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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Paulie Malignaggi’s situation)

Paulie Malignaggi holding court on Kelly Pavlik's podcast during the Mikey Garcia-Adrien Broner weigh-in. Photo by Amdanda Wescott / Showtime
03
Aug

OF MICE AND MEN AND MALIGNAGGI

Doug,

I realize that The Ring in general, and yourself in particular, have had the good sense not to get too deeply involved in the Socio-political insanity that is sweeping the country.

While most media outlets are more than happy to throw gasoline on the fire in order to get cheap clicks and viewership, The Ring has steadfastly focused on the sport of boxing, and I appreciate and respect that.



Given that, I will certainly understand if this email does not make the mailbag. I have listened to the Paulie Malignaggi interview several times and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is that he said that some people find so offensive. As he himself points out during the interview, talking about race in these times is tricky.

However, his discussion concerning Devin Haney’s remarks and the changing demographics in boxing didn’t seem to cross any lines. As he rightly pointed out, throughout history the demographics of boxing has evolved as different ethnic groups have moved up the ladder socially and economically. So now in many cases eastern Europeans find themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder and at the top of the boxing ladder.

Was the problem the assertion that black fighters no longer dominate the sport, or the inference that African Americans are now in a better place socioeconomically than at any time in history? – Dan from NJ

I think both of those statements, and the manner in which Malignaggi said it, struck a nerve, Dan.  

Given all that’s happened in the U.S. (and internationally) in the two months since George Floyd was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer, Malignaggi saying “I don’t believe there’s any racial oppression in 2020, I believe it’s all made up and exaggerated,” is going to trigger the f__k out of a lot of people worldwide and understandably so.

However, it should be noted that Malignaggi said that in April, more than a month before Floyd was killed on May 25. And the context of that statement – and everything that he was supposedly told to apologize for – should be taken into consideration. Of course, we know it wasn’t, and that’s one of the many things that sucks about “cancel culture.” The No. 1 thing that sucks about it (in my opinion) is the lack of dialog in the wake of all the outrage and social media shaming and buzzing. People should be allowed to disagree with each other’s opinions and ideologies and engage in civil (and even heated) debates.

I would have been interested in hearing Malignaggi address the comments he made on the iFL TV interview on-air with his Showtime colleagues (and maybe a few guests) either as an addition to a boxing broadcast or as some form of special program on the cable network. Now, who knows if Malignaggi would have agreed to that, but I think it makes more sense than trying to force him to apologize and then cutting him loose.

Apart from the “racial oppression is made up and exaggerated” comment, I wasn’t offended by his other statements. I think he made some generalizations, but arguments can be made which support what he was saying. I certainly had no problem with him saying that boxing can be broken up into eras dominated by different ethnic groups. That’s the sport’s history. Period.

I can understand how the way he stated some of those points would rub some boxers, fans and media (and, of course, executives at Showtime and Viacom) the wrong way. “It’s no longer the time of the African American anymore in boxing” is a loaded statement. So is “It’s the Eastern European that’s become the dominant species.”

Just using “species” as a metaphor is going to trigger the f__k out of people.

But I’m not that sensitive. And I’m not up in arms over what he said. Why not? Well,

A) I realize that while Malignaggi is a smart man and a very talented commentator who can be thoughtful at times, he’s also a high school dropout from Bensonhurst; he’s not going to articulate issues of race, class and diversity as eloquently as Malcolm Gladwell, and I don’t expect him to.

And B) He’s not WRONG!

I’ve been a diehard boxing fan for more than 30 years; it used to be a heck of a lot “blacker” in the 1980s and ’90s than it is now. When I look through my Ring and KO Magazines from the ’80s and ’90s, I see African Americans occupying 75%-90% of the rankings from junior welterweight up to heavyweight.

Deontay Wilder is the lone African American ranked in The Ring’s top five heavyweight ratings.

That’s not the case anymore. Now there are two African-American contenders at heavyweight (Deontay Wilder and Michael Hunter). There’s one at cruiserweight and one light heavyweight (and those dudes are not in the top five). There’s a couple at middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight. The most are at welterweight (four) and junior middleweight (five). There are three African Americans ranked at 130 pounds (Jamel Herring, Tevin Farmer and Chris Colbert).

But at lightweight there’s just Devin Haney and Robert Easter Jr. There’s only Regis Prograis at junior welterweight. There’s only Gary Russell Jr. at featherweight. There’s only Stephen Fulton at junior featherweight.

When I started covering boxing in the late ’90s and early 2000s, junior welterweight was the home of Zab Judah, Vince Phillips, Sharmba Mitchell, Frankie Randall, DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corely, Randall Bailey, Charles Murray, Terron Millett and Reggie Green among others. Lightweight was home to Shane Mosley, Stevie Johnston, Leavander Johnson, Ivan Robinson, Freddie Pendleton, Lamar Murphy and others. At junior lightweight there was Floyd Mayweather Jr., Tracy Harris Patterson, Stevie Forbes, Eddie Hopson and Harold Warren. At featherweight, there was Kevin Kelley, Freddy Norwood, Tom Johnson, Derrick Gainer and Calvin Groves. From flyweight to junior featherweight there was Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, Junior Jones, Kennedy McKinney, Tim Austin and Arthur “Flash” Johnson. (And let me tell if you don’t already know – these guys were GOOD!)

