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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: GUARD DOGS, NOT LAPDOGS

By Paul Magno | June 01, 2020
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: GUARD DOGS, NOT LAPDOGS

I guess the definition of "journalism" is broad enough to include almost anything related to the dictionary description of "collecting, editing, and publishing of news for presentation through the media." 

The spirit of journalism, though, is in speaking truth to power. It's in this quote attributed to George Orwell: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

Fuck no, we don't have anything resembling true journalism in the boxing world. Once in awhile we get something close to approaching it. But that's always a fleeting, quick-burning meteor flashing across an empty sky. 

The reality is that, in this sport-- where death is a real possible outcome and the system conspires to crush its participants-- there's little-to-no journalism. You sure as hell won't find any true journalists allowed within sniffing distance of boxing business interests. 

We do have plenty of publicity and public relations posing as journalism, though. Plenty of mic-carrying glad-handers calling themselves journalists as well. 

So, when there's a YouTube symposium of YouTube boxing interviewers freely tossing around the word "journalism" while lamenting their Covid-shutdown plight, the irony smacks you in the face like a straight right hand behind a sharp jab.

Put together by Kugan Cassius of YouTube channel IFL TV, the four-person panel-put-to-video, titled "The Truth about YouTube Boxing," also featured Radio Rahim of Seconds Out, Michelle Joy Phelps of Behind the Gloves, and, coming off like the straight man in a circus clown convention, Marcos Villegas of FightHub TV. 

Basically, this little hour-and-twenty minute shit show highlighted everything wrong with the current state of boxing media. 

There was the expectation of a quid pro quo between media and promoters:

"My hope is that the relationship we've forged over the years with the promoters and the networks, that they will help us survive this pandemic...Are they gonna have our back the way we've had theirs over the years? Let's see what the promoters do for us, like we've done for them over the years." -- Michelle Joy Phelps.

There was entitlement:

"There should be way less people covering boxing so that the people who are good at it, and serious about and dedicated to it have the time to do it properly...instead of trying to, like, elbow guys out of the way you've never seen before or argue with motherfuckers who have, like, a hundred followers...There's not enough meat to go around. We're not feeding everybody who has just a watering mouth. We've earned a place at the table. Give me my plate! When you're at a restaurant and see a bum walking by, and you know what, there was a time when I was hungry, that doesn't mean I invite him in to eat my meal...We're all being treated, like, the same...and we're not the same!" -- Radio Rahim

There were the delusions of grandeur:

"If you want a say in this industry-- especially if you're media-- you have to grow some balls and band together and be like 'Yo, we actually have a platform that fans listen to, that fans expect journalism from.' We've all proven ourselves as legitimate journalists and if you think you can replace journalism with promotion..then there's no journalism in the sport whatsoever...The press will cease to exist. It'll just be promoter propaganda." -- Radio Rahim

Well, I hate to break it to "Radio," but all of this stuff that he does, all of this stuff ALLOWED at a boxing event by promoters and publicists, is nothing but promotion. If he were really the one who "always asks the questions nobody wants asked," as he asserted during this YouTuber meeting of minds, he wouldn't be credentialed, he wouldn't be allowed within sniffing distance of the fighters. And, most likely, he'd be out of work or making peanuts running his own site because no major website would have him. Just touch on something that REALLY matters in this business and you see how fast you get tossed into the threshing machine.

Rahim may feel like he's "breaking" a story about so-and-so being in the best shape of his life or wanting this other so-and-so in the ring, but that's not really journalism. Maybe I've missed something over the years, though. Maybe he has done some work that actually reached beyond promotion. If so, I apologize. Somebody let me know the groundbreaking journalism this man has done. For me, however, he'll always be the guy who videoed himself gushing like a girl on prom night about Top Rank accommodations in Macau before Manny Pacquiao's first fight there in 2013 (That video has since been wiped from the face of the planet. Well, wiped from the face of YouTube, anyway). 

 But back to the broader issue.

There is no such thing as boxing journalism. 

These people who've created a living out of holding mics and, for the most part, being useful idiots willing to help sell fighters and events, are feeling the pressure right now. Their access has been pinched by the Covid shutdown. By all accounts, promoters and publicists will be going with mass video interviews for the time being, counting out one-on-one face time for safety reasons. 

And these self-proclaimed  "top tier" YouTube boxing people are scared shitless about their face time being cut off. Because, without their precious access, they would have to depend on their talent, wit, and knowledge. They'd have to make money based on their own ability as creators rather than the appeal of those they interview and their tenaciousness in pursuing face time with big, traffic-drawing names.

Michelle Joy Phelps' lament on this "Truth About YouTube Boxing" video over the frustration "when you're standing in a line and you're not prioritized" is indicative of the general nonsense out there today. Everybody standing there in line-- literally, everyone-- is waiting to ask pretty much the same damn questions of the fighters. What a tragedy it would be if you didn't get to ask your "who do you want to fight next" question!

In the big picture, a weak and/or delusional media has caused the sport all kinds of problems. A malleable media provides promoters and networks with free rein when it comes to putting out the worst quality product permissible. With nobody holding feet to the fire, the powers that be in boxing can get away with anything and everything. They certainly don't fear an imbecile holding a mic who's practically swooning at the thought of having face time with a real, honest-to-goodness star. They also don't fear the pretentious twit who knows that he makes his living off the kindness and generosity of the promoter, but pretends he's serving some noble cause.

Promoters have played this media and have helped turn access into currency. There can be nothing but conflict of interest in this kind of setup. These days, just about everything you see and hear-- especially if there's some face-to-face time involved-- is accepted for the purpose of promotion. 

Again, this is a major problem when the media is supposed to provide the checks and balances to the industry powerbrokers. 

And, yeah, before the flak comes back from this article, I do realize that FightHype also specializes in one-on-one video interviews, similar to those done by the people mentioned above. Well, I DON'T do any of that and the editor of FightHype has allowed me the platform to speak on whatever issues I feel need to be addressed. This is not a carpet-bombing of the "video interviewing" medium. This is merely an acknowledgement that lapdogs can never be guard dogs and that this sport, more so than any other, needs dogs with bite.

Got something for Magno? Send it here: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com

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