Boxing, Gossip and Sadism

By Robert Ecksel on December 27, 2011
Boxing, Gossip and Sadism
A voyeuristic account of Floyd Mayweather’s jail cell isn't news. It’s sadism. (Robert Ecksel)

How did boxing, the province of men’s men, and gossip, the province of giggly teenage girls, become so darn cozy?

What is it about boxing and gossip?

If there was ever a sport that didn’t lend itself to gossip, one would think that sport would be boxing. Because boxing is what it is, especially when stripped bare and reduced to its primal essence, it would seem the unlikeliest bedfellow for the nattering rumormongers that cluck noiselessly but effervescently across the internet.

Granted, it’s not as though we who cover boxing have a major fight to cover every day, every week, every other week, or even every month. Everyone needs material. But not everyone creates it out of thin air. And now that boxing has moved from center stage to sports’ exurbs and squats on the fringe, are we required to squat on the fringe as well, physically, morally, intellectually? Or can we be on the outside looking in, while maintaining perspective at the same time as we uphold some standards?

It goes without saying that there are still huge fights and fortunes large and small to be made for a select few. And no other sport even comes close to boxing’s primordial, competitive ferocity. But times have changed and the public has changed with them, or has been changed by the times in ways that speak, much as Pavlov’s dogs speak, of more changes to come, few of which look encouraging.

But boxing is still boxing—there’s no mistaking it for anything else—in all its perfect symmetry, its bare bones aesthetic, its unrelenting intensity, its dark and mysterious beauty.

So how did boxing, the province of men’s men, and gossip, the province of giggly teenage girls, become so darn cozy? The need to produce new work, to post something, to write anything, no matter how superfluous, has something to do with this sorry state of affairs. But one thing is for certain: no higher calling—such as the need to generate interest in a genuinely interesting sport whose interest is on the wane—is in play.

But there’s something else which I can’t for the life of me put my finger on. I know some people love the inane, fluffy and repetitive trash which passes for culture in these woe begotten times. I also know that writing is more than simply dribbling words on paper. Writing, like culture, like boxing itself, has the potential to elevate. It depends on intention. If name-calling and cheap shots is the name of your game, carry on my brothers. But even you must admit that we’ve sunk pretty low in more ways than one, and something tells me we’ve not yet hit bottom.

Writing about who Victor Ortiz is or is not dating is not news. It’s tacky gossip, better suited to the exploits of Lindsey Lohan than the fight game. A voyeuristic account of Mayweather’s jail cell, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, isn’t news. It’s sadism. Anything written about David Haye is not news. It’s simply writers screwing the public in much the same way as Haye is screwing the public. The recent retiree’s eternal negotiations for a fight with Vitali Klitschko—who instead of saying “Right now I have one goal, to sign a contract to fight with David Haye” should maintain his dignity and refrain from uttering Haye’s name—has nothing to do with boxing and everything to do with Haye keeping himself in the spotlight so he can continue hawking his biography.

If one chooses to be part of that nonsense, have a ball, more power to you, knock yourself out. But understand that you do so at the risk of appearing absurd, or even worse.

How many times have we read of “a source” having told one writer or another than if fighter A gets by fighter B, in a fight that has yet to be made, fighter C, who might be fighting fighter D, could get a shot of the winner of the fight between fighters A and B, assuming fighter C defeats fighter D, and depending on whether or not fighter E, who’s the mandatory, agrees to step aside so that fighter C, should he get by fighter D if and when that fight happens, can get it on with the winner of the proposed fight between fighter A and B, if and when that fight gets made?

If you can follow that, and much of the not-so-idle speculation that permeates the web, congratulations from having graduated from Caltech.

Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, Paul Gallico, Dick Young and countless other sportswriters too numerous to name must be spinning in their graves at the realization that so many writers today strive to be, and in some cases have succeeded at being, little more than gossip columnists. If ever a sport didn’t need, nor deserve, to embody the heart and soul (or heartlessness and soullessness) of the New York Post’s Page Six, the sport is boxing.

This, however, will not change any time soon, if ever. If we’re not progressing we’re regressing. All God’s children got rhythm, and each of us is who we is, shaped by a myriad of influences, be they pro or con, or something bordering on know-nothingness that can result in hostility and/or indifference.

All of us who write about sports are “entombed in a prolonged boyhood,” quoting Jimmy Cannon, to a greater or lesser degree. News made be hard to come by, and hard news is even harder to come by. But fake news, aka rumor and gossip, is a poor substitute when one hungers for something of substance.

Being a writer is one thing. Being a typist quite another.

If we’re not lifting the readers up, we’re letting the readers down, whether we and the readers know or care to admit it.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. the thresher 09:27am, 12/31/2011

    Here is an example and the guy belongs to the BWAA:

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/995383-vanessa-bryant-victor-ortiz-manager-denies-hes-dating-kobe-bryants-wife

  2. the thresher 12:52pm, 12/30/2011

    Gossiping and lying go hand in hand.

  3. the thresher 12:52pm, 12/30/2011

    “It is the gossip columnist’s business to write about what is none of his business.”

    Louis Kronenberger

    Gossiping and lying go hand in hand


    Don’t speak evil of someone if you don’t know for certain, and if you do know ask yourself, why am I telling it?
                  Johan Kaspar Lavater

  4. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:45am, 12/28/2011

    Hearing the gossip about the issues Tyson was facing with Robin Givens and her mother prevented me from placing a wager on him for the Douglas bout in Japan. The more a handicapper knows the better he can be. Attributing the gossip to “writers” is for the writer to decide who he/she is and where they fit in. Gossip and rumor is as old as the oldest professions on the planet. We all shy away until we find ourselves pathetically participating while we point our fingers at someone else.

  5. the thresher 08:08pm, 12/27/2011

    “Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, Paul Gallico, Dick Young and countless other sportswriters too numerous to name must be spinning in their graves at the realization that so many writers today strive to be, and in some cases have succeeded at being, little more than gossip columnists. “


    Bingo!! How do you spell Rafael?

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