by David P. Greisman
There is no trust in boxing, not in a sport where the credo for its combatants is to protect themselves at all times. That is of utmost importance in the ring; that maxim might as well hold true outside of it as well.
This was a business built up with mob involvement, by the shady practices of promoters and the questionable decisions of sanctioning bodies, damaged by continual controversy and darkened by the specter of judging and refereeing that raises questions of corruption and allegations of incompetence.
We as boxing fans and observers have learned to question everything.
We have gone from long counts to phantom punches, from banned substances in water bottles to banned substances in hand wraps to banned substances in the fighters themselves. We raise an eyebrow at the boxers themselves, who no longer just take dives, but now duck opponents — and who are not at all immune from being labeled as fakes and frauds.
We even question the injuries they suffer between the ropes on fight nights, and we increasingly question the injuries supposedly suffered in training camp.
The rumored reasons for those invented injuries can range from poor performance in sparring to poor performance at the box office. It’s not overly often that these rumors gain credence — though Marcos Maidana had a fight with Timothy Bradley postponed and then canceled in 2010 over what was said to be a back injury but later was revealed to be managerial issues.
Nevertheless, we remain in a reasonable state of skepticism. In a sport so honest that its athletes settle their differences hand to hand and one on one, we have come to believe that there is always more to the story than what is being revealed.
That was most recently the case with Danny Garcia, who was to have fought Zab Judah this past Saturday, only to have that bout postponed to April 27 by what was said to be an injury suffered in training camp.
And that continued to be the case with Devon Alexander, who was to have faced Kell Brook on Feb. 23, only to have that bout potentially postponed by what was also said to be an injury suffered in training camp.
Except as with all other sorts of conspiracy theories, be they historical or political, it matters not what is said or what evidence is presented that potentially proves the skeptics wrong. Our tendency as boxing fans, ingrained in us over time, is to question everything.
It doesn’t matter what the truth is with Garcia and Alexander. No matter what, the skeptics remain.
They note that Garcia’s injury was cited by his sparring partner, DeMarcus Corley, as being an injured thumb — but that Garcia himself said he had hurt a rib in sparring with Corley. They look at the Twitter timeline of Danny Garcia’s girlfriend, who wrote in a since-deleted post that Garcia was going to clubs night after night in early February. They recall a rumor, put online just before the official injury announcement, that Garcia had been making partying more of a priority than training.
It didn’t matter to them that the rumor had no named source behind it, no indication of the source’s motivation.
It didn’t matter to them that a rib injury need not preclude Garcia from going to the club several days after his bout had been postponed, while still presenting enough pain that it could have derailed Garcia’s training camp and not allowed him to be in top shape for the fight.
And it didn’t matter to them that Garcia posted a photo online of what he said was his swollen chest where the injury occurred.
Similarly, the report on Feb. 4 of Devon Alexander suffering a biceps injury in training camp, postponing his fight with Kell Brook, soon brought out the conspiracy theorists after a Tweet sent out barely a day and a half later by Floyd Mayweather.
“The negotiations for my fight are almost done. The front runner is IBF Champion Devon Alexander,” Mayweather wrote.
Immediately, many wondered whether Mayweather was speaking truthfully, or whether this was him manipulating the media — in this case via social media — to get further bargaining leverage in what has been anticipated to be a May fight with Robert Guerrero.
That bout would presumably be taking place in less than three months, as part of the traditional Cinco de Mayo weekend pay-per-view.
Given the timing of Mayweather’s announcement, the question became whether Alexander’s supposed injury had been a way of getting out of the Brook fight in favor of a far more lucrative Mayweather payday.
“Alexander is injured — his people swear the injury is real,” Dan Rafael of ESPN.com wrote in his weekly chat this past Friday.
Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions — which promotes Alexander and handles Mayweather’s events — has asserted to reporters that he knows of no negotiations between those two fighters, and that he is working on rescheduling Alexander-Brook.
If Alexander’s injury is real, and if the Mayweather negotiations are real, then there becomes a question of his having enough time to recover before such a bout. If his injury is fake, and if the Mayweather negotiations are real, then there becomes a question of whether Brook and his team would have legal grounds for suing Alexander on allegations that he’d fraudulently gotten out of their fight.
Despite all the bluster coming from Alexander’s camp — “Floyd says he’s a man of his word and he calls his own shots. If that’s the case, Mayweather-Alexander gets made,” said Alexander’s trainer, Kevin Cunningham, to BoxingScene’s Ryan Burton last week — it seems doubtful that this is anything other than a tactic to get Guerrero to accept whatever terms are being offered to him, ending the negotiations and getting that bout signed.
“They get what they are given,” tweeted Mayweather assistant David Levi last week, not saying to whom he was referring. “You can’t demand anything when you have no negotiating power.”
And through all of this, Guerrero’s camp, which has never hesitated at sending out numerous press releases and doing countless interviews in the past to try to get its message out, has been conspicuously quiet, even as the talk about a potential Mayweather-Alexander bout started to spread.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what we think. The only truths that matter are the bouts that get made and the bouts that get canceled. Anything else regarding the “why” is for those in the business to figure out
That won’t keep the conspiracy theories from flowing. But that’s because we, as boxing fans and observers, have long gotten used to elements of this sport being dirty or disappointing. We’ve learned to question everything as a defense mechanism — we, too, know we should protect ourselves at all times.
The 10 Count will return next week.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]