Last Friday, Boxing saw yet another putrid judges’ decision which left the foul odor of bullshit wafting in the air of the drafty casino in which ESPN’s Friday Night Fights was emanating from. Rances Barthelemy, the Cuban transplant who was fighting in his adopted hometown of Miami, notched an odious decision victory over his leathery Afghan counterpart, Arash Usmanee. This result omitted the fact that the Afghan, after a difficult opening quarter, managed to turn Barthelemy into an easy target for his ramrod offense, which battered Rances and his lanky frame. Alas, the taste of victory for the squat Usmanee was not to be as the clumsy bureaucrats sitting at ringside awarded the decision to Barthelemy; the same fighter who was out on his feet only minutes earlier. Inevitably, the Twitterverse and ESPN mainstay Teddy Atlas were fuming, and, subsequently, resorted to the most facile of requests to rectify this ubiquitous wrong in boxing: A national commission overseen by the United States Government. If the last year of absentee governing is any example, the last thing boxing needs is the intervention of a bloated and hobbled Washington; a body which can’t get its most basic finances in order, but is yet going to be tasked with the duty of fixing the sport — Hubris, at best.
Crying for government intervention, whenever there’s a problem that’s beyond a simple repair to fix, is an age-old tradition in western society. Environmental Cataclysm? The Government is there. Crime in the streets? Call the Feds. The Spotted Owl of Northern Oregon is experiencing a poor mating season? Inevitably, you bring in the bureaucrats. However, this attitude belies the simple way in which government works in the United States, and why a national boxing commission, simply, will not work. We create these governing institutions when there’s a problem. Eventually that problem subsides, often with no help from these agencies, but rather natural causes, leaving the public stuck with an unnecessary regulatory body in which little oversight is enforced. Naturally, without the watchful eye of a chaperon, the body becomes a plaything for the monied interests in which it’s supposed to combat. Don’t believe me? How else can you explain the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), which was created to advocate the cause of “mother nature”, is now staffed by former employees of the gas, oil, and coal industry? Logic and sound stewardship doesn’t exactly ring out, in this case.
Well, the same thing has happened to boxing. In the wake of the mob-run days of the sport, where malfeasance were aplenty, the states got involved to “clean-up” boxing. Thus, we were left with unbending monoliths like the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which were government-sanctioned agencies designed to ensure fairness in boxing. Again, this a laudable mission statement, but the reality is far more murkier. Inevitably, the outrage, which spurred upon their inception, faded, and widespread lobbying by promotional outfits became the norm. Unsurprisingly, the likes of Bob Arum and Richard Schaefer are wealthy individuals, who are regulars on the political fundraising circuits. They had no interest in seeing these commissions staffed by unfriendly abettors, and in turn, pumped colossal amounts of cash into statewide elections, and bought off local leaders. Those same officials, then, repaid their pimps by appointing friendly figure heads to head these commissions. Which is exactly the reason why an aloof bureaucrat like Keith Kizer, who had little prior experience with boxing, runs the most important government agency in the sport, the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The fix is in, folks.
These commissioners are, then, tasked with the duty of appointing judges, who will determine winners and losers , which is where the state heads really repay the favor to their boxing sugar daddies. And now, the band aid to this problem is more government? If anything, this wandering crew of “lawmakers” are the men and women that have soured the sport. We’ve put fools into important positions, had them financed by promoters, and expected them to produce justice and competence. This medieval logic is preposterous. One only has to look at how the US Federal Government bungled the Barry Bonds investigation to truly see how amateurish these petulant legislators really can be when faced with the topic of sport.
If that’s not enough, boxing is undoubtedly a global sport, and foreign governments have never exactly shown a preference for bending to the wills of Uncle Sam. Considering that the majority of today’s boxing cards happen in Mexico, England, Germany, and other foreign locales — where corruption and incompetence reign as well — are we, now, expecting these foreign governments to surrender their national sovereignty to the likes of elected officials from America? Are we even pausing to reflect how bat shit crazy that idea sounds? There’s no way these foreign powers are going to bend to a “National Commission”. They can’t agree on global climate change or free trade, but they’re going to put their differences aside so that Arash Usmanee is going to have a fairer shake with boxing judges?
Ultimately, there’s nothing contemporary about widespread judging problems, it’s a frequent problem that’s always plagued the sport. I admire the fact that the partisans of boxing have such a fervor for reforming these ghastly injustices, but it’s important to aim their anger at the right location. The United States Government is certainly not an oasis of reform. To rebut this birdbrained idea, a smarter choice would be an organization staffed equally by promoters, trainers, and fighters to oversee the sport, with the blessing of the government, but absolutely not staffed by their own crew of Keystone Kops. Let’s play these competing interests against one another and force them to come to an agreement on a group of officials that is most palatable to all interests. If there’s anything a promoter hates more than more oversight, it’s seeing another promoter getting an unfair advantage — thus, where self-regulation would naturally stem from their own competing interests. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than expecting John Boehner to right all the sport’s wrongs.