F–k The Promoters, Coming Straight From The Undercard


Warning: This is not a happy column. This is an angry rant. If you are offended by liberal use of profanity and seething, unrepressed rage, I suggest you stop reading now and check out one of the hundreds of intelligently considered, profanity-free posts that make up the vast majority of TQBR. I also suggest you avoid conversations with Bob Arum (though I suggest that to everyone regardless of their tolerance of cussing). Sorry, but I need to get this off my chest, and censoring vulgarity in this case would inadequately express the depths of my disgust.

People always criticize promoters for their undercards. I can honestly say this is the best undercard we’ve put together since we formed Golden Boy Promotions. This is a pay-view-card, which means we pay for everything. We’re taking a big risk. I hope the fans support us and come out in big numbers to watch on pay-per-view or live at Mandalay Bay. If they don’t, I don’t want to hear anyone complain about weak undercards anymore. – Richard Schaefer, CEO, Golden Boy Promotions

I know what people want and they can go fuck themselves. – Bob Arum, CEO, Top Rank

I love analogies. Simple analogies, long-winded analogies, obvious analogies, convoluted analogies. I find that analogies are one of the best ways to expose the heart of an issue, to communicate deeper realities or absurdities in ways impossible with simple description.

So when I read Richard Schaefer’s mind-bogglingly arrogant, cynical, hateful quote above, I was of course compelled to come up with a few analogies to emphasize just what a dickhead one must be to utter such a quote. So, what Schaefer said is something like:

  • The CEO of McDonald’s saying, “People always criticize our hamburgers. In two weeks, we will be serving the best hamburgers we’ve ever served at McDonald’s. We had to pay for higher-quality meat, so we’re taking a big risk. I hope our customers support us and come out in big numbers to our restaurants and drive-thrus. If our customers do not bend over backwards praising us for giving them better-than-absolute-shit food for the first time in many years, I don’t want to hear anyone complain about our nasty, dog-food quality hamburgers ever again.”
  • An NBC executive saying, “People always criticize our programming. This Saturday, we have scheduled all-new episodes of our very best shows to air in a special three-hour block. OK, so they’re not all the best shows on TV, but it’s better than the shit you usually get. Despite all the ill will we have bred with our inferior product over the years, we hope ratings skyrocket that night. If they don’t, I don’t want to hear anyone complain about our terrible shows anymore.”
  • Me saying to my boss at work, “You always criticize my work. This week, I spent a lot of time to do the very best job I possibly could on this presentation. I actually went beyond doing the bare minimum to just not get fired, for the first time in memory. I hope you heap lavish, excessive praise on my work and promote my efforts to our superiors tirelessly. If you don’t, I don’t want to hear any complaints about poor work performance anymore.”

I could go on. And on. And on. If Schaefer’s statement were any more ridiculous, it would be The Room.

(Richard and Bob, you are tearing me apart!)

Here’s the thing: I am not required by law to spend hundreds of dollars to go to fights. I don’t have to dedicate time on my Friday or Saturday nights to sit in sweaty ballrooms with a couple thousand diehard boxing fans watching two unknowns duke it out. I don’t have to spend $60 on pay-per-view fights, no matter the quality or lack thereof of the undercard. I don’t have to blog about a niche sport with a marginalized fan base in my free time. I don’t have to praise your undercard because I’m not required to watch it.

I don’t have to support boxing; I choose to because I love the sport. Given the attitude of the two most powerful people in boxing today towards ultra-dedicated fans like me, maybe I should give UFC another shot. Dana White might not be a personal favorite of mine, but I can guaran-fucking-tee that that he would never tell his fan base to go fuck themselves or demand a certain buy rate because he actually put a decent card together for once.

When has, “You’ll take what we give you and like it!” ever been a good business model? When did, “The customer is always right,” stop applying to boxing? When did the disgracefully arrogant powers-that-be in this sport conclude that that they were providing some sort of essential service that fans could not live without?

Take a look at other sports – could you imagine Bud Selig or David Stern or Roger Goodell literally saying that their fans could go fuck themselves? Could you imagine Selig saying, in 2005: “People always criticize the inequity in payrolls in our sport. The 2005 World Series pits two teams with modest payrolls – the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros – together to decide the world champion. If ratings for this World Series do not exceed previous years, I don’t want to hear anyone complain about payroll inequality anymore?”

Selig, Stern, and Goodell would never utter the imbecilic, immature, deluded bullshit that spills like Deepwater Horizon oil from the mouths of Arum and Shaefer. They are smart businessmen – not perfect by any stretch, but practically saints when compared to the de facto heads of our ramshackle sport. They know that there is more competition for entertainment dollars than ever before and, thus, the fan rules. Compare the fan experience in baseball or basketball or football today to that of 20 years ago – it has improved immeasurably. State-of-the-art stadiums. Countless giveaway days. Every foul ball given away at baseball games. NBA teams with big-name DJs. Hell, the Boston Celtics broke down and got cheerleaders, which may or may not have killed Red Auerbach. As far as the men in charge of the biggest sports in the United States are concerned, the fan comes first.

Now, do the same exercise for boxing and compare the fan experience in 1990 to today. Those aren’t crickets you’re hearing. That’s the sound of Arum’s and Schaefer’s money-counting machines humming away – taking more and more of our money, giving less and less back for it.

Guess what, Bob and Dick? You don’t want to hear people complain about your shitty undercards? Stop putting on shitty undercards! Not just as a one-time-only favor to freaks (for which you seem to expect unrealistic returns). Make every effort to make every undercard as good as possible. This doesn’t mean that I need to see pound-for-pound fighters in do-or-die fights throughout the card. This doesn’t mean that you need to match your prized prospect with a world champion in his third fight. Just pay careful attention to matchmaking and make an honest effort to offer a balanced card. That’s it. It’s kind of, you know, your fucking jobs.

If Shaefer and Arum can’t handle the criticism that comes with valuing profit over product, they should seriously reconsider their horrendously flawed business models. Until then, they can throw all the “freak cards” my way that they like, and I will praise them when warranted. And when they give us dreck like the Many Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard, I will continue to inundate them with scorn. Actually, now that they’ve cried about it like spoiled little babies, I’ll be a lot crueler about it.

Criticism comes with the territory, Bob and Dick. If you don’t like it, you can probably go on doing what you’ve been doing over the years – ignoring the fans of your sport. For as long as you still have fans, anyway.

In closing, I can honestly say that this is the best blog entry I’ve put together since I started writing for TQBR. This is an aggressive, accusatory rant, so I’m taking a big risk. I hope the readers support me and come out in big numbers to read the blog and comment. If they don’t, I don’t want to hear anyone complain about any blogs I write anymore.

Oh, and I know what the TQBR readers want, and they can go fuck themselves.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.