This writing appeared on the boxing website ucnlive.com.

 

1/2017

Angel Garcia & The Hypocrisy Game

 

Sometimes the line between distasteful vulgarity and acceptable discourse (or entertainment) can be a murky one. Sixty years ago Elvis shaking his hips on a grainy black and white television was deemed to be pushing the boundaries of what kind of sexuality was appropriate for mass dissemination. In today’s culture, graphic images of sex and violence are routinely found in mass entertainment and easily distributed digitally. Profanity is an accepted part of popular music, movies, and television shows. What would be unthinkable in political discourse thirty or forty years ago has now been normalized from the highest office on down. This isn’t a phenomenon that happened overnight. I remember being thirteen in 1993 and singing Snoop Dogg’s ‘Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)’ at the top of my lungs with agreeing classmates. If you’ve never heard the tune; google it and you’ll probably understand the point.

Whether this change in culture over the decades is good or bad is not an issue to be dealt with here. Yet it would seem appropriate to note that one of the byproducts of this change is a certain cultural belief that ‘anything goes’. Basically, since there are no clear standards anymore, no agreed to norms of behavior - one can do, say, or act anyway which one pleases. And it’s within this free-for-all that the public seems to get whiplash moving from offense to offense. Because when wide general standards fall away; cultural grievances become individual and personal. One person or group is offended one day while another is unmoved, and vice versa. The topic then becomes whether the ‘offense’ was indeed an offense rather than a common notion that some sort of imaginary boundary has been crossed.

Keeping all of this in mind, I’m not really sure what to make of the outburst Angel Garcia (WBC welterweight champion Danny Garcia’s trainer and father) had at the January 18th press conference for the March 4th bout between his son and WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman. If you didn’t see it you should watch for yourself. But Angel basically did what he usually does before his son fights someone. He took over the press conference from promoter Lou Dibella, shouted profanity laced insults at Keith Thurman, and made a general fool of himself. He even bizarrely started ranting about ‘immigrant’ fighters and referenced President Trump for good measure. All the while blasting the word ‘nigga’ through the microphones like he was on stage at a rap concert and not a press conference.

Seemingly unimpressed, Showtime boxing head Stephen Espinoza seemed to prompt promoter Lou Dibella to get Angel Garcia under control mid-tirade. As Dibella’s efforts languished, a grim faced Espinoza shook his head in seeming bewilderment. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark’s entertainment sensibilities seemed stimulated as smiled guardedly at the spectacle being created. With Yormak being someone who would readily try to sell ice to an eskimo, one could almost see his mind working overtime pondering the marketability of what was transpiring. As the ‘master of ceremonies’ Lou Dibella didn’t seem to mind the nature of the situation. He was smiling throughout, for this was business as usual of course.


Presumably after the press conference was over at 3:42 PM Dibella would tweet:


Remember all the friend stuff and mutual respect around Thurman/Porter...not this time! #thurmangarcia is gonna be NASTY. Get tix now!


Around five hours later at 8:37 PM, Dibella tweeted:


N-words, homophobic epithets, and anti-immigrant rhetoric have no place at a boxing press conference (or anywhere else).


That kind of political, cover your ass turnaround is one that would even make the politicians in Washington DC blush. It’s evident that within that five hour span Dibella had become aware that Angel Garcia’s actions were resonating a bit differently this time around than in years past. Social media was buzzing with varying levels of disgust and apathy. While most articles about the press conference centered around Angel Garcia’s actions and their aftermath. The consensus seemed to be that this time Angel Garcia had gone too far. That he had crossed the invisible boundary of decorum for a boxing press conference.

Boxing has never been a bastion of political correctness or civility; which is one of the reasons I fell in love with the sport. The authentic nature of the interactions between the colorful characters that make up the sport is one of its unique qualities. Boxing press conferences often have a circus like atmosphere in an effort by the combatants to generate buzz for their encounter. The media will often gravitate to the most outspoken fighters, corner men, or promoters rather than those who choose to remain introspective. So what was different about what Angel Garcia did? Was he just too out of control; just too overbearing with his profanity? Or was he just simply too unhinged and (or) bizarre?

The answer might lie in a small but important detail that distinguished the Thurman-Garcia press conference from the usual run of the mill boxing presser. Thurman-Garcia will be broadcast on CBS, which is only the second primetime boxing match the network has broadcast in forty years. And according to statista.com CBS is the most watched network in the United States. Interestingly enough, Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports initially reported that CBS executives were in the audience during Angel Garcia’s tirade. Yet after going back to view his article three days after its initial posting, the line about CBS executives in attendance had mysteriously disappeared. Whether they were there or not; one can be sure that the aftershocks of the presser were noticed in the CBS offices.

It’s often been noted that the higher one goes in life, the larger the hypocrisies can become. Networks like CBS walk the murky line of decency and standards. After all, CBS is the network that broadcasts the Victoria Secret fashion show which is basically soft core masturbatory material presented in a stylized manner. Yet going along with the hypocrisy is sometimes what one has to do in order to achieve a wider objective. In order to bring the biggest fights back to network television, the Angel Garcia’s of the world might have to move to the background at times. It’s kind of like when a young man from a rough neighborhood makes it to the NBA or NFL. The friends he had on the block while he was in high school might not serve him well as he moves into mainstream superstardom.

As I stated before, I didn’t really know what to make of Angel Garcia’s antics. I mean, this is who Angel Garcia is. I don’t really get surprised when people act exactly as they’ve always acted. He’s a grown man, he’s not changing. His antics have been normalized by the boxing community for years now, why would he act any differently? He used racially charged language when his son fought former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan; why wouldn’t he use the same language now? I’m willing to bet that some of the same people at the presser who subsequently recoiled at his antics had gotten a kick out of them in the past. And I would also bet that some of those same people were happy at first when Angel began to stir things up; only to realize their miscalculation later.

If boxing is ever going to make it back into the mainstream consciousness it will have to play the hypocrisy game. It will have to hold itself to a higher standard than the people it is trying to impress. And it will have to do so until it grabs a stronger foothold with the public than it has now. The UFC has plenty of controversies and some unruly characters. But their train keeps right on rolling. It keeps rolling because it makes people money. And if you make people money, the networks and the sponsors will embrace you into their beautiful hypocrisy. If Thurman-Garcia was selling high dollar commercial slots and generating huge revenue for CBS, Angel Garcia’s tirade would be a speed bump on the way to the bank.

In the aforementioned Yahoo Sports article, Kevin Iole reported that Angel Garcia will not be able to speak at the final press conference before Thurman-Garcia takes place. George Willis wrote on January 20th in the New York Post that the New York State Athletic Commision will take into consideration Angel Garcia’s tirade when he applies for a license to work his son’s corner on March 4th. One could see an outside chance of the newly vigilant and hypocritical NYSAC denying Angel Garcia a license. Though it seems doubtful as Danny Garcia would probably pull out of the fight.

For what it’s worth, the most offensive thing I ever heard Angel Garcia say was when he was asked about the prospect of Keith Thurman and former welterweight champion Shawn Porter fighting each other last year in a video posted by FightHype.com. Angel basically said that two elite fighters like Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter shouldn’t fight each other because one will have to lose. And that ‘it’s about the bank being loaded, not the glory’. He would also say that there is no reason for them to fight each other when they can make money fighting a mismatch. He suggested that they might as well wait until they have less to lose.

Comments like this that undermine the essential nature of the sport are what actually offend me; not bizarre antics by a bizarre individual. But hey, like I said before - we all get to pick and choose what bothers us now.