The Big Question: Are boxing fans and the media too negative about the sport?

Boxing Monthly
20/01/2017 8:01am

As 2017 gets into full swing we thought it was time to reflect on the way that boxing is perceived, so the question we asked our online team this week was: are boxing fans and the media too negative about the sport?

This really is a great question but I think that fans and media should be treated as separate entities.

Fans certainly have the right to voice their displeasure about the sport but, unfortunately, there's rarely a united front in terms of, for example, boycotting a poor fight or a poor value PPV. Also fans can often get bogged down in pointless arguments about insignificant issues and, let's be honest, people love to have a good moan about anything - not just boxing!

I think it's critical that the media tell the truth and don't turn in to PR puppets for promoters and objectivity must be maintained at all times.

I think the other big issue - especially in the US and the UK - is that the sport is pretty fractured and you tend to get various cliques who side with particular TV channels or promoters. At times it can be tricky to find an opinion without an agenda. Lack of consistency on issues such as PEDS is also highly frustrating.

In summary, as we all are consumers of the sport we are fully justified in demanding the best possible product. Everyone needs to support the sport as a whole and push for boxing to be the best that it can be. - Marcus Bellinger

This is a tough question and has had me thinking for a few days. As my fellow contributors have mentioned, the fans and the media are really two different animals. In terms of fans, social media has had many positive outcomes, including giving a voice to many knowledgeable individuals. But it’s also enfranchised a whole bunch of ‘fans’ whose opinions change seemingly on a whim - fighters are ‘bums’, ‘the best ever’ or ‘chinny’, based on watching a snippet of highlights on Youtube.

Even more troublesome, we have even seen Anthony Joshua abused for having the audacity to appear in a Mosque, which shows that opinions on boxers can often be based on personal biases and prejudices rather than in the ring ability.

I see boxing’s fan base, of which I am first and foremost a member, as being like a school of fish - while opinion heads generally in the same direction, it can change direction in an instance and have plenty of kinks in the movement. To say it’s overly negative or, indeed, overly positive, is only accurate for the amount of time it takes for a hashtag to appear and disappear.

With regards the media, I think, overall, it is even handed. It celebrates the best parts of boxing whilst highlighting the troublesome aspects. I do, however, believe that the media, and again I include myself in this description, has neglected the issue of PEDs in boxing for too long.

The rise of boxers hiring PR firms and all that entails has also led to some fighters, often the biggest names and the ones guaranteed to generate extra sales or hits, becoming almost untouchable. This probably has led to some coverage actually being too positive rather than overly negative. - James Oddy

Basically - 'yes'. We've turned very negative as a whole, but I think it's a self-bred problem due to world-level fighters generally not being active enough, too many bogus belts and too many TV channels which are fee-based. On top of that we have PPV's - most of which aren't worthy of PPV status: in short, the general public have grown tired of being conned (both Harrison and Haye can take their share of the blame here...)

Add to this - every man and his dog seem to be online waffling into their webcam giving previews and reviews of fights. When I click on 'Frampton vs Mares', I don't expect to see a still pic of the two boxers while some mush prattles on about what he knows that everyone else has missed. Opinions are like bumholes...

Mind you: I have just prattled on, negatively, with my opinion...Let's blame 'The January Blues' for now... - Colin Harris

Boxing today is very much a niche sport. While we like to believe that it still has the ability to capture the public's imagination in reality it's still very much on the fringe of the mainstream. All of our current world champions bar Anthony Joshua could probably walk down Carnaby Street without getting as much as a second glance.

Why is this important? Well, because it means our exposure to other boxing fans and media is limited mostly to social media, which is a hive of fantastic comment and discussion but also a breeding ground for moaning and bile. I rarely tweet about my football team but when I do it's usually to demand someone be substituted or kicked out of "my club".

The similarity to football doesn't end there - boxing has become very tribal. We all have our favourite fighters but the current generation of fan will blindly praise their favourite fighter and criticise those seen as their rivals. Some even have favoured promoters now, the Eddie Hearn fans in particular are quick to bash his perceived promotional rivals.

