This one drives me absolutely crazy, probably because I know a lot of professional fighters and I know how hard they work and what they are risking to earn their paychecks. Calling a guy who puts himself on the line as a prizefighter a "bum" is disrespectful of him as a person, and disrespectful of the entire sport.
I'm more than happy to give a free pass here to a guy like Mickey, an old-time trainer who has been around the sport for years and is trying to motivate his fighter.
But when I hear a so-called fan, often as not a beer-bellied schlub who wouldn't last four rounds with a heavy bag, lobbing the slur at anybody who doesn't quite measure up to world championship status, I do bristle.
There is such a thing as a professional opponent, a guy who routinely takes fights against guys who he just doesn't have the physical tools to beat. Often these guys are former prospects or contenders who didn't quite pan out.
They aren't bums, though. More often than not, they have a high level of boxing craft and IQ. Without this kind of guy, there would be no sport.
There are other guys who make an honest go of it and end up getting beaten more often than they win. Boxing is a brutal one-on-one sport and only one competitor gets to win.
On the non-televised portion of a Friday Night Fights card I covered last January, there was a four-round lightweight bout between a 3-8-1 fighter and a prospect who was 3-0 with three KOs.
The 3-8-1 kid was well conditioned and had clearly put in serious work in the gym. He sure didn't show up looking to drop to 3-9. He got knocked down in Round 3 but still fought well enough in the other rounds to only lose by split decision.
I know there are plenty of fans out there who would snicker at that kid's 3-9-1 record. And knowing that makes me a little sick to my stomach.
I'll certainly concede that sometimes you'll see a guy in a fight who is clearly just there to get beaten up and collect a check. A promoter who would knowingly load up a card with fighters like that is, to my mind, an exploitative creep. The paying fans would have every right to be mad.
But even then, I hesitate to call the fighters in question bums. I've been hit in the head enough times in my life to consider it an extremely tough way to earn a living, especially if you don't even have a chance to win.
I feel like any fighter who has gotten to the point where he feels like that's the best option he has left to earn a few bucks deserves empathy over contempt.