Why I’m Stepping Back From Boxing

(Naazim Richardson was the only thing stopping Antonio Margarito from fighting Shane Mosley with loaded gloves. Richardson was not in Miguel Cotto’s corner when Cotto fought Margarito in the fight prior. Cotto looked like this after facing Margarito.)

To answer the headline, I could probably just say, “Antonio Margarito,” and about 90 percent of my work would be done.

However, in an affront to all good writers, I’ve always subscribed to the “why use one word when a thousand will do” school, so I thought I would expound.

I do not think Antonio Margarito should be fighting on November 13, not against Manny Pacquiao and not against anyone else. I do not think Margarito should ever fight professionally again.

Without intervention from Naazim Richardson, Shane Mosley’s trainer, Margarito would have fought at the Staples Center on January 24, 2009 with the elements of Plaster of Paris in his hand wraps. To date, nobody has successfully disputed this fact.

Until they do, any extraneous argument about this case is moot. Loaded gloves have no place in boxing.

Bob Arum, a repugnant but very intelligent man, does not dispute this fact. He does not even talk about this fact. Arum was a lawyer before he was a successful and disgraceful boxing promoter, and he knows how to frame an argument a lot better than most people in the sport.

So he doesn’t talk about what Margarito did wrong, which was wear loaded gloves with the intent of using them in a professional fight. He talks about what Margarito may or may not have *known*, which is subject to much more debate. Only Margarito knows what Margarito knew, at least until Philip K. Dick stories start coming true.

When the argument is framed this way, it’s hard to say what, exactly, Margarito knew about the situation. Manny Pacquiao said that he believes that Margarito had to know. Arum cites trainers who say they could slip a loaded pad into a glove without their fighters knowing.

This leads to a gray area, a point of debate, where Arum can dig in his heels and reframe the discussion away from the repulsive act Margarito attempted to commit and towards what Margarito did and did not know.

The problem is that Arum is a defense attorney without a prosecutor (except Karen Chappelle, and he doesn’t have to deal with her anymore, thanks to the so-appropriately-named Mr. Kuntz). Arum is the promoter for this fight, Arum is the primary source for too many half-assed writers, so Arum gets to dictate the terms of the argument. So we talk about what Margarito knew, and not what he did.

What Margarito knew was irrelevant. What Margarito did was the worst thing a fighter can do in boxing.

My position has not changed since Margarito’s indiscretion was revealed. Since then, fans, writers, and Arum and his crew have attacked my position. Tim has chronicled and refuted their attacks more thoroughly and more reasonably than I ever could. Regardless, they persist, and are seemingly drowning out the voices of protest.

If the majority in boxing, from promoters to fighters to fans, are more interested in fleecing the sport like bank robbers than improving the sport for its long-term health, I see little point in continuing to follow and cover and promote the sport like I have for the past few years.

The fact is, right now, I don’t like boxing. The Margarito situation makes plain everything I find repellant about the sport: the lack of central authority; the failure of the media to provide balanced and thoughtful coverage; the imbalanced power that allows promoters like Arum and Golden Boy and networks like HBO to run the sport like feudal lords; the sad but real willful ignorance of fans who would rather root for a flag than an honorable man; everything about the sport right now makes me want to throw up my hands and say, “Fuck it.”

Well, consider this the written equivalent of my throwing up my hands and saying, “Fuck it.”

For years, HBO, Top Rank, Golden Boy, and everyone else could rely on me to purchase each and every card they aired on pay-per-view; not anymore. They could count on me to go to fights in my area, often on my own dime, and provide detailed online coverage of cards of a variety of size and prominence; not anymore. They could expect me to check in on all the major boxing Web sites and anticipate upcoming fights and try to bug some of my non-boxing friends to check them out when I felt they were worth it; not anymore.

In return for the considerable time and money I have given this sport, I can cherish fond memories of incredible feats inside the ring that I’ve seen. I can also say, without a shred of doubt in my body, that boxing is far and away the most cynical, hateful, disgusting, mismanaged major professional sport that has any sort of following in the United States.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Bud Selig would never, ever tell his fans to go fuck themselves. Nor would Roger Goodell or David Stern. Nor would Dana White. Only Bob Arum would do that. Only boxing would let a powerful figure express his absolute disregard for the wishes of his paying customers. Forget sports; no other minimally competent businessman would ever express such a sentiment about his or her paying customers.

Except in boxing.

That quote, in response to reporters asking Arum about matching up Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez (you know, the kind of fight that would make me go out and tell my friends, “I know you guys don’t watch many fights, but you have to see this one,” also known as the kind of fight Arum is loathe to make), embodies everything that is literally repelling me from the sport. A rich, spoiled, selfish, temperamental egomaniac holds the fate of the sport in his hands. Anybody with any power to stop him can either be bought off or avoided. Can’t fight in California? We’ll fight in Texas. Can’t fight in the United States? We’ll fight in Mexico. It’s the shameful reality of a shameful sport.

I’m absolutely certain that this post will be met with scorn, derision, and heaping platefuls of sarcasm (apparently PacLand is bulging with refugees from Homerpalooza) in the comments. I welcome those responses. I’m sure that some boxing writers who may stumble upon this may either laugh condescendingly at my naiveté or angrily refute my claims. I welcome that too.

In the past month, I’ve moved into a new apartment. Our company softball team, which I play for and support with the type of insanity that used to mark my support for boxing, won its first championship, after several of the most exciting and fun games I have ever played in. I lucked out and got the first pick in my fantasy draft. I went with my Dad to the U.S. Open on Monday and lucked out again, as my favorite player, Andy Roddick, was featured on center court that day. I had a really, really good month.

Compare that to boxing, which only annoys, frustrates and outright enrages me these days. Even Ivan Calderon and Giovanni Segura’s Fight of the Year candidate was marred slightly by the shadow of Capetillo. Life is too short, and boxing is too cruel.

Not long ago, I wrote a blog entry about how boxing is broken, with numerous references to HBO’s The Wire. One line from that show serves as the perfect epitaph for my time on the fringes of boxing: “You cannot lose if you do not play.”

I’ve been playing and losing too long, boxing. It’s time for me to find a new game. Preferably one that does not treat its most ardent followers like worthless scum.

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.