It would be lying to say that the number of African Americans ranked in the top-10 of boxing’s many divisions hasn’t diminished over the past 20 years. Who knows if the trend will continue? Malignaggi said he doesn’t think it will change, which probably pissed some folks off. The way I see it, it’s just his opinion, but it’s not without evidence.

It would also be lying to say that the number of Eastern Europeans – or boxers from countries that were once part of the Soviet Union (which includes Central Asian nations) – aren’t increasing in number on the world-class scene. A look at Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings reveals two African Americans (Terence Crawford and Errol Spence) and four “Eastern Europeans” (Vasiliy Lomachenko, Aleksandr Usyk, Gennadiy Golovkin and Artur Beterbiev). The top three light heavyweights are Russian. We’re all excited about Sergiy Derevyanchenko challenging Jermall Charlo because we know he’s a badass. Boxers from his part of the world (Ukraine) have earned a reputation within the sport.

We’ve seen an influx of Russians and Ukrainians to boxing’s world stage in recent years. Bektemir Melikuziev is part of a new wave from Uzbekistan.

So, when Malignaggi says the “sport is saturated by Eastern Europeans – former Soviet Union fighters – that are dominating the whole landscape, and will continue to do so” should we get mad at him? I can tell you from visiting various gyms in Southern California over the past two years that there is a new generation of badasses from Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia that isn’t even on the radars of most fans and media – but they will be soon. Like you stated, they’re the “new immigrants” at the bottom of the social ladder, and they’re hungry, hard-working and learning their craft.

I don’t of this as a threat or a bad thing. I think diversity in boxing is a good thing, and I also think there will always be standout talent from every ethnic background and from every corner of the world in our sport.

 

MONZON SERIES, MYTHICAL MATCHUPS

Dougie,

I’ve read your mailbags since the House of Boxing days – they’re fantastic. It’s a small gift twice weekly. Thank you for writing them!

I just finished the show about Carlos Monzon, “Monzon: A Knockout Blow” on Netflix – it was very good. In a recent mailbag you mentioned celebrity worship, and it was interesting (and also sometimes sad) how that was explored in the show. I thought the show was even handed and fair in its representation of Monzon. Anyway, just an unsolicited recommendation.

Question: Is there an era (or decade) when you would say that modern boxers, on average, might have an advantage against previous boxers? I know it’s really tricky to compare eras, especially when you go way back to turn of the century and different rules. Just curious if you had thoughts on that.

Mythical Matchups (speaking of different eras):

Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera vs Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler

Keep up the great work! – Pat

Willie Pep was one of the super standouts of the 1940s.

Good Lord, Saddler vs. Morales would be SAVAGE. I think Saddler (it’s spelled with two Ds) at his best at 126 pounds would have too much experience (and dirty tactics) for the best featherweight version of Morales. Saddler by close UD over Morales (in a great and brutal fight). Barrera by MD or SD over Saddler. I can see a scenario where Saddler, a tall and rangy puncher, pulls a “Junior Jones” on Barrera, but Saddler was more inclined to brawl than “Poison” and wasn’t always as technically sharp as Barrera’s New York City nemesis. Barrera at his 126-pound best could outbox Saddler in my opinion. I think Barrera would give Pep a run for his money too, but I think Pep’s vast experience and lateral movement (plus a lot of roughhouse/dirty tactics) would see him through to a close decision. I think Pep outpoints Morales by close but clear UD. (I should note that I don’t believe that Morales was as effective at 126 pounds as he was at 122 and 130. He was more of an offensive force at 122, and a better ring general at 130.)

Is there an era (or decade) when you would say that modern boxers, on average, might have an advantage against previous boxers? Definitely the 1940s. The top trainers of that decade utilized the best training and conditioning methods of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s, while combining the best styles, techniques and tactics used by the iconic pioneers – from Bob Fitzsimmons to George Dixon to Joe Gans to Sam Langford to Jack Johnson to Benny Leoanrd, Harry Greb and Jack Dempsey – which they instilled into standout talent that grew up idolizing the boxing stars and heroes of the 1930s, such as Kid Chocolate, Tony Canzoneri, Barney Ross, Henry Armstrong and Joe Louis.

The fighters that turned pro in 1940 and 1941 and made noise during that decade (and beyond) include Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep, Ezzard Charles, Ike Williams, Jake LaMotta, Jimmy Bivins, Joe Brown and Billy Graham. They had the incredible annual activity of busiest fighters from the ’20s and ’30s, and even steeper competition, but they were more-complete boxers in terms of their styles and techniques. I think the legends of the ’40s remained the ultimate standard in boxing up until the 1970s or ’80s.

