The Boxing Esq. Podcast, Ep. 28: Doug Fischer
The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”. Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world champions in his 20-plus years in the sport.
Listen to episode 27 with Todd DuBoef here.
His guest on this podcast is Doug Fischer, Editor-in Chief of The Ring Magazine. Fischer talked about his upbringing in the midwest and his journey as a boxing writer. They also discussed the origins of internet boxing coverage and Doug’s time as one of the principals of both House of Boxing and MaxBoxing.com, as well as his move to The Ring.
Additionally, they did a division-by-division review of the sport from heavyweight to bantamweight, as well as their candidates for Fight of the Year so far in 2019.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
On putting together the influential House of Boxing internet site:
“(Bringing Michael Katz and Thomas Hauser to the website) was the paradigm shift . . . . (Marc Roberts – who bought House of Boxing) was saying, “I can get Jerry Izenberg.” I’m like, “I don’t know. I like Jerry. I have a lot of respect for Jerry. But he’s not one of the guys I read.” He said, “I can get Michael Katz.” I’m like, “You can get Katz!?”
I was aware that Katz was having trouble with the (New York) Daily News. Like, they were butting heads. And I read Katz religiously. And I noticed that his column was shrinking. It was going from like 800 words to 500 words to 300 words, you know what I mean? And I know that he’d written some stuff that had not gotten the Daily News sued, of if not sued, legally threatened. They’d been threatened by everybody from Bob Arum, Don King, to whoever Katz was throwing stones at and had thin skin. So I was like, you know what? Maybe that’s possible. ‘Cause I know the kind of columnist Katz was. He needed room. And the Internet, you know, no word count and less restraints, less restrictions. That makes sense to me, ’cause he threw rocks, right? He wanted to get a reaction. He gave people nicknames. He was one of those columnists that I disagreed with 50% of what he wrote. If Katz had a fight prediction, I automatically pick the other guy. If Katz said somebody was going to be an all-time great, I’m going to be like, no, he’s hype. He’s going to crash and burn. You know what I mean?
But I had to read him and I respected him as a columnist. I could tell, like, he could really write his ass off, you know? So that was intriguing. And so Katz used to utilize Hauser as his legal counsel to read over the contracts and to help write up his own contract. And Hauser kind of wrote himself in to the Michael Katz package. So it was a two for one. When we got Katz, we got Hauser.
And then on our side I brought in Steve Kim ’cause he had a popular radio program dedicated to boxing (in Los Angeles at the time). And Steve was the same way. I didn’t agree with half of what Steve said. I used to call in (to his show) and sometimes we’d argue about stuff like, was open scoring good for boxing, is Zab Judah the real deal or not, you know, and that kind of stuff. I got to know him a little bit and he was somebody I spoke to when we (web master Gary Randall and I) first started to design a website. I talked to Steve about what we need to have a good website. And Steve was really good. Steve just tells it like it is. He’s a straight shooter and he doesn’t care if you don’t like what he has to say, which is why he became a good columnist and why I thought he could be a good columnist. And he has become a really good columnist and he’s a good reporter as well.
His talent, however, really is broadcasting. And so the Internet, being multimedia, there were possibilities there by bringing Steve Kim in and then at some point we, you know, Gary (Randall – co-founder of House of Boxing) wasn’t able to post everything. Steve is very demanding and he’s a work horse and he’s not like me. I’m not the breaking-news type dude. I want to write stories. I’m going to look at who’s coming up. I want to talk about what’s up and pontificate and all that kind of crap. And Steve was more of a hard-news guy and he would email Gary breaking news that Gary wouldn’t get too all day or maybe even ’til the next day. And it was driving Steve crazy. So we brought in Tom Gerbasi to be the webmaster, the guy who posts stories and all that. I knew Tom Gerbasi because he was a publicist. He did PR work for female fighters that I’d written about for House of Boxing. Do you remember Leah Mellinger? Nina “The Bomb” Ahlin?