Boxing fans have genuine reasons to be upset. Fighters aren't active enough and there are too many belts and, while I'm happy to bash sanctioning bodies, I think promoters and the fighters themselves must acknowledge that they have helped create this situation by paying for the titles. I also think we're in the era of 'controversy creates cash' and while I admire the work IFL TV and other online outlets have done, it sometimes seems as if every other video is one fighter coating off another and this only helps perpetuate the environment of "my fighter is great, yours is a can".

In terms of the media, I think in some cases the boxing media has fallen into the trap of playing favourites and in particular much TV coverage feels very 'pally pally'.

Having said all of that, boxing in 2017 is in great shape; Al Haymon has finally taken the hand brake off the PBC and the Boxnation/BT deal has given the UK market genuine competition. The sport as a whole has a lot to feel good about, it's important for us to remember that. - Callum Rudge

Fans and the media are two separate entities, and should be treated as such.

With the media, the key is balance: sycophantic undeserved praise is just as bad as unnecessarily scathing criticism.

Newspapers have a challenging task; dedicated boxing fans are extremely knowledgable but they make up a fraction of the readership. As a result, coverage tends to be brief and focussed on the marquee names.

The main gripe I have with newspapers is the overeagerness to write boxing's obituary. However, such articles are rarely penned by the regular boxing reporter, which adds to the sense that the person who is making the proclamation is misinformed and ill-equipped to be making such statements.

Dedicated boxing websites on the other hand, are catering for the pugilist specialist (thank you Mr Exshaw) and as such should be able to deliver fair analysis, reports, and tell the stories of any fighter, regardless of profile. Many do. That is not to say that coverage is perfect, but there is certainly more content (of varying quality) for fans to consume, than ever before.

Fans are entitled to express any view they have, although I'd like to think they would adhere to common decency and refrain from being abusive. There seems to be a growing trend on social media where fans berate everything. There is nothing wrong with calling a poor fight a poor fight, or commenting on a low quality cards - as I mentioned earlier, boxing fans know their stuff.

However it sometimes crosses the line where everything is criticised, often unfairly.

The most peculiar thing is those that seem to complain the most spend every weekend watching boxing, and weekdays discussing it on social media. If everything is as terrible as they maintain it is, why do they keep watching? Masochism? An addiction to something they have groan to loathe? The hope they'll gain a few more followers? Who knows?

This year, I hope to see lots of fair, measured coverage from the the press, and the great, knowledgable fans enjoying good fights and participating in informed discussion, leaving those who watch boxing twice a year, believing AJ to be the greatest fighter who has walked the planet, alone. - John Angus MacDonald

A broad, important question this one.

Firstly the media: if anything it's too positive on the whole, with much of the 'fringe' press doing little more than rehashing press releases and rolling over to allow whoever they might interview tickle their dotcom tummy. Even with long form features I'm very selective with who I will invest time in reading - Mark Butcher brilliantly dissected this development in a recent BM article.

My era was spoiled growing up reading Harry Mullan's editorship of Boxing News and early (Graham Houston/Glyn Leach) Boxing Monthly, both of which would regularly highlight mismatches and hypocrisy, with little concern for who they might upset.

The world has changed since those days, presumably as a result of libel laws, corporate ownership and the importance of maintaining relationships with the access they facilitate. None of that should preclude basic journalistic challenge and integrity, although from where I'm sitting it sometimes does.

The fans: I'm a fan (lucky and privileged enough to have a toe in the media) and for the last 25 plus years have spent a significant portion of my disposable income on boxing. We have every right to voice feedback and people are free to say what they want.

However, overall, we've never had it so good. In the U.K. we have a dedicated boxing TV channel, two magazines cover the sport, we have 13 'world' champions (yes, I know), competition everywhere and a British model enjoying the fruits of investment made in the amateur system. Where old farts like me used to send off for VHS videos, it's now all on YouTube and there's a huge treasure haul of outstanding writing (old and new) on the sport for anyone who cares to look for it.

Added to that, it remains a truly international sport and despite many elements which frustrate (that's another rant for a new soapbox), the sweet science is enjoying rude health. For me, the positive massively outweighs the negative. - Chris Williamson