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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DUCK, DUCK, GOOFS

By Paul Magno | January 30, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DUCK, DUCK, GOOFS

Let me propose something to you. Let’s make it so that you can earn a living at your job for, at most, 10-15 years, but probably much less and with the distinct possibility that your livelihood (and general well-being) could end after each and every day of work. But here’s the good part. Whatever you do for a living, let’s now pay you half. And let’s also make your job at least twice as difficult for your half-pay. Okay?

You got a problem with that? Not lining up to work under those terms? Are you some kind of pussy or what?

I’m sure you’ve put two and two together and realize that I’m talking about boxers. More specifically, though, I’m talking about this fan (and media) attitude regarding boxers and labeling them “ducks, chickens, etc.” for certain matchmaking decisions. 

It shouldn’t need to be said that every fighter and his team, throughout the entire history of boxing, has played the risk vs. reward game when it comes to matchmaking. Everyone, in every era of the sport, has tried to maximize reward and minimize risk. If you’re not playing that game, you’re probably a broke journeyman paying the light bill with your ring earnings. But, even then, journeymen also take fights measuring how much they can make against how much they’re being asked to sacrifice. 

This is just what you HAVE to do if you want to make a living and provide for your family as a fighter. You have to disregard the “shit-headedness” of fans and media-- who don’t take any of the punishment, have none of your responsibilities, and will, most definitely, not be there to help you provide for your family when you’re 40 and no longer able to fight. 

I bring all of this up because of the recent Jose Ramirez-Regis Prograis drama that continues to drag through social media, pulling the lifeless corpse of Ramirez’s reputation behind it. 

If you don’t know what went down, here’s the Cliffs Notes version.

Former two-belt titlist Ramirez rejected a proposed junior welterweight title shot against newly-crowned WBC champ Prograis, balking at the 65-35 money split in the champion’s favor should the fight go to purse bid. And going to purse bid, in this case, would be a given since Ramirez’s promoter Top Rank refuses to do business with Prograis’ promoter Probellum over Probellum’s supposed ties to alleged Irish cartel head Daniel Kinahan. 

Ramirez and his people argue that, as the fighter with the proven greater drawing power, he deserves a larger money share against Prograis, who is the lesser draw and lacks Ramirez’s ESPN-backed revenue generation muscle.

Ramirez has since moved on to a March 25 bout with former lightweight titlist Richard Commey. He’s probably making less than what he would’ve made taking the 35% of the Prograis purse bid, but he’s also assuming less risk against the more stylistically favorable Commey, who is 1-2-1 in his last four bouts. 

Since that business move, Ramirez’s name has been dragged through the muck, with even some media people sharing “duck” memes focusing on the Avenal, California native, who, with his all-action style and willingness to go to war, had earned a reputation as a throwback-style warrior. 

There’s a lot that’s not fair about this situation. 

Most of all, there’s no reason whatsoever that Ramirez should ever have been put in a position to talk about this business decision in the first place. That’s why the man has a promoter and a manager. Although it’s ultimately a fighter’s decision to fight or not fight, it’s not his job to explain decisions that affect his family’s financial well-being or to argue his case in the court of public opinion. 

Every time Ramirez popped up on a live social media stream to argue his side of the story and every time he gave an interview to some reporter about the matter, it was a cringe-worthy public relations fail. There was no fighter explanation that would suffice. This decision to pass on the Prograis fight was a business decision and, honestly, it was the right decision for him to make. It’s the decision I would’ve made for a fighter I was representing, especially in Ramirez’s position. 

But the internet is full of pretend tough guys who always seem to know how others should conduct their business. So, the grief Ramirez got was entirely expected. 

I personally get a little twinge in my gizzard every time I hear someone calling a fighter’s courage into question or joking about ducks. If someone truly understands the risk these men and women take-- both in the here and now and down the line in the form of neurological impairment and/or things like crippling arthritis-- there’s no way they should be burying them for looking after their own future. If someone really knew and appreciated the hard work that goes into being a world class boxer, they would understand how important it is for a fighter to make sure their business and money are in order. 

Douche bags will be douche bags, though. The sad fact is that a good portion of the people who talk about how much they love boxing and respect the sport’s noble warriors, don’t really give a flying fuck about the fighters above and beyond what happens in the ring. The shit talk is especially vexing because, as is often the case in boxing, there’s a huge double standard in who gets blasted and who gets a free pass for the exact same behavior. But that’s a topic for another day. 

Yeah, I know, “This is what they signed up for…They knew what they were getting into.” Still...let’s have some respect and understanding. Nobody becomes a fighter to NOT fight. Nobody pushes themselves through the blood, sweat, and tears of a fighter’s life because they’re a coward. And, ultimately, nobody should be asked to throw themselves through an endless gauntlet of body and brain-twisting punishment without fair compensation and the right to career self-determination.

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

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