So I would sometimes write stories on female fighters, like Bridgett Riley, and Gerbasi was the person who put me in touch with some of them. And Gerbasi reminded me, ‘Hey, I write too.’ When we went out to dinner with him and we talked about him joining the team and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I can copy edit. Yeah, I can post. But guys, I’m a writer, I can write.’ I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, right. Okay, cool.’ So it was a great mix. We’ve got not just a veteran but a decorated veteran in Michael Katz and an award-winning author in Thomas Hauser. And then we had young guns like Steve Kim and Tom Gerbasi. And it was a real good mix. You had guys on the East Coast, guys on the West Coast. It was for about a year and a half, I think we had a Dream Team with houseofboxing.com.”
On his philosophy as Editor-in-Chief of The Ring:
“Every editor has their own vision and brings their own interests to the publication. I wanted to show more love to the lighter weight class guys. I’m into the Asian scene, the Japanese scene. I wanted to have stories on the Japanese fighters that are making noise, put them on the cover. I wanted to show love and respect to women’s boxing and the female scene because I think we could be entering a golden age. I think it’s getting to that point. So I wanted to recognize champions who were part of women’s boxing. And I’ve been able to do that.
I wanted to really push the belts and force the issue with the ratings committee, with The Ring ratings panel, to pull the trigger. You know, okay, it’s not number one versus number two, but guess what, we’ve got number one versus number three. Come on guys, let’s do this. You know, you have to do that sometimes because some of these folks are such purists and they’re so geeky with it, they out-think themselves. You know what I mean? And thankfully, with (Associate Editor) Tom Gray, we’ve pushed the issue on certain fights where The Ring Magazine title could be on the line, but it didn’t have to be on the line if the ratings panel didn’t want it. And we had that situation with the first fight between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Estrada. We had that situation with Callum Smith and George Groves. We recently had that situation with Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez and The Ratings Committee was like ‘No.’ You know, half of them were like, yeah, and a half were like, nay. We’re like, what are you guys, nuts? Whoever wins this fight, they’re worthy. Come on! Stop being nerds, man. Come on! You know, we had to do that. You know, if you don’t do that, people don’t get crowned. And I’m really proud that we’ve got, we don’t have a lot, but maybe we have the most Ring Magazine champions since the championship policy was reinstated by Nigel Collins in 2002 and I’m proud of that. I mean, that was part of my vision.”
On Joshua-Ruiz and the heavyweight landscape:
“Upsets like that breathe life into the sport, especially when they happen in the glamour division. Joshua-Ruiz II – everyone’s going to split, you know, as one-sided as it was, going into the first fight. Half of the people that were true believers of Anthony Joshua will now tell you that they never believed in him and that Ruiz is all wrong for him, and that he’ll never beat Ruiz and that he’s definitely gonna lose. And then there’ll be people who say no, that was an aberration. I’m picking AJ in the rematch. He’ll make the necessary adjustments. He won’t overlook Ruiz. He’ll be dialed in for this fight. And at the same time, those guys will be nervous and they’ll be like, ‘Oh God, I don’t think he’s going to win the rematch.’ They won’t know.
And then there’s a new group that are Andy Ruiz fans now. And they’ll tell you that they’ve had Andy Ruiz’s back for the last five years. They knew all about ‘the Destroyer’ and loved that chubby badass. ‘I always believed in him. Yeah, I’m ride or die for Andy Ruiz.’ You know, and they’re gonna be going into that fight. There’s tremendous interest in that rematch and where it’s going to land. And wherever it lands, it’s going to be a huge event. And it’s great. It’s great for the sport.
A lot can happen between now and early 2020. So hopefully we get Wilder-Fury II. Because the first fight was high drama. That was beautiful. That injected a lot of interest, outside interest, casual fan interest, into the heavyweight division and boxing in general.
So that rematch can certainly be a lot bigger. But anything can happen in the heavyweight division. We don’t know who Fury’s going to fight next, probably nobody of threat. But Wilder’s in with a threat. I think Luis Ortiz remains dangerous. He hasn’t impressed me in his fights since the first fight with Deontay Wilder. I do get kind of the feeling like maybe he aged five years during the 10 rounds with Deontay Wilder last year. But, I mean, he showed where he’s at. I think Luis Ortiz proved to be a top five or six heavyweight and somebody who certainly has the ability to beat Deontay Wilder on a good night. That wouldn’t shock me. I wouldn’t pass out if Wilder lost a decision or got knocked out by Luis Ortiz. The dude’s dangerous but I favor Deontay in that rematch.”
