Yank vs. Brit Boxing Fans: What's All The Fighting About?

Alan ThomsonCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2008

Despite rumors (or shall I say rumours?) to the contrary, apparently all of the major disputes between the Yanks and the Brits were not settled with the Treaty of Paris.

Certain boxing websites, blogs and forums have grown rife with animosity between fans domiciled on both the east and west ends of the Atlantic.

One doesn’t have to search these places very long before encountering a Brit who views Yanks as rude, arrogant sods who stop spewing verbal rubbish only long enough to stuff another hamburger into their fat faces.

And at least a few Americans view their British counterparts as either obtuse, insular blokes “hanging on in quiet desperation” as the mighty Floyd once proclaimed, or pub dwelling, perpetually pissed (we in the States have an entirely different meaning for that word) miscreants possessing all of the social graces of John Lydon circa 1977.

The apparent cause of the vitriol seems to be the perceived disrespect of British boxers shown by some American bloggers and writers. The Americans, for their part, feel the Brits to be too thin skinned regarding their fighters, unable to swallow even the least bit of criticism as well as demonstrating an anti-American attitude in general.

I have to agree that indeed some of these American “writers” seem to exist for the sole purpose of getting under the skin of British fans by trashing their fighters. At the same time, if the Brits better understood the culture of American sports fans, they would probably be less likely to take offense to the more reasonable criticisms made by legitimate American writers.

As a long time boxing fan from America who has only recently been exposed to my fellow British fans en masse, I was quite surprised to find this “Yank versus Brit” sniping occurring.

I was surprised because here in the States, among my many friends and acquaintances, I have yet to hear a single word of anti-British sentiment. My hand to God. I cross my heart. On my grandmother’s grave. Not a word.

Of course, in the arenas on fight night where national anthems are being played and booed, flags are being waved and songs are being sung and shouted down, it is a different story. I’ve been to fights like this. It is a two-way street. Fans from both camps tend to become very vocal and nationalistic.

Of my American friends and acquaintances, more than half were pulling for Calzaghe to beat Hopkins and all but one wanted Hatton to lump Mayweather – and he was from Floyd’s hometown. Floyd’s skills are revered in the States but his attitude is generally loathed.

The rubbish that is being strewn toward British fighters by some of these American so called “writers” is exactly that - complete rubbish. The talentless hacks who write this nonsense are generally identifiable by their inability to string two coherent sentences together.

They are not legitimate writers, journalists or spokesmen for American boxing fans. They are a small but irritatingly vocal minority who apparently have nothing better to do than rabble rouse within the safety and anonymity of cyberspace. Unfortunately, ignorance and stupidity are not constrained by nationality, creed or gender.

That being said, American fans and sportswriters tend to be very demanding. They have a “show me” attitude. There is very little coddling of American boxers in the States. If someone is touted as an up and coming fighter, he had better perform like one because if he shows any flaws the fans and writers will let his shortcomings be known.

Oscar de la Hoya, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist, had his abilities as a fighter continually questioned well into his professional career. Jermain Taylor, another U.S. Olympic medalist, even after having beaten Bernard Hopkins twice was relentlessly criticized in defeating Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks.

For better or worse, this is American sports culture. The bar is set high and fans demand top-notch performance. They’ve done it to the most beloved of American fighters, they did it to Lennox Lewis and now they’re doing it to Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton and David Haye.

Lewis cleaned out the heavyweight division, redeemed himself from a couple of mental lapses, and is now somewhat of an icon in the States.

Calzaghe is much respected in the U.S. as a truly gifted fighter. Unfortunately, until a couple of years ago his fights had rarely been shown on American television. And American fans are used to seeing more of a fighter before enshrining him into their psyches as a true legend of the ring. They adore their legends but need to have their inherent doubts erased before knighting one.

Which brings us to one of the main debates regarding Calzaghe. The mentality in the States leans toward the idea that the fighter who either wears the belts or sits atop the pound for pound list is the man and all others are challengers who need to come to him in order to present their challenge.

If a fighter wants to be known as the best, he must seek out the best at whatever cost necessary to make the fight happen.

Hence the ongoing sniping over whether Calzaghe ducked Jones or vice versa. The truth is that Joe didn’t duck Roy. They never fought due to business reasons. Joe was raking in the cash filling seats in the UK and Roy, as pound for pound king, didn’t feel the need to leave the continent to fight in anyone’s backyard.

So among educated U.S. fans, the feeling is that Calzaghe didn’t duck. He just didn’t seek at any cost and as a result we can only be left to speculate as to who would have won.

Today, if anyone wants a piece of Calzaghe, who sits at or near the top of most pound for pound lists, he had better be prepared to fight at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff if that’s where Joe wishes to fight. No one expects Calzaghe to make a pilgrimage to Budapest or Dresden in search of undefeated WBO light-heavy champ Zsolt Erdei.

And if a junior welterweight from the States wants to have a go at Hatton and is not game to jump on a plane, catch a boat with steamer trunk in tow or swim his way to the UK he doesn’t deserve to be granted the challenge. And when he gets there he had better be ready to fight at Wembley, M.E.N. Arena in Manchester or in the alleyway behind Ricky’s favorite pub if necessary.

To that end, if David Haye is expecting to take a crack at one of the Klitschko boys, let’s hope that he’s mapped out his commute to Germany.

Above all else, American sports fans respect quality performance. Professional sports leagues in America have become diversified with foreign talent to the point that fans don’t think twice about it. They shower foreign athletes with both the same criticism and adoration, when earned, as they do American athletes.

The most popular player in the most popular sport in the U.S. in recent years has likely been Ichiro Suzuki, a baseball player from Japan. Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki was voted America’s National Basketball Association’s MVP in 2007.

Americans, the majority of whom are of European descent, are more than willing to embrace British fighters. They just have their methods of scrutinization which apply to all athletes, American and non-American alike.

I don’t suspect that one article is going to stop the bickering. The jackass “writers” who live to slam British fighters will continue to do so. And anti-American sentiment tends to die hard so I assume that I’ll be criticized by some, for one reason or another, as being a “typical Yank”.

I think that people just tend to like to fight. Maybe that’s why we’re all such avid boxing fans. Well, I gave it my best shot. So back to the blogs and forums. And let’s get ready to rumble!