But duty is duty. I do strongly believe in the idea of blogs checking the so-called "mainstream media," so boxing writing is just as valid a subject for me as is boxing itself. So I'll hit the three subjects in the headline in as quick a way as I can without giving short shrift. You'll notice one of the items in the headline is "new media," so for all the hip young people out there, there's something in here for you, too!
Larry Merchant Takes On The New York Times
Today, the New York Times public editor published, without comment on who was right, an e-mail exchange between HBO's Larry Merchant and Tom Jolly, the sports editor at the New York Times. It's a good thing Merchant decided to take this up, following on the heels of the recent (and just) campaign by promoter Bob Arum for the Times to stop ignoring boxing, and Tom Hauser's fairly damning article about same.
Merchant makes a pretty good case, but I think it can be made better. Merchant pwns Jolly on his excuse that boxing events are too late in the night to cover, citing World Series games and tennis matches that occur at odd hours and still get covered. Merchant didn't respond, as I would have, to Jolly's claim that it's not worth sending a reporter to Las Vegas to cover a fight -- my answer is, you don't have to send a reporter to an event for five days to cover it, and if you wanted to cover a big fight without much travel, you could have tried to walk a few blocks over to Madison Square Garden this summer for Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey.
Merchant left unanswered Jolly's bogus metaphor about horse races and sanctioning organizations:
Imagine, though, if there were three or four organizations that held competing races and that the top 3-year-olds were forbidden to race against each other because their organizations wouldn't permit it. My guess is that people would quickly lose interest and our coverage would reflect that.
I'm sorry, Jolly doesn't have to attend a boxing match to understand boxing matches, contrary to one of the unfair points made by Merchant. But he does have to understand boxing somehow, and he clearly doesn't from that metaphor. What sanctioning organization is forbidding top fighters from fighting one another? I hate the sanctioning organizations as much or more than anyone, but "title unification" fights are fairly routine in boxing, because the sanctioning organizations don't "forbid" their beltholders from fighting other beltholders. The one from the recent past that comes most immediately to mind is April's Timothy Bradley-Kendall Holt at junior welterweight in April, and in the near future, Paul Williams is in discussions for a December fight against one of TWO different beltholders other than the organization in which he has a belt. And anyway, if someone wants to drop their belt to make a fight that is other than the relevant sanctioning organization would prefer, that's their prerogative; in fact, it's exactly what happened for a fight next week, the light heavyweight bout between Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson.
Jolly also says, "There are no fighters that the general public is fascinated by, that have charisma, that transcend their sport." Really? Cuz I'm pretty sure lots of other news organizations differ from you. Didja see Floyd Mayweather the other week on MTV or Fox Business? What about on Dancing With The Stars or a few WWE shows? And why is it that The Wall Street Journal and USA Today -- not to be a dick about it, but two papers bigger than yours -- regularly devote time and space to boxing? Is it because their news judgment about what the general public wants is so much worse than yours? I'm glad you're doing a feature on Manny Pacquiao soon. Don't tell me, though, he's the only boxer that the general public is fascinated by or that has charisma. And yeah, it is a little late -- Pacquiao's been a mainstream figure for at least a year or so, prone to getting mentioned by the likes of Jay-Z or Shaquille O'Neal, aka "Manny Shaquiao" as he called himself on his own ABC show not so many months ago.
But really, the most outstanding argument against the Times for its inexplicable exclusion of boxing is that the Times covers so much else that is of far lesser established interest to its readers so much more. "We try to identify the sports that matter the most to our readers," Jolly said to Hauser. "Tracking our own website and using other measures, we feel that boxing as an overall sport doesn't rise to a level of importance to our audience that would justify greater coverage." Just look at the chronicle of absurd stories that Hauser turned up in the pages of the Times when he reviewed its sports coverage from July 1 to October 8:
During the study period, there were feature stories in the Times sports section about the hockey program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha; a rodeo participant named Lee Ray, who ranks 22nd among team-roping heelers on the National Rodeo Tour; rugby in Colorado; lumberjacking; APBA (a baseball board game played with dice); the Moose Moss Aquatic Center in Moultrie, Georgia; the Professional Windsurfer Association Slalom World Cup in Turkey; the Meadowcreek High School football team in Norcross, Georgia; and trout fishing in Calgary.
Each of these articles was longer than anything the Times ran about professional boxing.
Back to Merchant-Jolly, though. Toward the end of the exchange, Jolly sums it up:
The truth is we've moved beyond the days when event coverage was our main purpose. In this cable/Internet age, most people who care about an event learn about it well before our paper arrives at their doorstep. They can also go to one of the many Web sites that specialize in particular sports. Our goal is to tell readers something they don't know, either through a news story on an issue or development that isn't yet known to the general public, or, when news is well known, to explain why or how it happened.
OK then. Well, go ahead and do it with boxing, I say. As for these "value judgments" you speak of, allow me to answer. "Each of those decisions involves value judgments: Is this something the vast majority of our audience will care about?" (Maybe. Given that more people watch boxing than lumberjacking, I'm going to guess boxing stands a better chance of constituting a "vast majority" of your audience.) "If not, is it something they would care about it if they understood it better?" (By your own definition of why people don't care about boxing, that they don't understand it -- not to mention my previous answer -- "Yes.") "Is the information we can provide going to be better than what the wire service can provide?" (As much as you piss me off, you're still the New York f'ing Times, loaded up with cache and talented writers. I'm going to say, "Yeah, probably.")
