10 Moments That Make Boxing Fans' Blood Boil
Life can be tough for a boxing fan. Between promoters who won't make the fights we want and judges who can't get things right, there are plenty of occasions to get ticked off.
Now, in all honesty, I am a man who tries to practice tranquility and gratitude in my life. It's the only way to ever be truly content.
But the world is an imperfect place and a chance to be angry waits around every corner. If you're a boxing fan, chances are your blood boils over at some of the following things.
When There Is Too Much Clinching
Clinching is a legitimate tactic in boxing and any well-trained fighter knows how to position himself in the clinch to potentially capitalize with his offense. I enjoy watching a fighter who can use and exploit the clinch, but I'll be the first one to admit, it's not exactly the sweetest aspect of the science.
There is a reason why John Ruiz is not among the most fondly remembered former heavyweight champions, and there is a reason many boxing fans are still grumbling about Wladimir Klitschko's unanimous-decision win over Alexander Povetkin last October in Moscow.
I'll always stand by the clinch as a valid technique. But if you end up with a situation like in the Klitschko-Povetkin fight, where the referee completely neglects to enforce the rules and keep the action going, a clinch-heavy match can certainly become sluggish and ugly to watch.
When There Is Too Much Defense
I chock this one up to a dumbing down among the boxing fanbase. Willie Pep was able to become one of the biggest stars of his era based on his defensive brilliance.
And, I'll add, Pep was fighting in an era when the United States was a far more rugged and hard-nosed culture. In an era when most fans had actually been punched in the face at some point themselves, there was more appreciation for the guys who could avoid it.
I've been at live fights before where some former amateur standout was putting on a clinic, a true thing of beauty, while landing plenty of hard, jolting punches, and there is always some turkey in the nose bleeds who starts shouting in indignation because he's not being entertained by watching a couple of kids take turns smashing their heads in.
After the last card I covered live, I actually interrupted an argument a fan had started with a member of Philadelphia lightweight prodigy Karl Dargan's entourage, accusing Dargan of having "run" during his near shutout of fellow-unbeaten Michael Brooks.
I usually stay out of that kind of thing, but I had been sitting next to the punch-stat technicians, so I knew how relatively busy Dargan had been.
"He threw more than a punch every three seconds, over the course of the entire fight," I told this fan. "You couldn't keep that pace up on a hanging bag for 10 rounds."
When Boxing Nerds Lecture Them About Appreciating Defense
I am an unapologetic propagandist for defensive boxing. I think it's important to value defensive skills and promote them, both for the health of the individual fighters and for the health of the sport in a culture where there is growing awareness about head trauma.
But I wouldn't talk down to somebody who liked Led Zeppelin for failing to like Miles Davis. Led Zeppelin is one of my all-time favorites, to be honest. I could probably listen to just "Whole Lotta Love" at least three or four times a day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it.
But Led Zeppelin fans should be willing to consider that when it comes to achieving the pure sublime in music, Miles Davis is closer to getting the job done. And if you like Led Zeppelin, I think you have good taste and probably have the capacity to develop an appreciation for Miles Davis.
Learning enough about the technique of the two arts to enjoy jazz music or elite defensive boxing is a worthwhile pursuit. I recommend doing either to anybody with the free time, and would suggest locating some kind of legitimately knowledgeable teachers in both cases.
On the other hand, some people think Michael Bolton has achieved the most powerful levels of soulful vocal power in the history of music. Even though one assumes, at some point, these people have had the opportunity to hear the likes of Sam Cooke or Joe Cocker, as well.
That kind of taste is okay, too, I suppose. But if your approach is that lowbrow when it comes to fighting, then go ahead and skip over boxing. There are felony fights and tough-man-competition videos for you on YouTube.
When MMA Fans Say Boxing Is Boring
First of all, this one goes both ways. I see a lot of boxing fans trying to dismiss MMA as unskilled street fighting.
And truly serious MMA fans know very well how effective boxing is, from seeing it applied in the MMA context. They respect it, even if it's not something they make a lot of time for. Plenty of hard-core boxing fans honestly have no idea what they are looking at when it comes to MMA yet still offer strong opinions.
But there is a core group among the current MMA fanbase that is just into sensationalistic violence, or else whatever is cool with the tough guys. They root for MMA against boxing as if it was their favorite team, not their favorite sport.
They create a rivalry that doesn't even truly exist and then attack boxing because of it. And they drive a lot of boxing fans mad.
