Boxing is a sport that is in dire need of some help, but it doesn’t need it from anyone that isn’t already involved. To follow are just a few suggestions on the responsibilities of the people most visible in the sport, and should we elevate our game, we will see the popularity and respect for this amazing ability grow exponentially.
#1. FIGHTERS have to respect themselves enough to ALWAYS enter the ring in the best physical condition possible. Not only for the fan, but more importantly for their own self-preservation. Now, if there is one thing you have control over as a fighter, it is your physical preparation. If you fatigue during a fight how are you supposed to win? How are you going to defend yourself from being concussed and cut and in many cases embarrassed? You are left to the mercy of the other fighter (good luck!) who is smelling blood and in a feeding frenzy, or the judgment call of officials that may be feeling your pain, but a little too late. Also realize that you are not only a boxer but you are also an ENTERTAINER. People are paying their money to be entertained and they choose to be entertained through the drama of fisticuffs. If you are an entertaining fighter (which doesn’t mean that you are involved in a holy war each time you don gloves), they will pay to see you fight again. Respect yourself and your profession by training so hard and smart so that each time out, you represent yourself with pride and any one who beats you, really has to earn it.
#2. The TRAINER should ALWAYS be enhancing the skills of their fighter, not only making sure they are in shape…That’s not enough nor has it ever been. A simple example, teach your fighter different ways how to block and avoid a jab… how to counter a left hook, etc… If your charge is a puncher teach them how to box as well, because you may have the bomb but being able to put that bomb where it can do damage is another skill altogether. Each individual has a particular strength, so work on correcting a weakness. There is a vast amount of knowledge available and there is no excuse for a fighter having all offense and no defense. We all know the adage “you can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink,” but that’s what we’re talking about; at least give them the option of practicing different ways of defending themselves… Trainers, you have the responsibility to lead them to the water… Your fighter’s life could be at stake. Every time a boxer gets “buzzed” in sparring or in a match, it is chipping away at their level of resilience. An aside: more fighters get “lit up” in the gym sparring than in fights… it’s up to their TRAINERS to be responsible for their charge. ‘Nuff said.
#3. The REFEREE should ALWAYS study the last three of the boxers’ fights he is about to ref, and if he can’t do that due to a myriad of reasons, he should speak to some people who have knowledge of the fighters’ styles and traits. I truly believe that the more in-depth the ref knows the boxers the better job he can do at protecting them. Right now the State Boxing Commissions have a rule that if you were knocked out, you must wait 90 days before competing again. There have been many cases where the winning fighter has been knocked down, just happened to beat the 10 count and comes back to win… a couple seconds separated him from being counted out. Is it any safer for him to fight a month later?
#4 Commentators: Ok, you are the mainline to the fan and what you say has unbelievable impact on a fighter’s career (which means his financial security) so handle your business responsibly. What’s worse than training for a fight, giving your all, putting your life on the line, and then someone who has never really gotten in there before starts using you as the butt end of his jokes or other efforts of degradation… all said in order to fill dead airtime or make themselves look witty? Yes, commentators, you are hired for your ability to express your opinion, but let it be an informed one, or at least put it in the form of a question to your experienced boxing sidekick. That way both the fan enjoying the fight at home, as well as the boxer who is watching the fight afterwards, studying what he has done, does not have to be subject to senseless or inaccurate ramblings that a fighter has to deal with for the rest of his career.
Commentators can also up the value of boxing by praising a fighter for some of the other good things that he is doing. For example, instead of saying, “Oh, Duran just missed with that right hand,” realize that Benitez did something to make him miss that right hand and tell the viewer what he did and how. In all my years I have yet to see a boxer, no matter his level of experience, miss a stationary target. It is a skill that is honed through years of theoretical and practical practice. Don’t just state the fact that one fighter is a counterpuncher; get in-depth on what counterpunching is and how it is an effective style of fighting, noting some of the great counterpunchers in boxing history. That way the skills of a fighter are being praised. This elevates the game. Young fighters coming up will then start practicing some of those skills and that will only make the game better.
You are the voice of the fan… ask questions they want answered.
PARTING NOTE: As a former fighter, there aren’t any “learning experiences” (being beat about the head) when you get into the ring and have a tough night… nothing you couldn’t have learned if you were listening to your trainer or your trainer was doing his job in the first place. The only thing “learning” in a fight does is lower your ability to withstand punches, because every time you go to pugilism’s proverbial well, there is less water from which to drink from the next time. Know that!