By Paul Magno | July 18, 2023

What’s the difference between me and so many other members of the boxing media (other than, like, me having 50% more testosterone and almost zero instances of swamp ass)? I actually own up to my mistakes and wrong calls-- and I do so publicly, in the same space where I made the blunder, with the same energy I generated in making the mistake in the first place. 

So, this week, before everyone in the known boxing universe amps themselves up for a next week that has Inoue vs. Fulton and Spence vs. Crawford in it, I’ll take the opportunity to talk about something other than Inoue-Fulton and Spence-Crawford-- I’ll talk about my horrible self. Here are three things I always get wrong about boxing (and you probably do, too).

Boxing on TV-- The Ratings Spell Doom and Gloom

Drawing a comparison between TV boxing ratings today and TV boxing ratings decades ago is a simple way to spotlight the dwindling boxing audience. But it’s too simple. It’s so simple that it’s misleading, misleading to the point of being useless. 

It’s true that traditional TV boxing numbers are way down and have increasingly trended that way for a long time now. 

But what the old man inside me fails to grasp is that the downward spiral has gone hand-in-hand with several mitigating factors, including the changing viewing habits of TV watchers these days.

Boxing shows face a fierce level of competition for eyeballs in this era of a million cable channels and streaming services. They also face competition from other sports (combat as well as non-combat) and, often times, even have to face competition from other boxing shows counterprogrammed directly against them. 

It’s also a reality that, more and more, viewers-- especially young ones-- are simply not watching television anymore and, if they do, they are watching on-demand replays of events later on. An increasing number of viewers also plug in digitally, via streaming apps or other internet services, or they wait to catch the event recorded somewhere on YouTube or Daily Motion. By industry estimates, less than half the audience for a fight these days is watching via traditional TV/satellite.

The numbers are not as dire as what the TV-only ratings show. Not as many people are watching live, in the moment, on TV, but the numbers start to even up when you tally all views, from all times, on all platforms. 

For example, Stephen Fulton vs. Daniel Roman in June of 2022 drew a paltry 200k viewers live on Showtime. The fight replay on PBC’s YouTube channel, though, has generated 381K views in little over a month (although, I bet a lot of that is from Japanese fans checking out Inoue’s next opponent). If you take the live viewers, add in the video views and all the views coming digitally and/or after Nielsen stopped recording live event viewers, you get a grand viewership total comparative to “classic” Showtime Boxing.

Another reality is that many viewers are finding illegal ways to watch events and that, alone, takes away a good chunk of the audience. Piracy is a major issue, but not necessarily a death blow. Piracy almost killed the music industry at the dawn of the internet age, but artists and execs adapted, modified their business model, and righted their ship. Boxing can do the same. 

So, viewership in boxing is not as much of an issue as my instincts say it is. The real issue is in monetizing in new ways so as to make better revenue streams from the new way people view content. 

The Belts Don’t Matter

I get a sanctimonious twitch in my gizzard when I see the shenanigans that come from boxing’s sanctioning bodies. The reaction is visceral. “Let’s just ignored these alphabet soup organizations,” the boxing nerd in me shouts into the cyberverse. “The belts don’t matter!”

But, guess what? The belts DO matter.

As a matter of fact, it could be argued that the whole multiple world champions/multiple belts system has been boxing’s greatest asset over the past few decades.

In this day and age of boxing as a niche sport, becoming more reliant upon international participation, having four world champs per division has been a positive thing. It has allowed world class boxing to reach Eastern Europe, new parts of Asia, and other growing boxing markets. It has helped create new stars and has put more money in more fighters’ pockets. It has also served as a tremendous advertising tool for the sport via buzz created by fans’ champ vs. champ dream clash debates. 

The belts have been, pretty much, the only marketing tools proven to be successful these days in getting young and rising stars increased attention. Those belts, as much as it pains boxing nerds to admit, matter A LOT to the young fighters coming up to grab them. The belts matter when it comes to getting a head start in promoting a young career (or salvaging an old one). Even if they aren’t REAL championships, the belts ARE real valuable in building a fighter’s star power and reputation. 

And, let’s be honest here. Nobody is staying away from boxing because they don’t know who the REAL super featherweight champ is. Conversely, nobody’s rushing to boxing because we currently have more unified four-belt champs than ever. 

The funny thing is that fans also know this to be true because, no matter how many times they tell themselves the belts DON’T matter or that media-awarded titles are a better alternative, they always fall back to putting importance on the sanctioning body belts. They complain about fighters disrespecting belts by not defending them or by defending them against unworthy opposition and they still enthusiastically buy into belt vs. belt unifications...because...yeah...the belts matter. 

Paying Attention to Boxing Media

Am I obsessed with the boxing media? Maybe, a little bit. But only because these people fucking suck so much. I mean, seriously, the mainstream boxing media, literally, only prints what it’s prompted to print by the promoters and publicists who feed them info. There is zero investigative curiosity among these people and nothing even resembling real journalism. They live in an echo chamber of like-minded media twats who pat one another on the asses and ferociously ignore any degree of accountability. 

As I wrote in a recent Notes from the Boxing Underground column:

“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.”

True (Yeah, I just shamelessly quoted myself and even more shamelessly agreed with myself). 

So, then, why the fuck do I sometimes believe what I read in the boxing media? 

Sometimes I take these dolts and the shit they shovel at face value-- knowing full well that they are dolts and shit-shovelers-- before having to walk myself back, re-think what I’ve read, and put things into perspective. 

It’s an instinctive thing. You read something in a supposed place of prominence and the lazy/easy take is to accept it as truth. 

And maybe it IS truth, but just a part of a truth, released to a reporter for strategic purposes. Maybe it’s true-ish, passed along as a way to establish or alter a narrative. Maybe it’s a complete and total lie, meant to misguide or misdirect. 

Whatever the case, one thing is for certain-- the boxing media won’t be breaking their backs to get to the bottom of what’s real and what’s not. 

Even I, the greatest of mainstream boxing media critics, get lulled into taking their public relations-as-news as actual reality. I know what this kind of stuff does to the general public. Every day, I see the impact this faux journalism has on the public discourse, twisting it into pretzel knots. With everyone misinformed to varying degrees and the media continuing to pile on heaps of dung, it’s no wonder  nobody gets to the bottom of anything in this sport.

It’s always worth remembering (and I have to remind myself) to believe nothing you read, see, or hear from boxing media. Take it for granted that we know just a fraction of what’s happening out there and that the info we do get has been carefully placed for public consumption to serve someone’s ulterior motive. 

That includes info you get from me. 

Take nothing for granted. Doubt everyone. Question everything. Do the work to find out what’s true and what’s bullshit. And hold feet to flame when someone steers you wrong. 

Got something for Magno? Send it here:

SEPTEMBER 21, 2023
SEPTEMBER 18, 2023
SEPTEMBER 14, 2023
SEPTEMBER 11, 2023
SEPTEMBER 07, 2023
SEPTEMBER 06, 2023
SEPTEMBER 04, 2023
SEPTEMBER 01, 2023
AUGUST 31, 2023
AUGUST 28, 2023
AUGUST 25, 2023
AUGUST 24, 2023
AUGUST 21, 2023
AUGUST 17, 2023
AUGUST 14, 2023
AUGUST 11, 2023
AUGUST 10, 2023
AUGUST 07, 2023
AUGUST 04, 2023
AUGUST 03, 2023
AUGUST 02, 2023
JULY 31, 2023
JULY 30, 2023
JULY 27, 2023
JULY 24, 2023
JULY 20, 2023
JULY 16, 2023
JULY 13, 2023
JULY 11, 2023