When Young Fighters Are Too Cocky
A young fighter needs to have a certain swagger. It takes quite a bit of confidence just to climb up into a ring and fight somebody in front of a crowd.
If you plan to make your living that way, fighting the best in the world, then it probably helps to be a little bit bold and brash. But there is a fine line there, and boxing fans hate to see a relatively unproven fighter strutting his way across it.
That's why the excitement was so high when Marcos Maidana beat up the undefeated Adrien Broner last month. Broner had spent the entire year telling anybody who would listen that he was the future of the sport, despite having done next to nothing to show that this was the case.
That kind of cockiness rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way. And they were all ready to unload when Broner stumbled.
When the Alphabet Soup Commissions Get Silly with Their Titles
Boxing fans love to talk about the good old days when there was only one recognized champion in each weight class. While not even boxing fans my age, in their 40s, actually remember a time before there was a WBA and WBC, the true age of alphabet soup silliness started within the past 30 years.
In today's boxing world, it's not just that the IBF and WBO have joined the WBA and WBC to muddy the waters. The sanctioning bodies frequently undercut the value of their own titles.
It's not unusual to see an alphabet soup sanctioning more than one interim world champion in a weight class where its current champion is still completely active. Even more annoying is when it elevates its world champion to "super" world champion status and then turns around and sanctions a second "regular" champion.
The WBA has been particularly ridiculous in this regard.
The title situation has been a running gag for two generations now. But more legitimate champions would go a long way toward building back up the sport.
When They Remember How Much Great Boxing Used to Be on Free Television
There was a time when you didn't have to pay a bunch of monthly fees to cable companies and premium cable networks just to follow boxing. There were major fights on free television every week.
When I was a kid, I watched fighters like Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler for free on weekend afternoons. Larry Holmes fought on Saturday night at times.
In those days, it was still possible to become a boxing fan naturally, just because you were a kid who watched sports in general.
In today's softer world, prize fighting has been pushed to the margins, as a niche sport. And to watch the biggest stars on a regular basis requires a financial investment.
When 'Friday Night Fights' Gets Delayed for NASCAR
Every week I look forward to ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. It's how my weekend officially kicks off.
But I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person. By Saturdays I'm rested enough to make it through the big HBO or Showtime cards. But sometimes on Friday nights I struggle to stay awake.
It's not so bad when Friday Night Fights starts at its regular nine o'clock time. But the four-letter network has a tradition of treating boxing like a neglected stepkid.
I've seen it delay the start of Friday Night Fights for Karate competitions, which are essentially dance contests. I've seen it delay it for tennis.
Tennis is a pretty good sport, but how are you going to bump a blood-and-guts sport like boxing for a country-club sport?
But what drives me most batty is when I am sitting around waiting for a car race to get finished so boxing will begin. How does this even happen on a "sports" network? Since when is taking left turns in a motor vehicle a sport?
When Boxing Politics Prevents Big Fights
Boxing fans have wanted to see one fight more than any other since the early days of Obama's first term in office: Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather. Still, the fight has never come to pass.
I honestly don't think the impasse has anything to do with one fighter being afraid of the other. The obstacle to that fight getting made is simple. Floyd Mayweather won't do business with Bob Arum and Bob Arum doesn't want to do business with Floyd Mayweather.
But Mayweather-Pacquiao is just one great fight that has gone unmade due to boxing politics. The Golden Boy-Top Rank feud has kept an entire slate of great potential fights from coming to pass.
Just thinking about it fills boxing fans with disgust and regret.
When the Judges Can't Get It Right
"Never leave it in the judges' hands" is an old prizefighting adage. But I don't really accept that. Some fights are going to go the distance, and when they do, fighters should be able to rely on judges to do a fair and competent job.
But all too often the judges fail, and when they do, it drives boxing fans nuts.
Judging a fight can be very hard, make no mistake about it. And a judges' prior knowledge can influence what they see a little bit, even if they are trying hard to avoid it. In a fast-paced fight, a judge is probably more likely to notice the scoring of the fighter he or she already expected to win.
But we've all seen fights in recent years, and too many of them, where one or more of the judges seem to have filled out their cards in the hotel before heading to the fight. Other times, judges clearly seem unable to separate crowd excitement for a hometown fighter from what is actually happening in the ring.
Fighters sacrifice too much in their training and their fights to risk losing because a judge is incompetent or corrupt.