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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: HOW TO FIX BOXING (MEDIA)

By Paul Magno | July 03, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: HOW TO FIX BOXING (MEDIA)

Late last week, ESPN posted an article titled: “How to Fix Boxing,” written by Mike Coppinger.

Spoiler Alert: It offered no “fix” and just rehashed old grievances and gripes about the boxing business. 

It should’ve come as no surprise that the piece sported a very “things were better before” tone. That, after all, is the easy way out and, if you barter in quid pro quo arrangements with boxing bossmen to sustain your career, attacking anything that isn’t the status quo is pretty much a job requirement. 

It was odd timing for a "Boxing is Broken" article, by the way, less than a month away from two of the most highly-anticipated bouts in the sport [Inoue-Fulton, Spence-Crawford] and two months after the Tank Davis-Ryan Garcia blockbuster.

Anyway, Coppinger did manage to inspire some reasonable discourse on social media after his turd floated to the top of the boxing media toilet bowl. The topic of discussion? Why does the boxing media suck so fucking much?

I’ve tackled this issue many, many times in the past-- much to the great dismay of the swamp-assed establishment (or wannabe establishment) media. I’ll just give you the Cliffs Notes version today.

The boxing media sucks because it’s full of hacks, cheerleaders, and convenient idiots. Those who make it to the top of the food chain tend to be those who’ve perfected the art of passing along what they are told by promoters/publicists/managers/etc. They are not journalists, they are more like publicists who’ve leveraged “scoops” into gigs. Unfortunately, those “scoops” are only scraps of info strategically leaked to them for the benefit of those industry insiders doing the leaking. 

Never has this reality been clearer than over the last few months as media flailed and missed and/or botched several big stories because, well, nobody would spoon feed them the right story. 

Boxing fans were treated to several false-start “Sources say Spence-Crawford is a done deal” declarations. The Gervonta Davis side of the Ryan Garcia fight story was all over the place and about as reliably correct as a Donald Trump post on Truth Social. The media was also blindsided by the Davis-Garcia fight announcement, as they were with the eventual Spence-Crawford announcement, as they were with Canelo Alvarez’s decision to join forces with PBC, as they recently were with the Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo fight announcement. 

The common thread in all of the above is that they missed the stories because they weren’t GIFTED the stories. In other words, unless someone tells them the story, they don’t know it...or they get it from faulty sources with faulty info. Or, sometimes, presumably, they just fake it and hope everything turns out right.

ESPN’s Coppinger has been the living embodiment of this fractured dynamic over the last several days, looking like Rolly Romero swinging and missing big right hands. 

Appearing on the very last Max on Boxing ESPN 2 show Friday afternoon [Earlier that morning, it was announced ESPN had parted ways with Max Kellerman], “Copp” talked up Canelo facing Jermall Charlo. He’d look like a complete jackass, though, because, by the time the show aired, it had already been announced that Canelo would be fighting Jermall’s twin brother, Jermell. He would then make things worse for himself by hopping on social media and proceeding to act like he kinda, sorta knew this was happening all along (because “sources” told him) and “reporting” on it at ESPN as if he weren’t absolutely clueless about all of it just an hour or two earlier. 

This “hurry, gotta cover my ass” flailing almost makes one long for the Dan Rafael days at ESPN, where press releases were re-written as news content, but at least you knew that the schlock and nothingness would be consistent. 

This is not to pick exclusively on Coppinger. He just makes for the biggest target because some of us have had this zany and now clearly erroneous notion that ESPN should be better. He’s not the only one in the current boxing media who’s without any discernible investigative chops or journalistic curiosity, who only knows what he’s told. Actually, most of what gets high placement in the media is just publicity disguised as news. You, literally, can get up each morning and say “let's check the boxing websites and see what the promoters are telling the media to say today.” That’s not at all an exaggeration. 

The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone that ESPN’s “How to Fix Boxing” article came out as the boxing media’s dysfunction and general dipshittery was once again drawing attention to itself. Also brimming with irony was Ring Magazine’s own “Boxing is Broken” article from February, which trekked through the same laments as ESPN’s piece and bemoaned the inability to make some of the sport’s biggest fights-- just as some of those fights were being put together behind the scenes. 

It also shouldn’t be lost on anyone that ESPN (which has an output deal with Top Rank) and Ring Magazine (which is owned by Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya) came out with those pessimistic pieces smack dab in the middle of a well-received and lucrative run of fights by Top Rank/Golden Boy business rival Premier Boxing Champions (PBC). Why didn’t these outlets write their “Boxing is in a bad place” pieces last year, when things WERE pretty bad? The timing is curious.

If we’re discussing what’s wrong with boxing, it’s not that much of a leap to say that many of the sport’s problems are caused by, or made worse by, a weak and fatally flawed media that lacks gumption, lacks courage, and wields agendas in support of those boxing companies who support them. 

The boxing media lost the confidence of the boxing public a long time ago and they’re not going to get it back. A media that should be holding feet to the fire and forcing change through aggressive reporting and investigation now just complains to the open air before going back to the same uninspired, semi-informed, biased behavior that gives safe passage to those causing boxing’s problems in the first place. 

And, no, I’m not “jealous” or, as one boxing media dipshit whispered in a dark corner of the Twitterverse when I took a fellow media member to task a while back, “blaming” my “failures on others.” I don’t long for these guys’ jobs. Honestly, I’d rather jab shrimp forks into my eyeballs than have to sit there and write “Sources say, so-and-so is fighting so-and-so” articles or sit on press row and pretend to be important, all the while knowing that my presence there is pretty pointless. I wouldn’t mind having the platform some of these people have (and not have to produce CONTENT for side gigs to make extra money), but I’ve long come to accept the fact that, in the boxing media, if you have something worth saying that rubs the fraternal order the wrong way, you probably won’t get the platform to say it. And there’s nothing that rubs the establishment media the wrong way more-- and moves them to swift, decisive action-- than someone trying to hold them or their colleagues accountable for what they do. 

In my case, that meant freezing me out of the public discourse, keeping me from gigs, and trying to keep me from putting food on my family’s table (and I have plenty of “we’d love to hire you, Paul, but so-and-so on our staff doesn’t like you” emails to prove it). 

Thankfully, there’s a place like Fight Hype that offers me a platform and access to as many readers as any of these other “major” sites. And if Fight Hype ever bails on me, I can keep making a living through personal sites and social media. So, fuck the lot of them. 

But, I digress.

How they’ve treated me IS pretty indicative of their character. There are some good apples in the media bushel, but not many. The majority are the exact wrong kind of people you’d want as journalists covering a sport in desperate need of a strong media. Yet, here they are and, sad to say, this current boxing media culture isn’t going away any time soon. 

Oh, wait. I blasted the “How to Fix Boxing” article for not offering any answers on how to do it and now I’ve posted a “How to Fix Boxing Media” article without mentioning any possible fixes. So, let me think…

Maybe the answer starts with promoters, publicists, and fighters realizing that they can simply take their stories to social media and skip over media glad-handers entirely. Nobody in this day and age needs Coppinger or any other media person to deliver the news to them. Most people get their boxing news from social media, anyway. Cutting out the middleman in the news process, at least in this case, would be a positive. And, maybe, this would take the money out of shilling and bartering for scoops/access. Media members would then have to depend on the strength of their stories and the quality of their work rather than the shock value of their “exclusives.” Or maybe we can wait for the next BWAA banquet and then airlift the hall to some deserted island in the Atlantic. Either solution works for me.

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

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