Sunday, August 23, 2009


The most important lesson I have ever learned from a soured relationship is that there’s a difference between being blunt and being honest.

Being blunt is to say what the first thing that comes to mind, though it may not be the most politically correct, well-thought out or even remotely accurate thing to say at that given moment. We casually call refer to such a moment as “telling it like it is” or “real talk”, even though in retrospect, it’s “telling it as (s)he sees it without much regard for what it really is” or “talking some (ahem)”.

Being honest is to carefully balance opinions, facts and time when you speak. Being honest takes a sincerity and respect that may take too long to come out when someone’s being blunt. Maybe the emotions are too subdued and the words are too measured to make a person believable, but honest gets people to truly pay attention to your cause, even if it’s just for a brief period of time.

“Boxing is full of shit”

Either those five words effectively ended Paulie Malignaggi’s career in premium cable, ended his ascension into PPV upper undercard (let alone main events) or some combination of both. Yet, there’s no question that irreparable harm was done to his win-loss record because of a controversial decision.

Malignaggi was rather blunt (maybe pretty tasteless in the minds of some), but he wasn’t exactly lying at the moment. He had a legitimate beef with the scoring, particularly that from the scorecard of Gale Van Hoy, whom he railed on when he discovered who would judge the fight. Before the fight came about on HBO's Boxing After Dark, he took issue with the fight’s location (Houston, hometown of the rising Mexican-American star, Juan Diaz), the referee (Laurence, son of Dick Cole, chairman of the Texas Athletic Commission) and the judges (not just Van Hoy, but the idea that two of the judges were from Texas and one Californian, being of Mexican descent). Even during the pre-fight interview with Max Kellerman, he laid out his grievances once again, though he says that he was assured of a fair fight and knew that he had to prove his mettle in the ring.

Unless he thoroughly dominated Diaz from the opening bell, Malignaggi may have felt that there was no way he was leaving Houston with a career-defining win last night. Yet, the bigger problem was that he didn’t do himself any favors by his vocal crusade.

In the build-up and during the fight, I kept thinking of some of the wisest words ever spoken to me: never give anyone a reason to discount, dismiss, discredit or disrespect you. It sounds like a rather defensive look on life, but the truth is that when the odds are against you and you may feel that there are certain people trying to keep you away from achieving professional or personal goals, the absolute worst thing you can do is to rile up those antagonists… without having the credibility to back yourself up.

As a lot of fighters, Malignaggi has a fairly strong record (26-4-0, five knockouts), yet has not found success against some of the sport’s bigger names such as Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton. Despite his fame as being “Little Mac” in the Wii version of “Punch Out!”, he hasn’t reached his expectations for a plethora of reasons; those losses to Cotto and Hatton, a switch in trainers and a lack of stopping power. Whether true fans like it or not, his is not a resume that has made the powers-that-be stand up and listen when he voiced his displeasure about this bout.

Yeah, Malignaggi got screwed by that 118-110 scorecard from Van Hoy, no doubt about it. Yet, those folks that he proceeded to assail in those five words are probably thinking that 20+ win lightweight out of Brooklyn are a dime a dozen.

Not that it’s right…

Scott Christ (SC), editor of the top notch SB Nation blog Bad Left Hook, makes an excellent argument of how a potential “blacklisting” of Malignaggi will basically prove his point of boxing (or as said, the powers that be of the sport) being full of excrement.

At some point, there has to be accountability for this stuff. It's been going on for years, and some people will go, "Hey, it's been going on for years, whatever," but why should we accept what appears to be absolute corruption within a SPORT? This is not professional wrestling. This is a SPORT. The athletes come in thinking they're competing, and that their skills can carry the day even if they're an underdog. Malignaggi essentially had no chance to win this fight. Barring an unlikely knockout or some sort of ungodly domination, Juan Diaz had this in the bag.
And how hard does it get to continue to support and love a sport when guys can lose a fight, take the microphone, and flat-out call the sport a crock, and it's hard to disagree with them? We're admitting that we're watching a sport with some rather inexcusable flaws.
However, the reality is that no matter how many of us may pontificate, predict and promote the self-interests of those in sports; we’re not inside their heads. We’re not following the second-by-second actions and thoughts of the people who will make the decisions. In other words, try as we might, the hardest thing to predict is human nature.

