Why I Love Teddy Atlas: A Brief Discussion On Race In Boxing

Chris LenzCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2008

Warning: This article will mention race.  I am going to describe people by the color of their skin.  I am not racist.  I am not judging anyone based on race.  It just seems that on the day where the term "Black Hole" has been deemed too racist to be used to describe the centre of the galaxy (an anomaly described by scientists to be 'black' and behave like a 'hole.') that we are suddenly way to sensitive to mention the color of anything, let alone people.  I am not going to make this take too much of your time. 

I was sitting watching Friday Night Fights on ESPN2.  The under-card fight: Derrick Findley versus Andzrej Fonfara.  Derrick Findley was wearing white trunks with no trim and white shoes.  Fonfala was wearing white trunks with no trim and red shoes.

Joe Tessitore made a comment about how you don't see white trunks facing white trunks often.  He them said that you can tell them apart because Findley's trunks say "Findley" across the belt line.

Teddy Atlas' response: "He's also the black guy." 

I love you, Teddy.  You have a brilliant way to make things easy for us.

Within a few seconds after Atlas' brilliant observation of the characteristics distinguishing the fighters (one of two differences between the two, the other being the 5-foot-8 v. 6-foot-2 height differential), the graphic that normally identifies fighters with trunk colors appeared on the bottom of the screen. 

It had an extra bit of information: a note letting us know that the colors it showed were, in fact, the fighter's shoe colors.

Yes, friends, ESPN's cure for the dilemma of similar trunk colors was to use shoe colors as the differentiating characteristic.  Unfortunately, this sound reasoning by ESPN producers was lost due to the fact that the very graphic showing these colors was at the bottom of the screen, thus obfuscating the shoes of the fighters and making the graphic pretty much useless.

I've seen this happen so many times.  Two boxers are both wearing black trunks.  One has yellow trim and one has gold trim.  the graphics depicting their trunks are two black boxes, one with a yellow stripe, and one with a gold stripe.  (Note: yellow and gold, on standard definition television, aren't really all that distinguishable from each other). 

Also, two boxers are both wearing red: one with white and one with silver.  They show a graphic with two red boxes, one with a white stripe and one with a silver (that looks white) stripe.

In each case, you may have a white guy fighting a black guy, or Pacific Islander fighting a Puerto Rican, or some other mix, considering that boxing is a sport that transcends race, and may have been the first to do so.  Why is it so offensive to point out the obvious distinguishing characteristic?

If they would have both been wearing white shoes, then what?  Do we use hair color?  Facial hair style?  Voice timbre?  Birthplace?  (Poland versus Chicago: although, wouldn't it be racist to simply assume the white guy was Polish?)

I don't want to start a race war (although, I most likely have.  I'm sure there are sensitive people out there offended by phrases like "black guy" being used to describe a, ummm, black guy.), I just want to know why we can't make it easy on ourselves. 

When two boxers inadvertently wear the same color, then let's use what we have to tell them apart when broadcasting the fight.  It's not like they will call the fight using the descriptor, "Look at that, Teddy, the black guy caught the white guy with a beautiful right cross," they would simply say "Fonfara, the white guy, is fighting Findley, the black guy," and we'd all know who was who.

Teddy: you are brave enough to not care and do so.  Then again, you once pulled a gun on Mike Tyson, so you're probably brave enough for a lot of things.  Thanks for giving me a laugh and an article tonight.