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Run, Forrest, Run!!!

BY Steve Kim ON July 14, 2003
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He thought he had done enough to gain revenge on Ricardo Mayorga this past weekend at 'the Orleans' in Las Vegas. After a shaky start that saw him fall to the canvas on wobbly legs several times in the early rounds, Vernon Forrest would gather himself and make a fight out of it against the wild Ricardo Mayorga.

After the fight he would put perch himself near the top rope and raise his arms triumphantly in victory. He had done it, he had gained revenge against his conqueror. Then came the decision.

He had lost by majority decision.

Forrest, who had boycotted the media leading up until the fight, would duck under the ropes and immediately make his way to his lockeroom. There would be no post-fight interview with HBO's Larry Merchant and later on in the night he would ditch the post-fight press conference- something he had promised to show up to. Well, at least he was consistent. Forrest didn't want to be heard from before the fight and he'll soon find out that if he wants to make himself invisible, he can be treated like that.

The bottom line is that Forrest had an obligation to talk to the media. For those who say,' He had to concentrate on the fight and be focused' Ok, but didn't Mayorga have to do the same? He certainly had no problems conversing with the media and promoting the fight. And please don't tell me his job is to fight, not promote. Sorry, but he is obligated to deal with the media and participate in press conferences and teleconference's before hand. That is part of the job of a professional fighter. Especially when you're being paid handsomely by HBO. Could you imagine working at another job and blowing off your responsibilities like he did?

If Forrest had conducted himself like this as a football player in the NFL before the Super Bowl, he would have been fined heavily, among other penalties. Don't believe me, ask Dexter Manley who blew off a media session back in the late 80's. After seeing what he got fined, you don't hear of many guys missing these get-togethers with the press anymore do you? The great Michael Jordan, when he would annually miss the NBA All-Star Game presser, he would be sanctioned by the commissioner David Stern.But for the most part 'His Airness' knew how to play the game and accomodate the media. I'd say it's paid off for him. Baseball, tries to make it's best players available to the media for it's spotlight events, Albert Belle withstanding.

And guess what folks, these leagues have done pretty well haven't they. No, it's not boxing that's on the front of the sports page- nowadays, they barely get any ink at all. So it's hugely ironic that in a sport that needs to be pushed and marketed the most in a very competitive sports industry, one of it's supposed nice guys and well spoken athletes decides to have a media embargo. In what effect, was his Super Bowl or World Series. Win this fight and he's back among the elite, lose, and who knows. But he fought well enough that he shouldn't drop out of the picture completely.

But here's the problem, he engendered so much bad will with the media, who's going to listen to him and take up his cause? Remember the fable about the boy who cried wolf? Well Forrest is the guy who cried nothing. And all the attempts now to reach out to the largely unsympathetic media will go unheard. Trust me, writers, like elephants don't forget any slights. Being in Las Vegas this past weekend and talking with some of the other writers it was clear that what Forrest did beforehand was bad enough, getting out of the ring and being a no-show at the post-fight press conference sealed his fate. He's made himself persona non grata.

There were talks of boycotting anything that had to do with him in the future outside of writing about his actual fights. For instance, if they were to conduct a conference call this week to get his side of the story out, you'd see a Rosa Parks-like boycott from most of the major writers that came into town for the event. Future feature stories on Forrest in the future? Fugheddaboutit. It ain't happening.

I already know of a writer that has made it very clear to his publicist that the subject of Vernon Forrest would not be getting any ink on his watch. Trust me, this is one of the most respected guys doing this. His sentiments are shared throughout.
It's one thing to be sore loser- and understandable. But at least Shane Mosley, who suffered two bitter defeats at the hands of Forrest, showed up. Yeah, he had excuses and some rather bizarre alibi's but he gave his side of the story and fulfilled his professional obligation. Forrest, was more than willing to do do every media outlet when he was undefeated and on top, the spotlight was fun and exciting. He found out that the same spotlight also comes with a lot of glare when things aren't so perfect.

He became a media front-runner. There when things are great, and unavailable in the tough times. Hey, Mike Tyson, of all people rarely missed a post-fight press conference in defeat. Yeah, he may have been surly beforehand but in all his losses, he at least made himself available to an interviewer like a Jim Gray to give comment on what had just happened. Forrest, didn't even wait for a Merchant.

And the kicker is that Forrest is a guy that in todays game needs as much publicity as possible. The business of boxing is heavily tilted towards the Latins and there are scores of African-American fighters-good one's, mind you- that are having problems getting big fights and earning the big bucks because they are deemed 'unmarketable' and basically faceless. Forrest is a fighter who had openly talked of getting fights with an Oscar De La Hoya. But he needed to raise his profile to get those fights. Boycotting the media- on top of losing- was not the way to do it.

And look at 'the Golden Boy' here's a guy with his target demographics, Latins and females, that could get away with shunning the media. And you know what? Before each and every fight, he has an open media day at his training camp in Big Bear, he participates in every press conference, does phone interviews set up by his team and does a teleconference to promote his event. Why? Not because he necessarily he has to anymore, trust me, fans just automatically make it a point to know when he fights. But he does it because he knows it's his responsibility and it makes for good business. Something Forrest seemed to forget or not care about.

Now I see Forrest reaching out to a few writers- the one's that will still listen and talk to him. The rest?Well, the attitude seems to be, if you didn't talk then, why should we talk to you now?
This is what you wanted, isn't it?

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