BoxingScene Ad Problems
Some TQBR regulars and I had some discussion yesterday -- and over the months generally -- about BoxingScene ads causing computer problems. As of Wednesday, they've posted this message in their forums:
I know for a while we were using an ad network that was pumping out ads that caused your virus scanners to go wacky. Some of the ads were redirecting users to pages that were trying to trick people into buying their virus protection software and others made the entire screen freeze.
I was just informed that as of Wednesday afternoon, BoxingScene.com has dumped the ad network in question after giving them numerous chances to clean up their rotation of ads.
We are now using a new ad network. If anyone is experiencing any questionable ad activity, please let us know in this thread. We want to make sure this new ad network is legit.
If this doesn't change after this latest try, I can no longer in good conscience link to BoxingScene articles. It has, on numerous occasions, forced my computer(s) to shut down because of virus/spyware problems. I'd taken to linking to print-only versions of the stories, since those had fewer computer disease-causing advertisements, but two days ago a reader who clicked on just such a link said he was infected by it. Many of you already refuse to go to BoxingScene.
This has, for too long, been a sore spot for me. BoxingScene, despite some beefs I've had with the site and some of its writers/editors at times, is one of the best boxing websites, owing to a combination of breaking news, aggragating news from elsewhere and some columnists whose work I admire.
Twitter Turns Boxing Fans Into Weirdly Trusting Types
At least three times off the top of my head, some boxer has posted something heated and negative toward some other folk on Twitter and everyone has rushed to agree with him. Some of these are people I know to be smart, but for some reason, folk who otherwise might be level-headed and even-handed just go bonkers taking one boxer's side in a feud simply because he made his case on Twitter.
First came Paulie Malignaggi. The brash junior welterweight called Juan Diaz a "pussy" for not taking a rematch with him, and without having heard one word from Diaz about his side of the story, everyone was like, "Yeah, Paulie, Diaz is a walking, sloshing vagina!" As if. Diaz has had one of the more impressive strengths of schedule in boxing over the last two years, fighting Juan Manuel Marquez, Nate Campbell, Julio Diaz, Michael Katsidis, Acelino Freitas and yeah, Malignaggi. That's not the record of a female reproductive organ, friends. In the end, Diaz' side was probably more to blame for the rematch hitting a difficult patch, as Diaz' promoter agreed to something that Diaz' team rejected -- but all indications are that the rematch is, after some work getting it back on track, likely to happen. If it does happen, will Diaz still be a pussy? And if it doesn't, and he fights somebody equal to or greater than Malignaggi, is Diaz still a pussy? Or was he just never a pussy?
Next up came junior welterweight Francisco Figueroa, who told everyone on Twitter he got kicked out of the training camp of Cotto for giving Cotto too much trouble in sparring. Well, at first he just hinted very, very strongly at it. When Cotto came out and said, when asked about Figueroa in an interview, that Figueroa was goofing off too much, Figueroa spelled it out. In his version of the story, he was beating the tar out of Cotto. Suddenly everyone was Retweeting Figueroa's tale, sending him messages calling Cotto a punk, etc. etc. We'll never know the real story, unless multiple unbiased witnesses come forward, something that's rare in tales of training camp sparring battles. Right now, we know what Figueroa says and we know what Cotto says. But consider this. Cotto thrashed Randall Bailey years ago as a junior welter. Bailey recently thrashed Figueroa. I went through Cotto's record, and by my figuring, if Cotto fought Figueroa in a real prizefight tomorrow, Figueroa would be Cotto's 17th best opponent. Who do you really think would be more likely to do better in sparring -- a fringe contender junior welterweight or an elite welterweight who's spent the last several years as one of the top fighters in the entire sport, pound-for-pound?
Yesterday, everyone was leaping to agree with welterweight Andre Berto, who was angry at Shane Mosley for talking some trash in an interview, prompting Berto to goad Mosley with comments like "sign that contract" and "he's know for taking them steroids prolly got some in his pocket right now" and "I will shread yo ass up." Surprise, everyone agrees: Shane IS on steroids again, for sure! Everybody's scared to fight you, Berto! Of course, Mosley's trash talk was related to the fact that Berto hadn't decided whether to take the Mosley fight Jan. 30, which he'd said a few days earlier on the same website (Boxingtalk) where Mosley got chippy. If anyone was holding up the fight, then, it WAS Berto. That doesn't necessarily make Berto a coward, either, by the way. And you know what, I'm as disappointed as anyone that Mosley used steroids years ago, but until somebody presents some proof that he's done it recently, maybe we can stop agreeing with anyone who, just because, says he's on them now?
Twitter helps boxers connect with their fans, but let's not forget that many of them are also interested in Twitter as a promotional tool. Could it have been that Malignaggi was using Twitter to try and force Diaz back to the negotiating table? Perhaps Figueroa was trying to promote his upcoming fight, seeing as how he mentioned said upcoming fight in the news release he put out criticizing Cotto? And I don't know what Berto was trying to do, but you have to wonder. But don't blindly take these guys' sides, people. There are at least two sides to every story.