Hunter: If you criticize, you aren’t a real fan

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Floyd MayweatherAfter his fighter Andre Berto lost out to Floyd Mayweather Jr last Saturday night, trainer Virgil Hunter made some comments regarding the fans and media members who surround boxing.

Mayweather vs. Berto was a PPV bout(costing $74.95 in HD, ten bucks less in SD) widely ridiculed as a blatant mismatch when it was announced two months ago, and the result on the judges’ scorecards -120-108, 118-110 and 117-111- confirmed it.

Speaking with Fight Hype after the final bell Virgil outlined the perimeters he feels true fans of the sport, and those reporting it’s events should stay within if they are to show their allegiance.

“If you’re a fan and you’re critical, like I said before, you’re not a real boxing fan.”

“I’m not gonna knock anybody if they didn’t wanna spend the money I don’t know their financial situation; it’s hard times for a lot of people.”

“But the ones that are here because of the fight, if you’re gonna come and report on the fight, you shouldn’t criticise the fight. You’re not gonna go to church and criticise the Church. If you gon’ come to the fight and report on the fight, then you’re job as a writer is to promote the fight, I believe.”

To promote censorship of valid criticism from any source or direction is unreasonable.

If, like in this particular case, the news of a match is met with boos of dissatisfaction I am afraid that is par for the course. As Hunter alluded to, most people have to pick and choose how they will splurge that little bit of extraneous cash left over after bills and food and clothes are taken care of. Seventy dollar represents ten hours work or more for some people. 10 hours work in exchange for 36 minutes of a fight where the result is as close to forgone as can be imagined. Does that sound like a fair trade?

The complaints about Mayweather choosing Berto as his final opponent were not centred around disparaging Berto, though some less considered fans may have taken that route. The problem with the fight was the huge gulf in talent and ability between the two fighters. When the chance for victory is as small as many perceived Berto’s to be, the drama from the conflict is all but removed. We want to believe either man can win and that wasn’t the case last Saturday.

For Hunter, it must have been an infuriating situation to be in. Witnessing a fighter he has helped along for the last few years suffer through ridicule, direct or implied, could only be taken as an insult.

Berto was derided as unfit for the task on approach to the fight despite his own significant achievements, which was disrespectful. But citing his recent form as poor compared to other top welterweights who would have been viewed as more intriguing opponents; well that is just observation.

Hunter implied the sport of boxing should be beyond reproach from the journalists who cover it, much like all of the other top sports in the US.

“The sport should be looked at as a sport and be given the same sacred eye-view as the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA. If you go in the NFL right, you wouldn’t have a job if you start criticising the sport. Don’t criticise the sport or the choices that the sport makes because everybody knows the Patriots, or when some teams play other teams you can pretty much predict the score, right? NBA we can predict the score. College football pre-season. They play inferior D3 schools in their pre-season we already know who gon’ win.”

The difference between boxing and other team sports that are centred around leagues and run by one giant governing body, is that boxing is disjointed.

Four main sanctioning bodies, several television networks with vested interests and countless promotional companies all have to stitch themselves together time and again to allow the sport to continue. Certain organisations -like Al Haymon’s current PBC crew- rise and fall and so the power centre continuously shifts. There is not a single unified body that controls and delegates within boxing to complain to even if the feeling takes you.

A malleable power centre allows certain individuals to dictate to others around them. Whichever promoter has the most money can secure preferable terms for their fighter to compete under; venue, gloves, the size of the ring, weight: all that is subject to change if a wealthy promoter says it has to.

When Floyd Mayweather disassociated himself from Top Rank promotions to begin his own promotional company and recruited Al Haymon somewhere along the way, he began to create an environment in which he could dictate. Since he became the PPV king after beating Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather has chosen his opponents, along with the rules of engagement, for all of his fights.

So when a fuss was kicked up over Berto facing Floyd, it wasn’t because people were denouncing the sport of boxing or Berto. They were condemning Floyd’s actions in picking someone far inferior to himself and there was no higher power that could stop him doing so. Floyd Mayweather is not the whole sport of boxing regardless of what he has been telling us.

Everyone and anyone should be allowed to call bullshit when they see it.