It Is Not The Critic Who Counts

Boxing Scene

Errol Spence Jr. was never that good anyway.

Anthony Joshua doesn’t have it anymore.

Daniel Dubois could have gotten up against Usyk.

Liam Smith got lucky the first time against Eubank Jr.

Ryan Garcia is a hype job.

Those are just a few of the comments floating around social media over the last several months, when what many predicted to be a sub-par year for boxing turned into an excellent one across the board with four months still remaining in 2023.

But you can’t please everyone, can you? And in a sport that reveals more about its participants than any other, there are still those who take shots at those who take the longest walk from the locker room to the ring than anyone could imagine.

Think about it. This is a sport where if you’re lucky, you escape with a few dollars, your health, and maybe a little recognition. Most of the time, though, one, two or all three of those factors are non-existent. 

On respect alone, that should garner the men and women of boxing a little consideration, an escape from the online vitriol that follows every win, lose or draw. But in 2023, that’s apparently too much to ask. And while you can blame that on the decline of courtesy and class in society as a whole, attacking fighters and denigrating what they do isn’t a new concept or something to be blamed on the anonymity of social media.

It’s been going on forever.

I’ll never forget a talk I had with former featherweight champion Derrick Gainer. Now, in all honesty, Gainer was never going to be compared to Arturo Gatti. But he was a slick boxer, he was a legit world champion who beat legit competition, and he walked up those four steps to fight. That wasn’t enough for some people, but ironically, the moment of fan interaction that stood with Gainer the most came after perhaps his most exciting fight – a 1996 war with Kevin Kelley that he lost via eighth-round knockout.

That Monday, Gainer went out for breakfast with his longtime friend, Roy Jones Jr. The pair was approached by a boxing fan.

“I could slap you,” the fan said to Gainer.

“Excuse me?” said a bewildered Gainer.

“I could slap you.  How dare you let him knock you out on TV like that?”

The fighter began to come out of Gainer before Jones grabbed his hand and shook his head, letting him know that it wasn’t worth it.

And it wasn’t. As the saying goes, you can’t cure stupid. And if Gainer fired back, he’s the one getting arrested, getting sued, and getting painted as a bully.

So boxers, for the most part, stay quiet. Oh, some will fire back an angry tweet or make a comment or two in an interview or during a press conference, but 95 percent of them will eat the abuse and move on, hoping to one day listen to the words of their friends who tell them, “Don’t read the comments section.”

It’s not easy, though. As much as a fighter tries to block out the noise, some things inevitably get through. I spoke to UFC bantamweight contender Chris Gutierrez, and he told me that when he WON a fight by first-round knockout over former world champion Frankie Edgar in 2022, he received messages complaining about his game plan, asking him why he used a knee for the finish and not his hands, and telling how he could have won the fight easier.

And this is after a win. After a loss, the vultures come out, and it’s not just the fans. Who could forget a good segment of the media turning on one of the genuine good guys of the sport – Vernon Forrest – when he didn’t do any interviews before his 2003 rematch with Ricardo Mayorga? Forrest, who was tragically murdered in 2009, never forgot.

“The thing that got me was that some people took what I did personally,” Forrest told me in 2004. “In the Mayorga fight, my whole mindset was, I want to get into Vernon’s psyche, and I don’t want to talk about the fight, I just want to do the fight. I want to prove to everybody that the first fight was just a fluke and I don’t want my words to be my actions, I want my actions to be my words. But the media caught offense to that and said, ‘Well, since you won’t talk to us, we won’t talk to you.’ If somebody can’t understand a guy wanting to have the ultimate concentration, then you don’t understand athletes, you don’t understand the sport, and you certainly don’t understand Vernon Forrest.”

Forrest lost that rematch, and while he broke his no media policy over the rest of his career, some still resented his stand before the Mayorga fight. Now mind you, this was one of the legit gentlemen of the sport and the kind of ambassador boxing sorely needed, but that didn’t matter.

“When you’re on top of the world, people always want to listen to what you say and write down what you say,” said Forrest. “For me, it only confirmed what I already knew. I knew that most of the media people were fickle anyway, and they only want to speak to you when you’re hot anyway. So by the media turning on me, it was no big deal because they weren’t there for the long haul anyway.”

It’s sad, but it goes to show that for every fighter getting trashed today, he or she is not the first and won’t be the last. Now I’m not saying we should genuflect before fighters and not criticize when criticism is warranted. They’re just like us, and few of us are angels. But knowing what you’re talking about, being fair and being respectful should be prerequisites before opening your mouth or typing away on your keyboard. It’s something to think about at the very least. In the meantime…

Errol Spence Jr. was always as good as we thought he was. On July 29, Terence Crawford was better. That’s what happens when the best fight the best. Someone wins, someone loses.

Anthony Joshua is one win over someone like Deontay Wilder for the world to start calling him the greatest thing since pizza again. Sounds like someone still has it.

If Daniel Dubois could have gotten up against Usyk, he would have. He’s a fighter.

Liam Smith wasn’t lucky the first time against Eubank Jr., just like Eubank Jr. wasn’t lucky in the rematch.

Ryan Garcia isn’t a hype job. He just lost to the better man when he fought Gervonta Davis.

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