification,” Raskin pedantically continues. “The ‘our’ of the first sentence refers to a racially charged segment of America. The ‘we’ of the second sentence is the sport of boxing and its fans. The ‘hims’ are Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, the fair-skinned Ukrainian brothers who, together, have ruled the heavyweight division since Lennox Lewis retired in 2004. And the ‘we’ of the final sentence refers to the millions of fight fans who find no pleasure in watching the Klitschkos ply their trade.”
There are so many breathtakingly arrogant and skewed assumptions in these two paragraphs that it would require a shrink to fully analyze them. But to boil things down to their essence:
Eric Raskin apparently doesn’t care for Caucasian boxers (he’s made a habit of ripping fighters from Joe Calzaghe to Rocky Marciano in the past) and can’t wait to see an African-American take the heavyweight division back to its former state of (what he considers) glory.
And oh yeah, he’s speaking not just for himself, but for millions of boxing fans.
Look, there’s no law saying anyone has to like the Klitschkos. But what really rankles is this tendency of some American boxing writers to pretend that their personal point of view is the point of view of the entire planet. That’s the kind of arrogance that gives America a bad name, but then this is a country that calls a tournament contested by only US-based teams (unless a miracle occurs and the Blue Jays make it that far) the “World Series.”
If Raskin owned up to the fact that millions of fans around the world–including some right here in the United States–also really like and respect the Klitschko brothers and enjoy their fights, he might have a little more credibility.
It’s also discomfiting to see the casualness with which Raskin and others like him use race to bash the Klitschkos and others (the same day I read this column, two of ESPN’s television pundits were mocking “Great White Hope” Gerry Cooney for his failed effort against Larry Holmes), when anyone objective knows that if things were reversed, not a word would be spoken by Raskin and his ilk.
In other words, as Raskin admits that the “great white” Klitschkos have ruled the heavyweight division for almost a decade, does that mean we can call Seth Mitchell, the man who the scribe (rather embarrassingly, as it turns out, as he was knocked out in the second round on Saturday night) picks as his heavyweight “savior,” the “Great Black Hope?”
Logically, the answer is yes. But it would be seen by most writers as politically incorrect to utter the phrase, and Raskin instead predictably opts for “Great American Hope” when it comes to Mitchell. Yet Raskin is comfortable stating that millions of boxing fans are racists who don’t want to see the “great white” Klitschkos owning the heavyweight division.
It’s not worth going through the rest of Raskin’s rambling and offensive column, except to note that he also picks giant Brit David Price (no doubt to try to deflect criticism of being a racist) as his other “next big thing” at heavyweight, oblivious to the fact that the fighter Price is most often compared to is none other than … his hated target, Wladimir Klitschko!
In fact, such ironies abound throughout this wretched piece of boxing commentary, none more so than this classic line offered up by Raskin:
“[Seth] Mitchell is in some ways the modern-day American heavyweight prospect prototype.”
Yeah, Eric, he sure is.
BOXING WRITERS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS, PART 2.
ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael has been on an anti-Brit binge lately, taking to his Twitter account to belittle UK fans who had the audacity, in his view, to wish for a rematch for rugged super middleweight Carl Froch against a personal Rafael favorite, Andre Ward.
“The Froch fans also believe that Britain would win a rematch with the USA in the Revolutionary War,” the snarky scribe tweets.
“Apparently, the Froch fans are still drunk from yesterday.”
Rafael is, of course, tight Twitter buddies with Andre “Son of God” Ward, who as usual elbowed and head-butted his way to a win over a strangely subdued Froch in the final of the Super Six tournament last year.
The Froch fans also believe that Britain would win a rematch with the USA in the Revolutionary War. #delusional
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) November 18, 2012
The fight was still fairly close, a two-point win on two of the judges’ scorecards, but Rafael nevertheless feels it was a blowout.
Either way, given the performances Froch has put on since that fight, annihilating former champ Lucian Bute (who Ward ducked after the Super Six final) and destroying Yusaf Mack, you’d think that any objective observer would like to see the gutsy warrior from Nottingham get another crack at Ward, maybe this time in his own country instead of the SOG’s.
But not Rafael, who more and more seems to have a giant bug up his arse when it comes to the UK.
Further evidence of that last contention was provided during Rafael’s online chat session last Friday, when he opined that British heavyweight David Haye “doesn’t deserve the payday or the title shot” against WBC champion Vitali Klitschko.
Really Dan? But wait just a minute. It was Klitschko manager Bernd Boente who told Haye to fight a “box-off” with Dereck Chisora, with the winner getting a shot at Vitali.
Haye did just that, knocking out Chisora–who had previously taken Vitali the distance in a UD loss–this summer in London.
So how, exactly, does Haye “not deserve” a shot at Vitali, when luminaries like Manuel Charr, Shannon Briggs and Albert Sosnowski were deemed worthy of one?
For Dan Rafael, it seems Haye has committed the crime of being British.