Virgil Hunter may be a master of the X’s and O’s of boxing, but his knowledge of the sport’s fans and media is severely lacking.
Hunter is known for his straight talk, but he stepped into the mud (we think it’s mud) with these comments to FightHype.com (h/t Michael Woods of Ring TV) after his man Andre Berto lost a near-shutout decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. this past Saturday in Las Vegas: “If you’re a fan and you’re critical, like I said before, you’re not a real boxing fan.”
Yeah, that's not going to go over well.
But Hunter wasn’t done. He next zeroed in on the media who didn’t properly lavish praise on the fight:
But the ones that are here because of the fight, if you’re going come and report on the fight, you shouldn’t criticize the fight. You’re not going to go to church and criticize the Church. If you're going to come to the fight and report on the fight, then your job as a writer is to promote the fight, I believe.
Let’s suspend our disbelief for just a moment and forget that Hunter’s attack on the fans is silly and his questioning the role of the media is ignorant.
Those were my initial reactions too, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and take a look at Mayweather’s win over Berto without saying anything negative and see what shakes out.
Floyd “Pretty Boy,” “Money,” “TBE” Mayweather secured historic win No. 49 of his legendary career by running laps around Andre Berto this past Saturday in front of an MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd that was almost full enough that you couldn’t notice the thousands of empty seats.
Most people were shocked when Mayweather elected to take on such a dangerous challenge in what was advertised as the swan-song contest of his career.
ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported during fight week that more than 2,000 tickets remained on sale, proving that the boxing public just couldn’t bear to see Floyd leave.
Berto came into the fight having lost just three of his last six fights, which, given Sugar Ray Robinson lost 19 times, is an underrated accomplishment.
And he held big wins over...lots of guys.
Never mind all that—he just beat Josesito Lopez, which, last we checked, basically contractually obligates Mayweather to fight him.
Real fans will get that reference about The Riverside Rocky.
Mayweather knows a thing or two about boxing, and he chose Berto, in no small part, because he wanted to provide the fans with the type of excitement and action they didn’t get to see thanks to Manny Pacquiao conveniently forgetting to tell anyone he had a torn-up shoulder any time before May 2.
Per Edward Chaykovsky of Boxing Scene, Mayweather called Berto a fighter who is “always in a tough exciting fight” and who has “quick hands” and “always gives it 100 percent.”
Again, real fans enjoy fights that are “tough” and “exciting,” and they certainly got one this past Saturday night.
Berto entered in the best shape of his career—the evidence of recent brutal beatings that swelled his eyes completely shut wasn’t noticeable at all. He looked great and could see himself in the mirror.
Mayweather, understanding the gravity of the challenge in front of him from a fighter with nothing to lose and everything to gain, began cautiously, stayed that way throughout the middle rounds and ended the fight with a little extra left in the caution department.
He boxed, moved, moved, moved, moved some more, threw a punch or two and then moved again. It was like a high-stakes (get the pun?) ballet.
It was brilliant strategy against a fighter who occasionally threw punches.
Kenny Bayless has become something of a fixture in recent Mayweather fights, ever since Marcos Maidana was allowed to maul Floyd in their first fight like it was something out of the UFC. The referee's unique ability to break up the fighters, even when they’re not in a clinch, was, once again, masterful and ensured the fans got their $75 worth on pay-per-view.
There would be no shenanigans on this night—just pure, high-level boxing between two elite welterweights.
Berto remained dangerous to the end, swinging for the home run, Hail Mary and half-court buzzer-beater combined with every last one of the 40 punches he averaged per round, according to Sho Stats.
He was trying to pack all that action and excitement into every single punch, every single time, and for that real fans are grateful, even though it wasn’t to be for him on this night.
The final bell rang, and Mayweather dropped to his knees, as the full weight of a career-ending victory, which came by the closest 120-108, 118-110 and 117-111 scorecards you’ll ever see, crashed down upon him.
And then it dawned on us.
Mayweather may have won the fight, but the fans, who got to witness 19 years of greatness, were the real winners.
How easy was that?
All you have to do is become a complete shill for the fighters, promoters and networks when they feed you these shoddy matchups, and, to paraphrase Hunter’s comments, sit down, shut up and accept what they give you.
That's what makes you a real fan, apparently.
Hunter, who also serves as a television analyst for Premier Boxing Champions, ought to know better. He’s too smart a boxing guy to fall into that type of insulting thinking.
Mayweather vs. Berto was trashed because it was trash.
It’s not the job of the fans to support bad boxing, and it’s certainly not the job of the media to sell it to them.
Kevin McRae is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeWrites.