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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: WTF?

By Paul Magno | February 27, 2024
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: WTF?

I’m not gonna lie, I hate following boxing these days. I guess it’s not wise for me to admit that-- as someone who makes a living writing about boxing. But when the fuck have I ever let wisdom stand in the way of telling the truth?

The boxing business sucks. The boxing media sucks. Boxing fans, in great part (not all), suck. The only thing that doesn’t suck is the actual fighting. And, even then, sometimes the fights suck. 

A lot of the general suckiness comes from social media or, maybe more correctly, is facilitated and amplified by social media. I once described using Twitter/X as something akin to driving through a city  taken over by mental patients, with your windows rolled down and the crazies hurling feces and dixie cups of piss at you from all directions. After about six full months back on social media following a long break from the madness, I hold firm on that assessment. 

And the media-- both old and new media-- have shaped themselves around this utterly chaotic insanity. 

Case in point-- last week. 

On Thursday, a few big stories started making the rounds on social media. 

There was the announcement from WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman that David Benavidez would be facing Oleksandr Gvozdyk for the interim WBC light heavyweight title, (in)directly killing the idea of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fighting Benavidez any time soon.

Fans went ape shit. 

Sampson Lewkowicz, David Benavidez’s promoter, then posted about a $55 million+ offer for Canelo to fight Benavidez which, apparently, was turned down, thereby necessitating his fighter’s move up in weight and the bout for the interim 175 lb. strap.

Canelo’s trainer and manager Eddy Reynoso would counter, via interview with ESPN Knockout, that he’s never received an offer, from anyone, for Alvarez to fight Benavidez. 

Fans went ape shit.

Then, ESPN’s Mike Coppinger posted via Twitter/X that a bout had been finalized between Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Frank Martin. 

Fans went ape shit.

It was a great fight. It was a terrible fight. It was proof positive that Tank was ducking the best in his weight class. It was proof positive that Tank WASN’T ducking the best in his weight class. 

Online skirmishes ensued. Social media carpetbaggers stoked the fires for “engagement” and penny clicks. 

After that, Davis’ trainer Calvin Ford went on The Rize Podcast and said that Tank-Martin “ain’t happening.” 

Oh my fucking God! Make it stop!

But it didn’t stop.

On Friday, Ryan Garcia took to social media to rebuff the claim that he’d be fighting Devin Haney at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on April 20-- something which was announced on Wednesday. Garcia, apparently, prefers a Las Vegas venue because, as he wrote, “This is a MGM fight” and that him and his team are “doing everything we can to bring this to Vegas and giving this fight what it deserves!!!”

At this point, fans were tired of going ape shit. They just sort of virtually shook their heads and posted varying versions of “WTF?”

The only constant throughout this mangled mess of a two-day news cycle was that our boxing media did nothing to clarify any of this. They just sort of reported on the nonsense, shuffled it out there for the public to ingest, and then stood back to bathe in any traffic coming their way. The new media, meanwhile, peddled and actually built upon the nonsense for their own penny-click purposes. A few evil souls took to social media to issue an assortment of fake “sources say” stories, attributed to Coppinger and to other media people. 

Man. I don’t know what all this is, but it sure as hell ain’t sports coverage. 

The one thing I DO know is that fans, as is usually the case, will be on their own when it comes to determining fact or fiction. Don’t expect anyone to ride in and save the day by providing clarity. 

The wild misinformation-- much of it intentional-- is slicing at the seams of the sport’s fabric, making things harder to follow and breaking down stars just as they’re being built. It’s gotten to the point where some fans are actually rooting AGAINST fights being made. What the fuck is that?

It should be noted, though, that people have grown so accustomed to disregarding media that the mixed-up confusion and media-as-promotion don’t really affect big-picture sales anymore. Floyd Mayweather was ripped to shreds by media and social media for years, yet he grew more and more commercially successful as the nastiness flowed. Gervonta Davis takes more shit than a toilet seat at the St. Louis Greyhound bus terminal, yet his star continues to rise. 

For now, things will be just fine for the “big” stars, the ones who can appeal to a more mainstream audience and who’ve built a loyal grassroots base. That’s because the vast majority of non-hardcore, non-fanatical boxing fans never check into boxing media or the YouTube boxing universe or even boxing dialogue on social media. They have not been exposed to the poison that passes for discourse these days and haven’t been injected with the neurotoxin that tells them they must take sides, perpetually hate so-and-so, and bring about the downfall of an “enemy” boxing company. 

But the hardcore fans? The ones who have a passion for the sport, move all around the internet to find boxing content, and, ultimately, watch all the shows and buy all the pay-per-views? These people are becoming frustrated. Some of them are walking away, tossing aside sometimes decades of loyalty because everything is just such a dark, discouraging, negative mess these days. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get at least a couple of emails or messages starting with “I used to be a big boxing fan…”

Losing the loyalists is a problem. These people are the ones who put the money into the pot needed to build boxing stars into box office stars. 

I don’t have any real answers as to how to stop the insanity passing for news coverage and discourse, other than to just try and stay away from it. But that’s not realistic. We’re boxing fans and we want to hear about and talk about boxing. 

I do, however, have some advice to those fans willing to wade through the muck and mire, but also eager to maintain their sanity and clarity of mind. So, here it is:

Unless you’re someone with direct and personal knowledge, you don't know shit about anything happening on the business end of things-- nothing. You just know what is leaked to select media by those with a vested interest in having their side look good or by those passing along some sort of tale to satisfy their agenda. Accept that you don’t know anything and resist the urge to be a gigantic jackass, arguing about things you don’t really understand, using info you don’t really know to be true. Just wait until the fights are signed, officially announced, and then watch the fighters get in the ring. Enjoy. That's it. Save your social media energies for positive discussions, like debates over who beats who or predictions for fights already signed, things that build the sport rather than inject it with cynicism.  

You don’t have to be an “insider” with inside info or pretend to have a keen eye for the nuts and bolts of boxing business. You don’t have to be a pugilistic sleuth uncovering make-believe injustices. You don’t have to be fighters’ or promoters’ junior assistant accountants, fighting over money issues when you have zero access to any real financials. Just watch the fucking fights and enjoy...or not. Pretend it’s a pre-internet 1960 and boxing is only about the fights and the fighters. 

I guarantee your boxing life will be much happier...and boxing, itself, will be a better place.

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

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