Thursday, September 13, 2007

What If The "Bible Of Boxing" Was Owned By A Promoter?

Answer: It is now, per the good discussion with Dammrod in the comments section of yesterday's post. Golden Boy Promotions has purchased Ring Magazine and the affiliate boxing pubs that, together, constitute the biggest print journalism outlets in the sport.

But what does it mean?

Ring's sterling reputation was tarnished severely only once, interestingly enough when promoter Don King paid to have the magazine's highly-respected rankings of fighters manipulated to his advantage. So, in one sense, it's good that this time, the whole thing is out in the open. And Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions is taking steps to build a wall
between its promotional operations and the magazine so as to maintain its editorial independence. This, too, is a good thing. And so far, in its short and very prosperous rise to power, Golden Boy has avoided getting caught up in any major promotional scandals, save that wacky incident in the airport this year where De La Hoya himself showed up to greet Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao with a suitcase full of cash in hopes of stealing him away from a rival promoter.

But all of that is cold comfort. As a journalist by trade, it's hard to imagine a worse owner for the industry's leading magazine than perhaps the industry's leading promoter. As I said to Dammrod: "It'd be like if Lockheed Martin owned Defense News, or if Sallie Mae owned the Chronicle of Higher Education." It is my sincerest hope that Golden Boy lives up to its promise to be a more ethical kind of boxing promoter, but power tends to corrupt, and promotional companies, for all the good they do, have quite frequently been a negative force on the sport, at points practically ruining it. Too often, they rob their fighters. Too often, they've shown they'll do anything to get ahead, even if it means breaking the law. When they get too flush with their own riches, they turn into bullies and end up dominating whole networks, shutting out fighters who don't play by their rules and pushing bad fights that only serve the promoter's own interests and not those of the boxing viewing public. Boxing journalists must, must, must serve as a check on those tendencies.

Can they, I wonder, if they are wholly paid for by the very people they are meant to check? I can't imagine how. In journalism generally, corporate ownership has not led to the type of scandals many feared when the trend began, although there have been a shameful handful. I can only say that none of this is ideal, and watch closely, as all fans of the sport must, to ensure that the people watching out for wrongdoing don't get involved in wrongdoing themselves. The Ring, by virtue of its history, has earned my trust until it loses it, but right now, I am looking at the magazine with a very skeptical eye.

The cover to the first issue of The Ring. The logo's hardly changed. But now that it's changed hands, and those hands are a boxing promoter's, can the magazine ever be the same?


BOB said...

De La Hoya is the devil

dammrod said...

Solid research. I never knew Oscar tried to lure Pacquiao away with a suitcase filled with money. I remember Don King was being sued for millions by Ali, but convinced him to sign a document absolving Don King for a breach of contract for a suitcase filled with $50,000.

I think the increased scrutiny The Ring will get from the boxing public will prevent it from being altered too dramatically by Golden Boy Promotions. If GBP fighters started getting special treatment in the rankings then a lot of people, including journalists like yourself, will call foul and the Ring's reputation would be forever destroyed, which is why Oscar could be sincere when he talks about how there will be no changes. But you never know in boxing. We have a whole grip of great upcoming fights to close the year, but boxing's future remains uncertain.

Tim -- said...

Bob: You are a badass.

Dammrod: I pray you're right.

dammrod said...

I'm trying to stay positive, and I've been thinking about how this move could possibly be a good thing for boxing. By acquiring Ring, GBP has become a powerhouse promotional company and a rival for Don King and Arum's Top Rank promotional companies. More competition might pressure King and Arum to up their game and provide better fights for fight fans. Unfortunately, ego gets in the way a lot of times, and sometimes great fights won't be made because promoters are unwilling to lay aside their differences and work together for the good of the sport. Part of the reason why the last quarter of 2007 looks so sweet for fight fans is because GPB and Top Rank put aside the bad blood built over Pacquiao and have worked together to make good fights. Hopefully this trend will continue.

If the worst comes to pass and the Ring becomes a corrupt tool for GBP then where will people turn to for their rankings? There are few constants in boxing, but the Ring magazine has constantly been the source for rankings that, while not universally agreed upon, were considered much, much better then the rankings of any alphabet organization. Will we turn to the Internet? Will boxing fans come together as a community and fashion their own rankings? Will a new publication emerge to replace the Ring as the new "Bible of Boxing"?