Friday, September 28, 2007


The great thing about coming into boxing fandom late is that I have few illusions about its shady side. It's nothing like my early love of baseball being ruined, in succession, by the revelation of my Mets' rampant drug use at a time when Nancy Reagan was telling me "Just Say No!," then by the 1994 strike. Both shattered my impression of baseball, America's pastime, as a pure, true thing. I turned to basketball with a more jaded eye, but I never imagined that a referee would get caught up in a mob gambling scandal, an event that was akin to the first blow to my love for baseball being struck by Dwight Gooden snorting cocaine. You're on probation, NBA.

I know boxing is corrupt, although I believe it's less corrupt than it has been. I knew this before I saw my first fight, and I know it now.

That takes some of the emotional sting out of the headlines about Sugar Shane Mosley having allegedly indulged in a doping regimen. That's not to say I'm any less convinced of doping being wrong -- not at all. From a distance, I watch the unfolding tale of fashion designer Marc Ecko branding Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run ball with an asterisk and I nod approvingly.

Mosley, for those who don't remember, has been affiliated with the BALCO scandal for quite some time. That isn't new. What's new is the specifics of the evidence revealed in the Sports Illustrated piece. They aren't very encouraging, really -- although I would note that Oscar De La Hoya getting gassed in the 12th round of his 2003 fight with Mosley isn't anything that passes much as evidence, since De La Hoya regularly pants his way to the finish line for lack of stamina -- to people who might be inclined to give Mosley the benefit of the doubt. I count myself as something of a fan of Mosley. He's everything I could ever want in a prizefighter. He's fast. He's very skilled. He's got enough power, even at higher weights than his original 135, to make that combination of speed and skill very potent. He's afraid of no one, seeking out time and again tremendously difficult opponents that everyone else had preferred to avoid. And in interviews, he comes across as a pretty good dude.

But here's where I have an advantage: If Mosley did what he is alleged to have done, I'm disappointed, yes. My potential Mosley fandom -- already diminished by the BALCO allegations anyway -- will fade away. And I fear that his welterweight (147 lbs.) title bout against Miguel Cotto, the best fight on paper in a shining constellation of fall and winter showdowns unlike any seen in boxing for a very long time, will now be diminished or tainted. I'd say the more this is sinking in, mere hours since the news broke, all of those things have begun happening for me. But I'm not surprised or caught off-guard.

Illusions or no, boxing doesn't need this right now. It's on the verge, with a few nice chess moves, of reestablishing itself somewhat with the broader public, having produced its biggest money-making event ever this summer and capitalizing on it by putting up some intensely needed big-time fights for the rest of the year. To all those boxers out there thinking about steroids and other illicit means of getting ahead, heed my advice: "Just Say No." Nothing can be done about 2003, but, you know, going forward. I may continue to follow your exploits, but I'm pre-jaded. Nobody's looking to give your sport the benefit of the doubt now, at this sensitive time in boxing's history. This is exactly the kind of thing someone thinking about watching more boxing is going to look at and say, "Nah. Now I remember why I stopped tuning in." And won't your purses be all the bigger if more people care than not?

Or, rather, D.A.R.E. to resist drugs before violence.


Dammrod said...

I have a friend who knows an aspiring MMA fighter who moved down to Miami for a year and trained with the American Top Team club. Apparently nearly every guy there was on steroids. They weren't bashful about it either. These guys treated performance enhancers like we treat vitamins: no big deal, just something to use on a daily basis.

These guys had a litany of reasons why there was nothing wrong with using steroids. "Everyone does them." "Even if I use steroids I still have to work hard for the benefits." "The effects of steroids are overexaggerated. It's no big deal." It's disheartening how steroid use has become normalized amongst many athletes. I think boxing has managed to avoid the corrupting influence of these drugs better then many other sports, but it may only be a matter of time.

Boxing commissions need to step up their testing and enforce stricter penalties. Then again, the Olympics do some of the most stringent drug testing on the planet and dopers still manage to slip through.

Tim -- said...

Just a big game of cat and mouse, Dammrod. I wish the mice would stop running all together, though. I'd like to believe what I'm seeing is a real feat of human accomplishment, without having to fret.

P.S. How happy are we about Taylor and Pavlik making weight?:

dammrod said...

What's annoying is that there are some athletes that are clearly on steroids that manage to avoid discovery time and time again. Especially in MMA where fighters are encouraged to get big and thick. The way I see it, if you're 300+ lbs. of muscle and you aren't Nikolay Valuev, you're probably using steroids.

Thank God the Taylor-Pavlik weigh in went without a hitch. I can't wait for tonight. This has action written all over it.

I see Berto's opponent David Estrada managed to just make weight, though I don't really want to think about how a man can lose 1.5 lbs. in just an hour.

beetqueen said...

I actually learned quite a bit about boxing's shady side this weekend. I watched a two or three hour long history of boxing special on Showtime. I now know more about boxing than anyone...well, anyone I've talked to today, and probably eee too!

Tim -- said...

Dammrod: I'll have some more thoughts on Mosley later. As for MMA, I've never gotten into it. But your evidentiary standard is solid.

Beetqueen: What was the name of this special? It doesn't sound familiar.