For those of us who love the sport of boxing, we are well aware of the many emotions that this great sport can illicit in all of us. Everything from anger, sadness, joy and happiness; you name and the boxing fans have felt it. But what separates the boxing enthusiast from the fanboy, is his or her ability to temper those emotions. He or She knows how to distinguish between their passions & objective reasoning…They know how to distinguish between the boxer and the man.
With the rise of social media, everyone now has a platform in which they can voice their opinions. And while this great for boxing as a whole, it doesn’t come without its share of setbacks. One of those setbacks are the rampant cases of “fanboyism” that is plaguing the sweet science. Fanboyism has many symptoms, among them is the inability to separate what takes place in the ring and what happens outside it; as well as distinguishing between the public persona & the real man behind it. A Boxing Enthusiast does not conflate in-ring exploits with those outside of it. He or She weighs them both objectively and criticizes both accordingly.
In this article, we will provide examples of four fighters. Two from boxing past, as well as two contemporary fighters. These four fighters will allow the reader to realize that what happens in the ring, as well the public persona, isn’t always concurrent with the man behind the scenes. Hopefully, by the end of this article, we can help transition some sufferers of fanboyism to the much-desired state of Boxing Enthusiast. Without further ado let’s ring the bell.
SUGAR RAY ROBINSON: The man that many consider boxing greatest fighter of all-time, was a man that stirred up emotions in everyone who saw him; both good and bad. The Sugarman was a unique combination of skill and ego that few fighters since him have matched. This combination led to the perception by many, that he was a soulless ego-maniac. And while Robinson’s ego was legendary, behind that public veneer, was a man more complex than the public perception of him would have you believe.
Many people are unaware that, for all his ferocity in the ring, Ray Robinson was a man of many ticks and phobias. One of those being his fear of elevators. Those who knew him would recount stories of how they would have to walk up 14 flights to attend business meetings because he refused to ride in an elevator.
Another side of Ray Robinson that rarely ever gets talked about, was his compassionate & charitable side. This was evident by his dedication to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund.
ROBERTO DURAN: The Panamanian Phenom known as Manos de Piedra or Hands of Stone. Roberto Duran was presented to the world as a mean, snarling destroyer by the media who covered him. Roberto Duran was certainly not a nice man in the ring, but his reputation as an animal in the squared circle led to two very erroneous perceptions of him.
The first being that he was an unskilled-come forward brawler, who would forgo any and all skill in pursuit of the KO. Anyone with a sense of boxing history knows that Duran was as skilled and as slick as any fighter in boxing history.
The other misconception was that his vicious, macho persona made him anti-social outside the square circle. Again the truth is much more complex. While Roberto Duran was the epitome of machismo, he was a sociable, caring and humble man. The people of Panama revere him; not only for the pride he brought to the nation, but because he never forgot his humble beginnings. Stories abound of Duran giving his money to the poor as if it meant nothing to him. Such was the impact this man had in his country, that there is even a stadium named after him.
But never did Duran shed his alleged persona more so than in 1985. The 1980s saw the rise of the horrible epidemic that was HIV/AIDS. In 1985, Puerto Rican great Esteban Dejesus would learn he had contracted the deadly virus. Symptoms in Dejesus began to manifest rapidly, and he was soon on a speedy decline. On his deathbed, Esteban was visited by many in the boxing community; among them was former-bitter riv, l Roberto Duran.
During their rivalry it was clear to anyone that Duran and Dejesus did not like each other. But Duran, in an act of selflessness and compassion, hugged his former rival and kissed him on the forehead. It is important to note that in the 1980s, very little was known about AIDS/HIV and there was a lot of ignorance and misinformation being peddled. Roberto Duran was informed to not come intact with Dejesus, for fear of contamination. The Hands of Stone showed he had a heart of gold and ignored the ignorance and decided to show love to his fellow fighter.
DEONTAY WILDER: The current heavyweight landscape is home to some of boxing best. Among them is the man known as the Bronze Bomber…Deontay Wilder. In recent times Wilder has come under attack for his “bomb squad” antics as well as his flawed ring technique. While it is true that Wilder is not the second coming of Juan Manuel Marquez as far as skill, it must be taken into consideration that he began boxing at the late age of 19, an age where many fighters are turning pro. His detractors should also note that his skill-set has carried him to a bronze medal, as well as the WBC heavyweight title.
His loud and sometimes brash persona has emboldened his detractors to hurl insults like thug and loudmouth in Wilder’s direction. It is here that the quality of being to distinguish between fighter and man must be put to use. Who Wilder is in the ring and in front of the camera pales in comparison to who he is as a man. Deontay Wilder the man, serves as an example of what a loving father should be. Deontay Wilder is married and has four children (two daughters & two boys) His daughter Najeya sufferers from spina bifida a condition that leaves the spinal cord exposed. Deontay Wilder, the brash loudmouth that many in the media have labelled him, is a man who is simply trying to ensure that his daughter can a lead normal life….distinguishing is key!
FLOYD MAYWEATHER: This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the most polarizing figure in boxing today…Floyd “Money” Mayweather. Throughout his career, Floyd Mayweather became boxing’s preeminent villain. The flashy lifestyle, the cocky attitude in and out of the ring, all served to make sure Mayweather was the man you loved to hate. Floyd Mayweather was and will always be an enigma.
Indeed one would have an easier time figuring out how to crack his vaunted defence, than to truly figure him out as a person. But by tempering our emotions and distinguishing between the man and the fighter, we can come very close. While it is certainly true that Mayweather didn’t always act like a model citizen outside the ring, it was the things that are rarely mentioned that should interest the would be boxing enthusiast.
Floyd Mayweather’s good deeds have been overshadowed, partly because of his own doing and because certain media outlets only focus on the negative. That, however, shouldn’t deter us from looking into them.
Several years ago one of Mayweather’s assistants informed him of the condition of a ten-year-old boy named Austin York, who was suffering from a rare heart condition. Upon hearing this, Floyd Mayweather took it upon himself to pay for the young boy’s hospital bills.
Another story was the case of the late Genaro Hernandez. On June 7, 2011, Genaro Hernandez lost his battle with cancer at the age of 45. In a move that was reminiscent of Duran and Dejesus…Mayweather paid for the funeral costs of his one-time rival. Now Mayweather; who is known to love the spotlight for everything, did not want the public to be aware of this gesture. Like Robinson, Duran and Wilder; Floyd Mayweather the man, is more than what we see in the ring and in front of the cameras.
Anyone and everyone who follows boxing has at one time or another fallen victim to his/her emotions and biases. We’ve all argued over our favourite fighter and we were all fanboys at one point. The difference between those who stay fanboys, and those of us who became true students of the sport; is that we exchanged our bias for objectivity. We tempered our emotions in order to respect the sport as a whole. The ability to control our emotions and distinguish the fighter from the man is what the sport of boxing deserves. And if you are suffering from a bad case of fanboyism and want to cure it… it is an ability that you need.