I love boxing, personally. It’s literally the personification of the primal human feeling that all other sports play tap into to ignite our passions: war.
It’s two people in a ring, nothing between them but a pair of gloves and one referee, fighting. No hoops, fields, sticks, balls, nothing. Just two people having it out. Whether you’ve grown up in NYC or in a remote backwoods country with nothing but Latin soap operas coming out of a black and white TV, you see a boxing match, and you understand what’s happening, at least on some level. It’s arguably the purest sport we have.
And it is a massive, massive dickhead. The people in charge – the promoters, the sanctioning bodies, the commissions – range from ‘borderline criminal’ to ‘actual criminal’, the sport is constructed in a way that the best fighters don’t ever have to fight each other, 99% of fighters make no money and wind up paying for their participation with years of their lives, and all in all, the whole thing is fucking gross. The only saving grace is that we’re seeing the pinnacle of what the human body can achieve in the most taxing, lonely, physically draining way possible.
What keeps boxing heads coming back is the fact that in the ring, there’s no one to save you. There’s no subs to come in when you’re tired, no teammates to pick up the slack when you’re having an off night. If you’re losing, it’s just you in there.
Unfortunately, sometimes boxing even fucks that up.
Last week, on a nationally broadcast NBC card, Al Haymon’s fledgling Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series was back, showcasing an up and coming rock star Errol Spence Jr. officially announcing his presence on the scene with a five-round mauling of veteran Chris Algieri. However, my excitement at watching Spence was tempered, because in the undercard fight before it, the PBC, judges and referees involved committed an absolute atrocity and singlehandedly ripped away an earned chance to make a career from an unknown fighter, for the simple fact that he was unknown.
24 year old Radivoje Kalajdzic (21-1, 14 KO) of Serbia came into the undercard fight as a clear B-side to the undefeated Marcus Browne (17-0, 13 KO), a 25-year old former American Olympian and one of the PBC’s highly touted young prospects. With the PBC hemorrhaging money, a result of artificially inflated purses and a lack of a competitive matchmaking, they need their young talent like Browne to make good on their promise so they can cash in on them someday. And they sure did everything to make sure that that happened.
A tatted up dude from an Eastern European country with an unpronounceable name is not a cash cow for the PBC. Thus, Kalajdzic was brought in to the Barclays Center last week to lose. Browne was there to get tested, get some rounds in and win. Long story short: he didn’t. Browne proved to be a total dud in the ring, unable to get any kind of offense going, excessively holding and frequently getting popped with hooks by the Serbian.
After trading off the first couple of rounds, Browne spent much of the second half of their 8-round affair looking completely out of ideas, not even pretending to fight in lieu of desperate grabs on his opponent, and even in the 6th round winding up straight on his ass with a dazed look on his face as the Serb scored a nasty knockdown. However, when the decision was read, Browne came out the winner – resulting in lusty boos from his own hometown crowd, which knew it was witnessing a crime. Let’s count the ways in which boxing failed Kalajdzic:
- In the first round, Kalajdzic slipped during a non-contact motion as he pivoted away from Browne and fell to the canvas. Browne then jumped in and landed a light shot to the side of his head. In normal circumstances, this should probably have resulted in a stern warning to Browne, if not a point deduction. Instead, incredibly, referee Tony Chiarantano, who should probably be in jail, ruled it a knockdown for Browne (which, incidentally, made the difference on the scorecards).
- Chiarantano, who again, should probably be in federal prison, allowed Browne to get away with an unheard-of amount of holding in the fight, never coming close to taking a point away or even telling him to stop it. One boxer was trying to fight in there – one was not.
- Two judges scored the fight for Browne, while one gave the fight to Kalajdzic. I scored the fight 76-74 for Radivoje (even scoring the first round 10-8 according to the referee’s atrocious decision), and though that may seem like it was a close/toss-up fight, it really wasn’t. The decision was close on the card but clear as day.
As a result, Marcus Browne gets to go on being an undefeated prospect, and Kalajdzic goes…where, exactly? Again, he’s a foreign fighter with an unpronounceable name, he has zero name value for the bigger guns of the division, and he falls back into the scrap heap with the other dozens of nameless prospect/contenders fighting on the fringes of the sport. He didn’t look like a world-beater, either, but that’s not the point.
In theory, boxing, in a romantic sort of way, is the fairest sport. Just two men in there with nothing between them but their skills. With the amount of corruption involved, the sport rips away lives and livelihoods, even outside of the ring. Always has and probably always will. It takes everything from these guys inside the ring, and just outside of it stand the vultures ready to feast, before the fighters’ blood has even dried from their gloves.
Boxing is an asshole.