by Johnny Walker
As captured on video for all to see, an altercation today between the camps of fighters Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios (on HBO Pay-Per-View) scheduled for this Saturday night got ugly quickly, with macho posturing between the two camps (nothing new in boxing) and ugly racial epithets being tossed around, mainly between the coaching staffs and entourages of the fighters (Pacquiao himself was not present during the altercation).
At at time when sports in general are under the media microscope for a culture featuring a lack of civility behind closed doors (witness the NFL and the current bullying scandal featuring Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin’s allegations that he was bullied and harassed by teammates, including guard Richie Incognito), previously private sports locker room culture in a 24/7 media landscape hungry for material is coming more and more out into the open.
Of course, as far back as author and former baseball pitcher Jim Bouton’s landmark book Ball Four, which despoiled the reputations of athletes formerly thought of as near saints by the the general public (Mickey Mantle, for one), the public has slowly come to the realization that athletes are mere people too, not saints or Gods.
However, in 2013, a sport like boxing, once a mainstream item on the front of American newspaper pages that now is buried in the sports section if it is covered at all, really doesn’t need the kind of the problems that the super-popular NFL has.
There are loads of politicians out there of the politically correct variety not all that enthralled with the sport of boxing to begin with, and videos like the current one circulating of the melee that took place between the aforementioned fighters’ camps don’t help the cause of boxing one bit.
Down and Pantera vocalist Philip Anselmo, also a knowledgable and astute boxing fan and critic, expressed his own disappointment upon viewing the fracas on video. Anselmo–correctly in my view–found plenty of fault to go around with both the Pacquiao and Rios camps, who do have a history (Rios, who fights with little regard for defense, was once captured on camera mimicking Roach’s Parkinson’s symptoms — he later apologized, but the hard feelings remain), and questioned their reasonings for the fracas, in which Ariza appeared to kick Roach in the chest. Ariza was once a member of Team Pacquiao and was recently fired by Roach.
“[Roach] WAS NOT ‘balling up his fist’ to go hit Ariza,” Anselmo told Boxing Insider of Ariza’s reasoning for kicking the famous trainer, who responded with some racially charged language aimed at the Rios camp and certain media members.
“And I’m slightly disappointed at Garcia, who has always been cool. I remember when Rios was on YouTube making fun of Freddie’s affliction.
“He’s the type [of fighter] who will find out about life in the worst way.”
It would be very cynical to suggest that this event was staged in some kind of misguided attempt to promote Saturday’s fight, in which the mega-popular Pacquiao, loser of his last two bouts (the last by crushing knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez; the previous one by a misguided judge’s decision rendering Amerian Timothy Bradley the winner) has much on the line.
However, no matter who started the melee, whose fault it was, why the need to use racial epithets aimed at certain media personel and others was deemed necessary, this entire episode provided fodder for those who see boxing as something out of the stone age, a “sport” whose time is nearly up.
And when one considers that some media types are already calling the “new” NFL, with its rule changes due to paranoia about concussions and other head injuries, an advanced version of “flag football,” it’s not to hard to imagine boxing, which has recently seen one fighter die in the ring (junior featherweight Frankie Leal) and seen another still lying in a coma in a New York hospital bed (heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov), causing the people in power, the ones who feel sports which entail such dangers should be neutered or done away with altogether, focusing their attention on boxing.