Mike Lee was in a Super Bowl commercial this weekend, and Muhammad Ali became the latest boxing personality not to die. At least this time the rumor of impending death was coming from someone who might've maybe known -- Ali's brother -- but it does get kind of old, reading about people allegedly being on their death bed, wondering if they are dead or will die, finding out they aren't dying, then a few weeks to months later discovering that they did in fact die. It's especially annoying when it's living icon Muhammad Ali.
As for Mike Lee and the Subway Super Bowl commercial: Our friend Hamilton Nolan thinks it's lame, but I "get it." The Great White Hope has often been the Great White Hype; we wrote here recently about the last Great White Hope, Kelly Pavlik, and how rare his type is becoming. If it's cool for other nationalities and ethnicities to root for their respective ethnicities or nationalities, why ain't it cool for honky? Yep, Lee is "created," so far, but let's face it, honky is desperate. White people can and do totally root for fighters of other ethnicities (go to any live boxing show and see how much of the audience is white), but any promoter who can find a white guy who can box worth a damn is going to try to exploit that. I don't see the problem with it. There are more white people in America than other people, so it's a demographic ripe for exploitation once anyone with a whiff of potential comes along. Which is why Pavlik was, however briefly, HUGE.
Maybe you're wondering about that video above, though. So let's stop talking about boxing's pop culture issues and move on to the fights from the past weekend.
- Friday Night Fights fallout. Cory Spinks retired, as he should've following his loss to Carlos Molina, although very few boxing retirements last. One of the things noteworthy about it is that his wife took a shot at junior middleweight Cornelius Bundrage on the way out, noting that if you get beaten by Bundrage, you probably really ought to retire. Bundrage is crude, but he's the kind of crude boxer who gets some things done; he has beaten more than Spinks, and it's not all luck. Bundrage's wife came back with some classy-style remarks, with a heavy helping of Jesus.
- Artur Szpilka vs. Mike Mollo. The ESPN3 post-fight special was far better than the rest of the ESPN2 card on Friday, although maybe people have gotten carried away about quite how good it was. It was a very nice-not-great, very bloody brawl between two low-skilled heavyweights, the second half better than the first. It's definitely worth checking out, even if the referee got carried away in all the wrong ways and ruined some of the proceedings.
- Sam Soliman vs. Felix Sturm. You can argue that Sturm, one of the top middleweights in the world for a long time, has lost four of his last five fights, but only Aussies Sam Soliman and Daniel Geale got the decision. Good for Soliman, a perpetual "almost"er and pleasant Aussie with a funky, volume-punching style who used that to confuse the ultra-linear, low-volume German. As with all Sturm fights, just about any damn score would've worked, because there's nobody whose fights are harder to judge, owing to his tendency to land the more telling shots in the round but to throw an average of three power punches. I scored the 1st, 2nd, 10th and 12th for him, with an extra point docked from Soliman for the 2nd round knockdown, for a score of 115-112 for Soliman, although you could give the 3rd and 4th to Sturm too if you felt like it.
- Juan Manuel Lopez returns. JuanMa looked like the 2012 vintage in his ring return rather than the 2008 vintage, which is to say all macho offense and macho no-defense rather than a more pure boxer-puncher. In other words, the layoff owing to his bogus-ly long suspension for ill-considered, post-concussion remarks about the referee who stopped his fight didn't make a lick of positive difference in his career arc. The man he beat in a 128 pound bout, Aldimar Silvo Santos, had been stopped two fights prior by 10-fight prospect Jesse Magdaleno, and in less time (two rounds vs. nine) than JuanMa did it. I really don't like writing fighters off, but I think JuanMa is done not only as an elite fighter, but as a guy who can beat top 10 fighters.
- The Rest. Dan Rafael gotchu for most of the rest, including a solid win for the once highly-regarded prospect Frankie Gomez and Juergen Braehmer actually fighting a fight rather than pulling out of one, setting up a bout with Nathan Cleverly, one of the men he pulled out against previously. Our Joseph R. Holzer will have some extra coverage of a weekend fight up next.
Couldn't agree more with your assessment of Whites needing a White fighter to get behind. The myth that race is a social construct that we've conjured up in our minds is retarded. People are tribal by nature. Go to your local prison where humans revert to their most primal instincts and you'll see this mindset on full display.
And it's no coincidence that the decline in boxing's popularity in the US correlates with the lack of dominant White fighters. Sadly, Blacks and Hispanics happen to have the lowest income on average in the US. It's not a very good business model to market a product to the poorest people in the country, is it?
Thanks for having the balls to print an article on this subject in this bizarro world we live in where it's considered racist for Whites to stand up for their own self-interests. And yes, my feelings on this subject are part of the reason I love British boxing. It seems the UK is "the last White hope" for boxing.
@RJPadavona self interest? Maybe yours is different to mine. I just wanna see good close fights with lots of action. Couldnt care less ( aussie version of tims 'could care less' i believe) what they look like. Call me unnatural.
@gavaniacono Yes, as hardcore boxing fans, we'll watch Martians fight as long as there's action involved. But the article was about about Mike Lee and him being marketed to the mainstream casual White fan. Why is this being done? IMO, because people in the business know that it's natural to support someone who looks like you more than someone who doesn't. All you have to do is look at the successful marketing behind Larry Holmes vs Gerry Cooney. Don King may be a lot of things but he ain't no dummy. The natural instinct of the casual White boxing fan was on full display leading up to and during the Holmes-Cooney fight. Listen to what Ali said in that video I posted. He said " You can do what you wanna do, but it's natural to want to be with your own. I want to be with my own." Change "be with" with the words "root for" and you can see the natural sentiment of the casual fan, regardless of their race. It's instinctive to do this whether we want to admit it or not.
@RJPadavona I'd want to be careful here. I think race IS largely a social construct. And I'm not saying white people NEED a white fighter to get behind.
As for the business model... some of those demographics are growing, and as they grow, they'll make up a bigger segment of the marketplace. I think marketing to those groups makes sense.
I also don't view this as me standing up for my self-interest. I'm a white dude and could care less about what color a given fighter is; others, though, have different kinds of rooting interests, when what I'm talking about is merely the reality of some Hispanic fans mobilizing behind Hispanic boxers and some white fans mobilizing behind white fighters in a similar way.
Yes, the reality for different races to mobilize behind certain fighters is natural. As natural as instinct itself. Which is why race is NOT a social construct. As usual, we should listen to The Greatest Of All Time to break down the logic behind this natural instinct:
@RJPadavona No. I very much disagree with you and Ali here. But I'm not going to get in an extended debate about it.