Kengan Ashura

I just finished the show about Carlos Monzon, “Monzon: A Knockout Blow” on Netflix – it was very good. I thought the show was even handed and fair in its representation of Monzon. Anyway, just an unsolicited recommendation. I haven’t seen the show yet, but I’ve heard about it and I will gladly take your recommendation because the closest programs to boxing that I watch on Netflix are combat-tournament oriented anime series (Kengan Ashura, Baki, Megalo Box).

Thanks for following this column for all these years (decades).

 

TYSON-JONES EXHIBITION, WEIGHT-CUTTING

Morning Dougie,

Hope things are well where you are.

Going to get my two cents about Tyson/Jones Jnr out the way (everyone is doing it, I just want to be popular). Exhibition matches are boring and pointless, no athletic commission should sanction any contest involving a fighter with Tyson’s historic abuse of body or Jones’s history of being dangerously knocked out and everyone I’ve spoken to about this seems to be into it purely because it says Mike Tyson on the poster (ie. don’t follow the sport). In other words: What’s the point?

Sorry for moaning but I had to get that of my chest

MM:

Roy Jones Jnr vs Mike Tyson / Evander Holyfield coming off the John Ruiz victory.

Want to ask you about weight cutting. To me, it is my least favourite aspect of combat sports. These days fighters spend far too much time in their camp focusing on their weight rather improving their skills. I just introduced a friend of mine to boxing. She’s really enjoying it but still can’t understand why fighters cut weight, it just seems detrimental in her mind.

To prove my point, look at Canelo. His technique and skill have improved each weight class he has gone up. Now I know that the lack of weight cutting isn’t the only reason for this, but I do think it has a negative effect on all fighters

Do you agree and if so, what would you like to see change to get fighters closer to their natural weight?

Thanks as always for reading and responding to all the emails that go into the mailbag. – Euan, Dunfermline, Scotland

I don’t like to see fighters cut weight. It creates unfair advantages in the ring, it eventually bites most fighters in the ass when they hit the wall and either can’t make the unnaturally lighter weight or totally drain themselves doing so (which puts them at risk of serious injuries during the fight), and ultimately it has a detrimental effect on their overall health. It’s unhealthy but it’s part of the culture and, unfortunately, it’s supported by the rules of the professional sport.

However, it starts in the amateurs. Boxing is split up into several weight classes, but sometimes there’s no competition to be had in a boxer’s natural weight class at an amateur show or tournament, so he or she either doesn’t fight or they have the choice of cutting weight or putting on pounds to fight in a lower or higher division. Most choose the lighter weight where they might have a size advantage. And, hey, when you’re young you can cut weight and get away with it.

Another scenario, which also happens in middle school/high school wrestling, is when you’re part of a team (such as the national boxing squad) but there’s somebody better than you in your natural weight class. You can either take a step back and be an alternate (or drop to JV if we’re talking about high school wrestling) or you can try to compete at a different weight class. Again, most teenagers go with dropping in weight because they can do it without draining themselves and thus have a size advantage

Will Tank Davis make 130 pounds for his PPV showdown with Leo Santa Cruz? If he does, will he hurt or help his chances vs. the veteran?

over the competition. This culture/mentality is carried into the pro ranks and made even more common place because of the previous day weigh-ins. If they were willing to cut weight with same-day weigh-ins in the amateurs, having 30+ hours to replenish themselves after making weight must seem like paradise. So, they do for as long as their bodies can take the strain (which is usually until their late 20s).

The only way to get boxers to fight at a more natural weight is to get rid of previous-day weigh-ins and return to same-day weigh-ins (which is highly unlikely given how many star fighters enjoy taking advantage of the system and how much of a media/promotional event it has become for big fights), or to have second weigh-ins the morning of the fight in which the boxer is not allowed to put on more than 10 pounds. The IBF has this rule for its non-unification title bouts, and I believe the Pennsylvania boxing commission has this rule for title bouts that take place there (with only same-day weigh-ins for non-title bouts).

Exhibition matches are boring and pointless… I’ve seen some incredible exhibition matches over the years and decades here in California, some of which raised a lot of money for charities.

… no athletic commission should sanction any contest involving a fighter with Tyson’s historic abuse of body or Jones’s history of being dangerously knocked out and everyone I’ve spoken to about this seems to be into it purely because it says Mike Tyson on the poster (ie. don’t follow the sport). I hear you but what if fighters of Tyson or Jones’ stature fight the said commission with legal action? We see journeymen with worse KO loss histories than Tyson or Jones fight in every damn state all the time. Why should Tyson and Jones be barred just because of their age and fame? (Just playing Devil’s Advocate here.)

In other words: What’s the point? There is no point. It’s just entertainment.

Sorry for moaning but I had to get that of my chest. Hey, you’re a hardcore boxing fan. Endless rants and moaning come with the passion for the sport.

MM: Roy Jones Jnr vs Mike Tyson / Evander Holyfield coming off the John Ruiz victory – Tyson by early stoppage; Jones by UD over Commander Vander.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s Instagram Live every Sunday.

 

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