This writing appeared on the boxing website ucnlive.com as part of a monthly column series. The published version can be seen here: http://ucnlive.com/bystanders-to-the-quagmire/
Bystanders To The Quagmire
‘Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be corrupt for so long. You can’t be objective about Nixon. How can you be objective about Clinton?' - Hunter S. Thompson during a 1997 Interview in The Atlantic Magazine
You know things are bad when Mike Coppinger (boxing writer for USA Today) and Kevin Iole (boxing writer for Yahoo Sports) become restless. As two of the more ‘comfortable’ boxing writers to cover the sport; any deviation from their usual script is akin to Floyd Mayweather displaying humility - it doesn’t happen often. They are not the type to burn bridges by investigating drug testing, business practices, or money trails. They’ll keep the boat in shallow, tranquil waters rather than seek to rock it. Status and access to them is like food and water to the rest of us. They feed on it; it sustains them - any kind of principles be damned.
So the fact that both Iole and Coppinger seem to be ‘fed up’ with the ‘state of boxing’ is telling. Maybe the malaise the PBC finds itself in is getting them both down. The PBC still lives of course. Yet like a superpower looking to take over a third world country with ease and hubris - it has become bogged down in a quagmire. The best laid plans have gone by the wayside, the resources have become stretched, and the believers have begun to have doubts. Deals which were inconceivable when the war chest was full and ‘victory’ was in sight - are now made out of necessity for survival. For two true believers such as Iole and Coppinger; this must be especially depressing. However, it would seem Mike Coppinger might be inclined to shed more tears than most.
You see, Mike Coppinger is to journalism what the PBC is to boxing. Style over substance. Stale and manufactured versus authentic. Corporate ethics versus the ‘rabble’ on the street. As a poster boy for the elitist, new upper class, condo living, latte drinking, dog walking, gentrifying crowd - the PBC was made to order for Coppinger. A ‘league’ with strict media rules and a propagandized storyline needs its mouthpieces. Always remember what Coppinger said about one of the rare authentic boxing jewels - ‘Jimmy’s Corner’ in New York. He basically inferred that ‘it smelled like piss’ and that he didn’t see what the ‘big deal’ was. Yes Mike, a gentrifier such as yourself would be hard pressed to recognize the value of a bar with the history and culture of Jimmy’s. Maybe when the inevitable rent increases reach a point that Jimmy’s is forced to shut its doors, they can replace it with something more to your ‘tastes’. Maybe a swanky joint coined ‘Club De Boxe’ can reopen with boxing themed sushi rolls and PBC sponsored mixed drink concoctions - ‘I’ll take the Danny Garcia Cherry Daiquiri please’.
If Jimmy’s ever does meet its demise at the cold hands of gentrification; it will be an apt metaphor for the original intentions of the PBC. Intentions that were either ignored or missed by the likes of Iole and Coppinger. Haymon and Co. were looking to the ‘wipe the slate clean’ - a wholesale change of the boxing world akin to replacing a street of row houses with luxury condos. It's worth remembering the actions and intentions of a man looking to ‘claim the throne’ are different than one who looks to bring a certain beneficial order to the chaos of an industry. Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano formed the mafia ‘Commission’ in order to resolve conflicts among the families in order to avoid bloodshed; which was hurting business. John Gotti had Paul Castellano killed in front of a busy steakhouse in Manhattan for business reasons as well; but more importantly he wanted the throne for himself.
Iole and Coppinger saw the inception of the PBC as something that would seek to benefit boxing as a whole. Instead it was actually something that was looking to leave the rest of the boxing world ‘face down in front of the steakhouse’. The ‘state of boxing’ now is in large part a result of the after effects of this effort - for the effects of conflict and conquest are different than those of negotiation and compromise. If any other industry (real estate, electronics, finance, film & television, automobiles, etc) saw one individual infuse an incredibly outsized amount of funds in a bid to fundamentally alter and take that industry over - you better believe the reporters that cover that industry would be ‘up that person's ass’ from day one. ‘Trust but verify’ as the old saying goes. Iole and Coppinger were very quick to trust; yet failed to verify. Which is sad because ‘verifying’ used to be what reporting was all about.
The ‘state of boxing’ could always be better, could always be worse I suppose - basically the same as it ever was. To paraphrase Larry Merchant, boxing seems neither capable of being destroyed or capable of being saved. Those trapped in purgatory must love the sport of boxing; for they seem to make sure it stays there. As time goes on, the PBC army will surely look to regroup with the aid of its sworn ally - Showtime. Maybe Richard Schaefer will return to lead a second offensive; for Haymon’s desires on ‘capturing the throne’ no doubt remain. The discourse on social media will continue; frequently divided along ‘Pro-Haymon’ and ‘Anti-Haymon’ lines. Both sides will blame the other for boxing’s woes. One person under Haymon actually blamed the fans on Twitter for the ills that have befallen boxing. As if random guys with names like ‘@butthugger6964’ or ‘@gucci_sauce213’ wield more influence on the sport than his boss. Yet I will say this for ‘Boxing Twitter’ - it always has an opinion. It saw the advent of the PBC for what it was - and what it was trying to do. Iole and Coppinger either didn't understand or didn't care. Whatever the case, this ‘state of boxing’ they’re so distressed about? It has their fingerprints of negligence all over it.