The truth has always been an elusive quarry in the world of boxing. A paradox given the earthy honesty which surges through those who lace up the gloves. Their virtue has always attracted the righteous wordsmith and the devious chancer.
Historically, knowledge of this iniquity was largely confined to those with a vested interest and those too concerned for their health to put a whistle to their lips, metaphorical or otherwise. Despite the sport’s greater profile in the early part of the last century, the spotlight struggled to illuminate any of the shadows in which the dirty deals were done. True, film alluded to the “fix being in” and Jake LaMotta’s defeat to Billy Fox confirmed the suspicion that the ‘game’ was dirty.
Boxing is a sport until it is defamed, then the protagonists try to re-categorized it as a mere game. Hoping semantics projects the crimes and criminals it overlooks and protects as merely the playground naughtiness of loveable rogues. “Its only a game” after all. Don King had it closer with his all encompassing “Only in boxing.” Or was that George Foreman? Certainly, Lennox Lewis was closest with his reference to “Boxing politricks.”
But there was an invisibility to the illicit deals back in the first half of the 20th century. Now the crimes are more visible, but no less abhorrent or harmful to the relevance and good health of the sport. The crimes are not investigated, because they are largely conducted in the public domain under the auspices of the sport’s multiple governing bodies. Topical example? The WBC willingness to sanction a fight between two semi-proven Welterweights as their Light-Middleweight title match. Overlooking ranked contenders with eliminator victories on their resumes. Eliminators which cost the fighters’ money.Such is the proliferation of governing bodies and the legion of examples of their misdemeanors that boxing’s greatest threat now isn’t the damage multiple champions per division do to public understanding of the sport, nor the diverse avenues which enable fighters to be guided away from each other. It is apathy. If apathy overcomes the subsidized view that fans will only watch a fight if a belt is on the line, then maybe, just maybe, the under-the-table back-room deals may slowly be squeezed from the sport with the “governing” bodies that perpetrate and facilitate them.
A few threw their pencils in the air at the catch-weight contest between two Welterweights, but nobody failed to recognize Saul Alvarez as the WBC 154 pound champion on Sunday morning. Even the writers have conceded defeat. I hope fans realize the power they possess collectively sooner rather than later, as they have become boxing’s last hope of sanitation.
Thomas Hauser cannot do it alone.
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