On the current state of the Cruiserweights and where it will be post-WBSS:
“Despite the controversy with the (Krzysztof) Glowacki fight, Ring Magazine has (Mairis) Briedis rated number one and (Yunier) Dorticos is rated number three. Our champion is (Aleksandr) Usyk and our number two contender is Murat Gassiev.
Usyk is going up, so we’ll have a vacancy for the cruiserweight title. Gassiev is going up. So that number two spot is vacant. So you know, whenever Briedis and Dorticos fight in the World Boxing Super Series final, they could be number one and number two in the Ring Magazine rankings. And if that’s the case our vacant title will be on the line. And I really feel like the Ring Magazine champion is the top fighter in each division.”
On the current state of the Light Heavyweights:
“These guys are all fun to watch. I like it. They are entertaining. The light heavyweight top four are all from Russia or the former Soviet Union. (Oleksandr) Gvozdyk is Ukrainian. There’s some interesting matchups to be made there and they just need to happen. I mean that’s what we need to happen. And I know before the (Artur) Beterbiev fight (with Radivoje Kalajdzic) ESPN was talking about some kind of informal tournament or round robin between all the title holders and I don’t know where that’s at. But I’d love to see these guys fight each other because within a few fights, you know, we could crown, if not an undisputed champion, a partially unified champion and maybe a Ring Magazine champion.”
On the performances of Demetrius Andrade and Jermall Charlo over the weekend and their place in the Middleweight division:
“I thought it was a Demetrius Andrade performance. Where he scored the knockdown, outpoints the guy clearly. He’s interesting. He’s one of those guys who I expect better technique from who was an Olympian. I believe he was on the 2008 Olympic squad. He was a world amateur champion. I remember watching him as an amateur. Maybe that World Amateur Championship was televised on some network. It might’ve been TNT or one of the Turner Networks. And a friend of mine who was a gym rat called me up and said, ‘Doug, I want you to turn on the TV and watch this guy. He’s an amateur. He’s got combinations like a young Sugar Ray Leonard.’ And I turned it on and I’m watching him and I’m thinking, wow, I can’t wait to see that guy as a pro. And he’s done well as a professional and he’s undefeated in 28 fights.
But just watching him, I expect cleaner technique. I expect crisper combinations, a better job at finishing a hurt opponent. And I don’t see that. I see a guy who’s a ring general. And in some ways he kind of reminds me of the way Tyson Fury can box when Tyson Fury doesn’t really care about the opponent. Especially before the Deontay Wilder fight, before his hiatus from boxing, when maybe he wasn’t training a hundred percent. Maybe he’s partying while he’s training and he shows up and he just kind of plays with his food. Tyson Fury was good for that for a bunch of fights over in the UK. And it’s not great to watch. You can appreciate his command of the ring and how he can control the distance and just kind of smack a guy as he moves around and switch hits.
But you do expect more from your top fighters. You do expect more from your champions and your title holders. I was a bit underwhelmed by Andrade’s performance and a little bit and to a lesser extent by Jermall Charlo’s performance against Brandon Adams. I was kinda, not like I was bored with those fights, but I’m watching it kinda like I’m waiting for these top middleweights, these undefeated middleweight beltholders to switch gears to step their game up and handle opposition that they’re supposed to handle. And that’s one thing I like about GGG is if he’s in there with a guy who’s not supposed to have a chance against him, he doesn’t play with his food. He closes the show. And it’s entertaining and it’s satisfying as a viewer, if you’re watching it on TV. And I wish we could see that from more fighters.
Now we understand not everybody has a knockout punch. I understand that. That’s not the case with Charlo. He does have that knockout punch. Maybe that is the case with Andrade. He doesn’t have that knockout punch and I shouldn’t expect to see that from him. But then he teases us a little bit with the early knockdowns. You know, like all right – he can punch and then it doesn’t happen. We don’t get the finish. So, yeah, I dunno, I don’t mean to crap on either fighter. I think they’re sensational and I’d love to see them mix with the other top middleweights. Obviously, there’s two stars of the division (Canelo and GGG), but you know, honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing them (Andrade and Charlo) fight DJ (Daniel Jacobs) or Rob Brant or Sergey Derevyanchenko. I mean, I’d like to see the top contenders fight each other.”