DOES THE MEDIA TREAT FIGHTERS DIFFERENTLY BASED ON THEIR RACE OR HERITAGE?
By Tom Watt on July 21 2017
Boxing is a sport that has, since the dawn of time, been littered with controversy and intrinsically laced with divided opinions and differing points of view, it’s part of what makes the sport so enthralling, from the pre-fight discussions of who’s superior to post-fight arguments about miscalled fouls and dodgy judging decisions, Boxing is a sport that has never been short of vocal opinions and that has, at times, fully embraced the almost WWE-like culture of the ‘fan-favourite’ vs ‘the heel’.
It can be no surprise then, that the Sport also throws up some very interesting characters – throughout history, Boxing has thrown up some unbelievable personalities and these have only added to the spectacle that s prize fighting. In recent times, the introduction of Social Media has seen fighters able to more easily express themselves and this has led to an explosion in the cult of personalities we see around fighters such as GGG, Mayweather, Anthony Joshua and in the UFC, Conor McGregor.
With these new ways to reach even more fans directly, are Boxer’s completely in control of their own image, or does the mainstream media still play a large part in shaping the general consensus of opinion?
During a recent interview, Floyd Mayweather revealed that he believes race has played a part in the way he was perceived, citing that McGregor had ‘copied his blueprint’ in terms of his self-promotion and instead of criticism he has been welcomed with open arms:
“They said he’s arrogant, he’s cocky, he’s unappreciative. Then you take the same guy, in contact sports, that steals my whole blueprint and they go praise him for it. These are things that we act like we don’t see”
Another example of this, involving the same two fighters was seen with the reaction to their comments on stage. McGregor has, on two separate occasions, asked Mayweather to “dance for me boy” – a phrase with overbearing racial connotations in the US – and admittedly there was a sizeable backlash from fans, particularly on Social Media from people quick to criticise the UFC Champion. Another video surfaced where the Irishman seemingly labelled the predominantly black fighters in Apollo Creed’s gym in the Rocky movies as ‘monkeys’ – a comment that should be a lot harder to wash away, yet there has been little to no coverage of this. Compare that to the backlash Mayweather has received for a homophobic slur he used against the Irishman, branding him a “f*ggot” and it’s easy to see why the former P4P king may feel that he is held to a different standard by the media.
Elsewhere in Boxing we see similar double-standards occur, in the UK both Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders have been constantly criticised for their opinions and statements regarding a range of issues an both have cited their heritage as gypsies as the main reason they are singled out for such criticism. The contrast in the reception Fury received from the UK press after defeating Wladmir Klitschko with to the reception Anthony Joshua received after beating the same man is a good indication that the self-proclaimed ‘Gypsy King’ may not be blowing hot air.
Further to that, in just this last week, WBO World Champion, Saunders has been the subject of racial remarks from Chris Eubank who stated in an interview with ‘Behind The Gloves’ that:
“He lives in a caravan, I think that says it all really”
This refers to Saunders heritage as a traveller and whilst this may seem like bravado and a carry-on of their on-going rivalry, the question has to be asked, that if the shoe was on the other foot, would such disdainful comments about another culture and heritage from Saunders be as quickly glossed over? Certainly, whenever Saunders has courted controversy there has been no shortage of public criticism so it cannot be argued that they don’t think it is of public interest.
Another incident this week, also including Saunders, that caught my eye was a couple of tweets from Willie Monroe Jr, stating that Saunders will 'leave the arena in a coffin' on September 16th. And when pushed by Saunders to retract the comments, given recent tragedies in the UK in the Sport, Monroe responded by backing it up with yet another tweet in the same tone. Again, the question that needs to be asked is whether or not the UK press would have allowed Saunders to make such a comment without shining the bright lights of the UK press upon it?
Whether or not we will ever see an addressing of these disparities from the mainstream media is yet to be seen and seemingly unlikely, but with the power of Social Media and the ability of fans to engage and react to stories like never before, the onus of regulating the media’s perceived biases and prejudices is falling increasingly with the public. And so, as the old saying goes, if you see something, say something.