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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DIVIDE AND CONQUER

By Paul Magno | September 18, 2023
NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: DIVIDE AND CONQUER

Social media is an eye-opener. I’ll admit that, despite needing it for work purposes, I’m not a fan of the medium. Running through that mess-- whether it be Facebook, Twitter/X, TikTok, or whatever-- is a little like running through the monkey house at the zoo, dressed in your best clothes, as chimps hurl their shit at you. And Twitter/X is especially good at delivering the nastiest of the hurled shit right to your face, warm and sticky.

There’s just an overabundance of idiocy on that platform, facilitated by the fact that all you really need to add your feces to the fray is an app, a finger, and a serious lack of self-awareness. 

But there is also an up side to social media, at least for those of us looking to get at the truth behind what some media people say and why they say it. The immediacy of the medium offers a window to the hearts, minds, and souls of people as they post and share what they really and truly feel in real time, without the chance to self-censor or temper their expressed beliefs. 

For those looking to get a handle on our boxing media, social media gives you insight into who’s wielding what agendas and why certain stories are covered certain ways.

We can see, for example, ESPN’s Mike Coppinger repost anti-PBC Tweets throughout his timeline and then see the rough edges of a firmly fixed agenda smoothed out by the time an article is published. With time to think, edit, and re-think before final submission, what hits the ESPN site is a professional bit of fluff, lacquered to give the impression of impartiality, but absolutely fueled by the same agendas and biases we all saw him brainstorm live on social media hours/minutes earlier.

Coppinger is not the only one accidentally spilling the beans about himself on social media, though.  

There are LOTS of examples of this. Too many to mention. Although I’d be remiss in not bringing up the Grand Poobahs of “I’m fair, impartial, professional-- just don’t look at my Twitter feed” journalism, Steve Kim and Dougie Fischer. These guys have made careers of publishing sanded down and varnished works, built from blueprints inside their muddled minds. Extra points go to Fischer, Editor-in-Chief of Ring Magazine, who managed to infect the entire Ring brand with that cancerous mindset, leading to some dubious hirings and, ultimately, oddly right-leaning boxing coverage that aided in murdering the print magazine and all but killing its companion website.

Lest I forget, though, I should mention that EVERYONE has bias and prejudice. This includes myself. If you ask my slanted assessment of myself, I’d say that I have a bias against injustice, unfairness and a bias IN FAVOR of the underdogs and those treated unfairly. If you ask others, they may say my biases are different. Throughout my years in the business, I’ve been called pro-Mayweather, pro-PBC, pro-black, pro-Latino, and plenty of nastier things. 

But I’d argue that I’m as fair and as impartial (and as across-the-board nasty) as boxing media gets-- to the point of getting myself blackballed by the establishment media for it. I put on these website pages exactly what I feel and how I feel it. If anything, I go harder here than in my social media feeds. There’s no effort to smooth out what I say so that the message gets through without having to dirty my hands getting it out there. My agenda is realness. Love it, hate it, try so desperately to ignore it.

The whole Shakur Stevenson-Frank Martin saga, for example, highlights much of what is wrong with boxing media and the fans who, for some dumb reason, believe what they see and hear from them.

Here’s the story in a nutshell for those who aren’t familiar:

Stevenson vs. Martin for the vacant WBC lightweight title was set to go to purse bid. The purse bid was called off by the WBC when it was announced that both sides had come to terms. A few days later, however, Martin’s side pulled out of the deal. What ensued was the usual bullshit us vs. them nonsense, with lots of unsubstantiated claims, Stevenson calling Martin a “duck,” Martin saying that he never agreed to the fight in the first place, and fans taking sides to engage in online trench warfare.

For us, the only truth to any of this, though, is that we know nothing about what happened and why things didn’t fall into place. There are only a handful of individuals who really know what happened in this situation and none of their partisan horse-in-the-race takes are to be trusted. I’ve, personally, heard some things, but all have come from sources with a vested interest in getting their own point across. Even if their takes align with my own personal biases, I’m not putting them out there on the public record. The truth matters and if I can’t get at the whole truth, I won’t say anything.

That’s why I’ll always suck at this boxing media stuff. I’m not good with just posting whatever’s leaked to me, without context and without concern for whether it’s actually true. Those with the largest platforms, though, ARE good with that. They built their careers on that will continue riding that strategy for as long as they can. 

And when you’re devious enough to stooge with a focused agenda? Then, you can really mess with the public narrative and nobody will know what the fuck is true or false.

That’s what’s going on now. Everything we get fed through our media is spin served to reporters who are desperate to keep churning out clickable content and/or obsessed with pushing their agendas. And, so, nobody really knows anything about anything.

That’s why I harp on boxing media. Knowledge is power and if reality can be spun so easily, so often, by just dropping nuggets of curated propaganda into the public discourse, fans lose their power. If us consumers are forever tied up fighting about things we don’t know, in defense of “our” side, none of us get the boxing product we deserve. 

Some would call this strategy “divide and conquer.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s a conscious effort by the media to divide us and conquer us or not, the result is the same. It’s almost as if the boxing bossmen were intentionally pitting boxing brother against boxing brother for their own benefit. Hmmmm.  

If everything is always the other guy’s fault, “our” guy gets free rein to give us inferior product because, well, they’d like to give us the fights we want, but that bad, bad “other” guy won’t cooperate. Can you imagine if Burger King tried to argue that they’re giving us shitty food because McDonald’s won’t let them sell Whoppers at their restaurants? Fucking insane. 

A generally lazy boxing media will gladly pass along that kind of silliness, though. It’s a simple black-and-white story to paint and, plus, it fits well inside the folds of their own biases.

Listen, the fighters are doing their jobs in the ring. The businessmen are doing their jobs outside the ring. The only ones not doing their jobs are the media and there's nobody who ever holds them accountable for that. As, ostensibly and begrudgingly, an at least fringe part of the media, I'd be a real jackass if I didn’t at least try to say something. Informed fans talk about the sad state of the boxing media all the time, but they don’t have reach beyond their social media pages. And, obviously, the media will not police itself. Therefore, I talk about the issue here. 

But fear not fans of the status quo and big shot media types, the earth is not exactly trembling under the weight of my mighty words. To be honest, hardly anyone gives a shit. But media matters DO matter and it can’t be overstated just how much the boxing product we see (or don’t see) is affected by the faults and flaws of the boxing media. 

I know, I know...I’m fighting an uphill battle with all this media talk or, as one media “veteran” once told me, mockingly, “shooting spitballs at battleships.” But, as I said earlier, the truth matters. 

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

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