No one could have predicted that Malignaggi would have been right until that very moment he heard Michael Buffer announce that Diaz won the decision.

Because judges are essentially anonymous until they screw up; no one could have truly predicted that Van Hoy would have revealed what appears to be such a personal dislike for Malignaggi that he could not render a professionally fair decision.

Most of all, none of us can be flies on the walls in the homes of those in charge that Malignaggi skewered by those very five words.

Now, this isn’t to absolve Golden Boy Promotions, the Texas Athletic Commission or those particular judges of any blame by any means. When you become a major force in an industry, it’s with knowledge and influence of and over those who you work with. Golden Boy was certainly aware of Texas’ reputation as a state that doesn’t give some fighters a fair shake. The TAC moved forward with Van Hoy as a judge and the younger Cole as the referee, despite Malignaggi’s protest (though to be real here, if they never saw the conflict of interest in the past, there was no incentive to change course). There was not a lack of oversight or even transparency, but rather a lack of interest to placate someone who seemed to have yelled ‘bloody murder’ at every given opportunity.

How this affects fight cards going forward in Houston, at least, remains to be seen as future opponents for Diaz are undoubtedly going to raise similar questions of fairness and go so far as to demand that he comes to more “neutral” cities. Being that this is a sport built on local stars growing regionally before becoming household names, neutrality is rather hard to come by, if non-existent.

Imagine if Malignaggi won in a pro-Diaz crowd in Space City; the Diaz camp would have angled for a rematch, but would likely have to come to Malignaggi’s backyard. With Malignaggi’s promoter (DiBella Entertainment) running the show, three New York/New Jersey/Connecticut judges and decidedly local crowd for Malignaggi in a plethora of locations in the Tri-State Area, Diaz may have not complained about the home-field advantage for his opponent, but he would have the some, if not all of the same exact questions in his mind.

As much as people are attacking the entire sport of boxing (and a good chunk of mixed martial arts fans who refuse to acknowledge that these are two separate sports, but are ridiculously reveling in this latest controversy), it’s the organizations that cause the problems that mire it. Fight fans want more guys like Malignaggi to speak out on those issues without fear or filter and that’s completely understandable considering the history of corruption that has marred the sport. In an individualized sport where fights happen over so often and no teammates in the ring, the boxer is his/her own brand at all times; assuming the risks, basking in the glory and being humbled by the pitfalls alone when the lights shut off. Any prizefighter worth the salt understands this basic reality.

Yet, this wasn’t Bernard Hopkins of the 1990s and early 2000s, mowing down the opposition right and left with a slickly-defensive, rarely exciting, but highly successful style en route to becoming a future Hall of Famer. For as much as The Executioner ticked off the establishment, he schooled everyone on how to dissent by just winning fights and keeping the salty language to a minimum when he did lose those disputable fights to Jermain Taylor. Malignaggi might as well been Zab Judah for all the establishment cares.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the message and in this case, it’s easy to believe that it’s the messenger. Yet, more often than not, how it’s delivered that halts necessary actions.

Say What?!?!: Despite all of this and while he was gracious enough to have not disparaged Diaz before and after the fight, what the hell was he thinking wearing those shorts? They must have weighed at least eight pounds. Add the sweat, the constant movement and the lack of attachment to his groin protector, they must have felt closer to twelve pounds of extra baggage.
As said via Twitter, there was no way my mother would have let me become a boxer. There was also no way she would have ever allowed me to walk anywhere with pants or shorts hanging below my posterior at any point. Next time, I’d advise that he’d rock something like this, even if they are equally questionable in the fashion department.

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