Haymon In Full Effect
This writing appeared on the boxing website ucnlive.com as a 'soapbox' submission to boxing writer Steve Kim. The published version can be found here: http://ucnlive.com/the-soapbox-june-10-2015/
'During a Dark Age, the mass amnesia of survivors becomes permanent and profound. The previous way of life slides into the abyss of forgetfulness, almost as decisively as if it had not existed' - Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead
So we are a couple of months into this thing called the 'PBC' (Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions). There have been some decent fights; nothing spectacular. It does seem odd that an outfit as large as the PBC hasn't been able to produce a fight of the year candidate as of yet. But with the most cards and the most fighters it's bound to happen sooner or later - the law of averages says so. However, despite this lack of elite pugilism some have begun to praise the PBC for its fight frequency and its cheap price tag.
Now free stuff has much to recommend it - especially in our current economic times. But 'free' doesn't necessarily mean 'good'. These are two different things. The quality of the fight you are watching should not be determined by the amount you paid for it. It should be determined by the two men in the ring and the circumstances surrounding their encounter. If all you want to see is two guys punch each other for free; visit your local nightclub at around 3am.
Because that's all the PBC is right now isn't it? Two guys punching each other for free. There is no rhyme or reason to the fights. No narrative, or building to something. No true weight classes or belts. No national pride or rivalries. No real ring walks or individuality. But it's free and plentiful, so therefore it must be good.
The PBC claims it's 'taking boxing back to its roots'. Yet I'm not really sure what roots they're talking about. It can't be the roots where fighters were hungry and driven to fight any and all comers. It can't be the roots where fighters were known more for what they did in the ring than their 'celebrity' status. And it sure as hell can't be the roots where fighters connected with broad swaths of the population. For the very nature of the PBC itself goes against it's own stated goal. An organization that aims to create its own culture and 'world' can't really be trusted to ensure that the values of the 'old world' are carried into the future.
You can't manufacture authenticity; you can only create something fake and peddle it as so. You can't manufacture a Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mike Tyson, or Julio Cesar Chavez. They were all made by circumstance and a certain culture that was akin to producing 'authentic' items. As I've said previously, our culture today isn't (shall we say) as apt to creating such authenticity. Put simply, Iggy Azalea is to Nas as Peter Quillin is to Tommy Hearns.
The PBC's cynical use of boxing's past 'authenticity' is not surprising. At it's heart the PBC is a corporate undertaking; a hostile takeover bid. It's trying to sell you a product - and over time; make you forget anything that's happened before. For the general sporting public this is easy; they are a blank slate of course. And with 'journalists' like Yahoo's Kevin Iole writing sugar coated puff pieces; the average fan will be apt to accept and believe what they are given. After all, it's free so it must be good.
My biggest fear is that the 'old' ways of boxing will be washed away over time; and lost forever. Somewhat like a city neighborhood being overrun by high rise luxury condos. Or a skill or trade being replaced by automation or machines. Now of course an 'old' way of doing things isn't necessarily a 'better' way of doing things. A neighborhood might be unsafe and rundown. Or a skill or trade that is done by hand might make everyones life easier if it is done efficiently by a machine. And we all know the 'old' boxing business wasn't (isn't) exactly perfect.
But when certain values and culture are lost, the result is a 'zombie-like' dark age. Where there is a certain 'cap' on the level of quality that something can achieve. In other words, it's just kind of 'meh' all the time. It pains me to see true boxing fans accept mediocrity and then seek validation through a decent scrap that has no real meaning. For I believe the fights and events they truly live for; (the ones that you remember for years to come) cannot be produced by the PBC. Because those fights and events require certain aspects of the 'old' culture that the PBC is looking to do away with. I might be wrong of course. Maybe the PBC will deliver us great fights and great fighters. Or maybe one day I will just submit. Put on my free TV, open up a can of PBC kool-aid, read some Iole articles, and forget the likes of Marvin Hagler ever existed. At least then I can live in peace.