The Roars Behind Closed Doors
You've seen the headlines.
You've heard the interviews.
You still don't know what the hell is going on.
Paulie Malignaggi has left the McGregor training camp ahead of his super fight with Floyd Mayweather in less than 3 weeks. After initiating some trash talk with the Irish mixed martial artist back in December, Malignaggi was invited to be brought in as a sparring partner. Two sparring sessions and a set of suspect photos later, he's out and not holding back his words. It's best to listen to his interview on the MMA Hour here to get the full timeline of the events, as well as take a look at the photos below:
This whole series of events seemed suspect from the get-go to most. At first, the addition of Paulie seemed a notion of respect for his extensive track record and top-tier boxing IQ. Then McGregor revealed his true intentions behind the move. This sudden departure seems more predictable and less surprising the more it's picked apart, and that will set you back a few hours. What I'm here to discuss today is more so regarding the competition between two cornerstones of the fight game:
One of my favorite aspects of big fights is the buildup. I fiend over any substantial interview/training clip, and am likely to cancel any dates with my imaginary girlfriend to tune into HBO's 24/7 behind the scenes specials. One thing that is nowhere to be found however is actual sparring.
This is not by accident. Fighters will close gyms to the public, confiscate camera phones of the entire team, and propel any means to keep the most significant aspect of training as secret as can be. Keeping your sparring secret goes beyond photo evidence, it's common courtesy and fraternal code from fighter to fighter to keep it all in the ring. The sweet science is long built on such accord and mysticism.
It's no debate that boxing is half-part sport and half-part entertainment. There's no getting around this anymore. Outside of highlighting each fighter's past accolades, fighting styles, and general marketability, significant promotion is dedicated to the buildup to the specified bout. In today's age of instant news, Twitter, and online outlets, any interview longer than 20 seconds and any newsworthy event during fighter's camps dominate the boxing community.
If anything else, this M&M saga could be indicative of where promotion is headed...at the expense of professionalism. As fighters continue to focus on building their social presence, the longstanding confidentiality of sparring sessions or training secrets are standing on a thin line. McGregor and Malignaggi caused quite a stir with the series of events, stemming from the photos you've seen above. The buzz about the fight continues to grow as one claims knockdown against the other's claim of bullshit. This is how it works. Stories come out of camps claiming fighters being KO'd, not being ready, and countless other story arcs to gain public interest in a now specialized setup. Upset narratives are created this way. But it's infringing upon the sacred respect and privacy that fighters share with one another. Entertainment and esteem competing for the defining principle of boxing.