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MIKEY GARCIA AND THE PERILS OF BEING A FREE MAN

By Paul Magno | November 10, 2017
MIKEY GARCIA AND THE PERILS OF BEING A FREE MAN

Mikey Garcia, one of the pound-for-pound very best fighters in the world, is about to get a taste of the flogging fighters get for daring to be free. 

There’s a weird disconnect in boxing, something that runs contrary to common sense and something that makes you understand that the boxing business is like no other business. 

In boxing, at least among the hardcore fans and media, you can’t be both beloved and business-minded. 

Ask fans and media and they will flat-out tell you that what happens away from the ring doesn’t matter when fighters step inside the ring. 

And if they don’t tell you that, directly, they let you know it by the way they treat inside and outside the ring as two totally different and utterly unrelated worlds. Bleeding heart liberal scribes will forgive racist behavior, domestic violence, and a business model close to indentured servitude to gladly hobnob in a manly world where only fighting matters. A greasy scumbag like Don King and a serial con man like Bob Arum are embraced as quaint, lovable scamps and are unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame—the moral, ethical equivalent of electing Bernie Madoff into a stockbroker/financial advisor Hall of Fame. 

Fans and media forgive and forget all crimes against humanity because, really, boxing is all about the boxing….right? 

Well, sometimes.

The one thing that will never be forgiven or overlooked, however, is a fighter who wants to handle his own business. 

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished, if you move to become a freeman in boxing, you will be targeted by media and many fans. 

Just ask Floyd Mayweather or Andre Ward or, for that matter, anyone who signs with Al Haymon, who is a divisive figure precisely because he encourages fighters to work around the traditional business structure of the sport. 

If a fighter so much as tries to even balk at an unfavorable contract term or purse offer, they are painted to be sniveling cowards, only caring about the filthy lucre they can squeeze from the promoters, who, presumably, should be the ones with full financial control and ultimate power.

And it’s easy to see why the media would embrace a system that is promoter-centric and one where autonomy-minded fighters are treated as cheats, cowards, and thieves. It’s because much of the media is owned and/or fully controlled by boxing promoters. It really shouldn’t be a secret at this point and this isn’t the article where we go into detail about who is deeply inside who’s pocket, but it IS important to know that an independent media in boxing does NOT exist on any grand scale and that most everyone at the top of the boxing media food chain is there because they are either deeply compromised or deemed as utterly harmless by the sport’s powerbrokers. 

So, anyone who challenges the status quo—like a fighter who could show other fighters how profitable and enjoyable professional life could be WITHOUT a promoter—is an immediate enemy, much more so than a racist, a pimp, a sociopath, or even a murderer. 

And that takes us back to Mikey Garcia—a fighter who should be the textbook definition of everything fight fans claim to want. But he’s also a promotional free agent who seems intent upon remaining a free agent. He tangled with Arum’s promotional company, Top Rank, and lost more than two years of his career battling his way out a contract with that company. He’s also very open about deals he has turned down and why he has turned them down. 

Right now it’s hard to get an angle on what there may be to hate about the guy. He’s not “boring” or “lazy.” There’s no “thug” in the man or outside-the-ring nastiness. Garcia’s just a well-trained, razor-sharp, and smartly aggressive old school fighter—who just happens to have a “new school” approach to the business end of boxing.

Maybe his recent decision to turn down a lightweight unification bout with Golden Boy’s Jorge Linares will be the beginning of his public lynching-by-press.

The set-up for a beatdown is sure there.

Golden Boy informed the press that they would be meeting with Garcia to discuss the unification bout. When both sides couldn’t come to an agreement, Golden Boy then reached out to the media again to establish what the public narrative should be. 

The media, of course, fell in place and the subsequent headlines made it clear that they would tell the side of the story from the point of view of the jilted promoter: “Mikey Garcia turned down unification fight vs. Jorge Linares;” “Mikey Garcia turns down unification bout with Jorge Linares;” “Mikey Garcia Rejects Golden Boy’s Offer;” “Golden Boy Prez: I’m surprised Mikey Garcia Passed on Linares;” “Mikey Garcia Rejects Jorge Linares Fight;” “Mikey Garcia-Jorge Linares Not Happening as Garcia turns down offer to fight.”

Garcia would tell his side of events to the media, explaining that he simply got a better offer to fight someone else and that a Linares bout would have to be pushed off until later. But the narrative has been set already—it was Garcia who was keeping this outstanding champion vs. champion bout from happening and that it must be because he wants an easier payday. There’s no consideration whatsoever about the specifics of the rejected deal or what was offered to Garcia to keep him from accepting the Linares deal. The fault is simply Garcia’s because he’s being a businessman, not the businessman’s who couldn’t meet the terms the fighter would need to fight. 

As is usually the case, the pro-business slant is there in the media and the only question is whether this dart will stick to the target on Garcia’s back. Maybe it won’t because, really, how many people will have their hearts broken and dreams dashed by not seeing this particular fight? It’s a very good fight, yeah, but nobody will lose their faith in God and boxing if it doesn’t happen.

But Garcia will find himself painted into this type of portrait over and over again—as the greedy athlete taking an important fight from the fans for no good reason at all-- until something sticks or until, finally, he signs a piece of himself over to the bossmen who run the sport and its media.

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