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The Ring Magazine Shakes Up Its Leadership, Threatens Its Credibility

I wish that this was not so one-sided a post. But current and former officials with The Ring — a publication I revere, have worked for and am affiliated with, in a manner of speaking — haven’t provided their explanation.

What we have is this: On Thursday, Eric Raskin and William Dettloff, contributing editor for the publication and senior writer for the publication, respectively, announced on their Ring Theory podcast that editor-in-chief Nigel Collins and managing editor Joseph Santoliquito had been fired by Golden Boy Promotions, the boxing promoter that owns Ring Magazine. They said that the offices of Ring Magazine in Blue Bell, Pa. will be shuttered, and the magazine offices will now be centered in Los Angeles, where GBP and the editors of RingTV, the magazine’s website with previously separate leadership, are located. Dettloff and Raskin sounded alarm bells about what this entails for Ring Magazine’s independence, and, consequently, its championship policy and the credibility of its rankings.

That was all eyebrow-raising. What the pair said specifically about what the changes mean, beyond that, was troubling. Dettloff indicated that Collins was the last safeguard against GBP meddling and Ring: “Nigel has now duly paid the price for having backbone.” On Twitter, Raskin harkened back to the days of Ring’s notorious rigged ratings scandal: “It might prove to be even worse than the ’70s scandal. We’ll see.”

It’s nothing new for GBP’s ownership of Ring to pose conflict-of-interest problems for the so-called “Bible of Boxing.” Even before I had a thing to do with the magazine, I wrote about how GBP’s purchase of Ring was problematic. But to date, Ring’s rankings have shown integrity, and I know from having looked at them systematically not so long ago. The proof, as it was, was in the pudding. The magazine, by my skeptical evaluation, had appeared untainted by GBP’s ownership.

That remains the case today, so far as I know. But following the GBP maneuvering of personnel — not disputed by anyone I’ve contacted, to date — there are new questions about whether GBP has interfered too much into the day-to-day operations of the publication.

GBP’s Oscar De La Hoya had promised the following upon the purchase of the magazine (along with Pro Wrestling Illustrated):

“These magazines will be held in an editorial trust where they will be operating totally independent of any influence from me or others from the Golden Boy Companies as it relates to editorial direction or content.”

On one level, GBP is entitled to make personnel moves at the businesses it owns. And there are no indicators, as of now, that GBP is influencing “content” at Ring Magazine. But by changing leadership at the magazine, it could be said that GBP is affecting Ring’s “editorial direction.”

It must be noted that I have several different degrees of conflict of interest here. I have long been an advocate of Ring’s ratings and championship policy; just look to the column on your left. I have worked for Nigel and Joe directly, and consider Eric a friend, one who has, incidentally, helped my mini-boxing writing career. And I recently joined the Ring Ratings Panel. Raskin and Dettloff have their own personal stake in what is happening, in that both were removed from RingTV and haven’t hidden their dissatisfaction about that on Twitter or in columns at The Sweet Science, and both stand to lose money not writing for Ring Magazine.

On the other hand, in their podcast, despite their notes of alarm, both Raskin and Dettloff encouraged readers of Ring Magazine not to cancel their subscriptions, to see how it plays out. As I’ve said many times before, there are few boxing publications today that are free from conflicts of interest; for instance, ESPN airs boxing programming for profit and simultaneously pays a journalist to cover boxing who often writes about ESPN boxing programming. Absent proof of any GBP corruption of the rankings in the near future, it wouldn’t be prudent to assume that the rankings are instantly tainted, or that the magazine will now be a hopeless GBP shill.

But more GBP involvement raises deeper doubts, is all. And I’ve already raised questions periodically in the past about whether the current writers and editors at the website, despite their own considerable good qualities — Michael Rosenthal, Doug Fischer and Lem Satterfield — have behaved in ways that are opposite the philosophy of Ring Magazine and/or in accordance with GBP.

As I mentioned at the start, I wish I had more perspective. Collins and Santoliquito did not respond to requests for comment. Rosenthal said Thursday that he could not comment yet. When there’s more information about what all this means, I’ll communicate it.

I’m withholding final judgment on all of this, and what it means for the magazine, until I know more. All I know is that, based on what I’ve heard so far, I’m worried. Very, very worried.

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., where he is a staff writer for CQ Roll Call.

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