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Burn Down The Boxing Hall of Fame

(Originally Published: July, 2017 @

No sport is as buried in nostalgia and hopeless romanticism as boxing. And, by “buried,” I mean up to its nostrils, arms pinned at its side under the weight, bringing about slow suffocation.

The Boxing Hall of Fame is a symptom of boxing’s emotional hang-ups.

Every year “hardcore” fans pack their things and head out to the International Boxing Hall of Fame induction festivities in Canastota, New York for an immersive experience IN the world of boxing and, ironically, an escape FROM the real world of boxing.

A wonderful place filled with plaque, belts, and mementos of boxing’s greatest heroes, the IBHOF is a shrine to all things boxing is supposed to be. It’s also a testament to the boxing fan’s thirst for denial and self-indulgence.

For way too many boxing fans, clutching desperately at the past is a way to avoid dealing with the present—a present, by the way, that is a total buzzkill.

In the here and now, boxing requires smart fans to temper their raging macho fantasies with the realities of a changing world and shifting dynamic in the sport. New views on proper treatment of athletes and race in sports meld with the ever-present concerns over corruption, collusion, and mass incompetence. Fans also bump face to face with a failing business model as well as a media that has entirely failed a media’s purpose.

Heroes in the past tense never disappoint, though. They demand nothing but the energy it takes to believe and the willingness to pretend that, once upon a time, it was ONLY about noble warriors doing noble things for the sheer sake of nobility.

Too many boxing fans only really love the sport in the past tense. And no matter how vehemently the “die-hards” deny that statement, there’s a long laundry list of awfulness in the sport that affirms its veracity. Boxing came to be this way from neglect and it stays this way from willful ignorance. It’s hard for fans to claim a passionate, undying love of something that they’ve let fester and rot.

Until they can learn to love in both past and present tenses, boxing fans will always be the love-struck ninth grader failing Algebra because he’s daydreaming about the girl from Social Studies.

Other sports have their Halls of Fame and there really isn’t much of an issue. Baseball, for example, has every right to their Cooperstown shrine. Baseball isn’t an unregulated toilet of a cesspool that accepts its fans and fighters being cheated and, all too regularly, allows for its own athletes to be killed and crippled.

Boxing fans shouldn’t feel entitled to a place that acknowledges the very best until they’re at least a little bit willing to address the very worst. One doesn’t get the right to take victory laps when battles are being lost every day. It’s not fair to force fans into being advocates and activists, but boxing is not like other sports. There’s no real media in boxing to force the sport’s pressing issues to the forefront. Boxing’s media is almost entirely made up of groupies, paid shills, useful idiots, and weepy-eyed warrior poets. In the absence of a brave, informed, and aggressive media, the consumer has to become the agent of change.

Unfortunately, the same fans craving a sausage and pepper sandwich with Jake LaMotta on Hall of Fame induction weekend are most certainly not the people petitioning congress to enforce the Muhammad Ali Act or authoring articles that spotlight the sport’s myriad of dark and dangerous issues. Boxing needs fewer historians collecting vintage Ring Magazines for display in their man caves and more fed-up, angry opponents of the status quo. Realistically, if the sport gets any sort of push towards reform, it’ll have to come from its fans.

Yep, boxing’s future may depend on the energies of those guys in jorts and Hagler vs. Hearns replica souvenir t-shirts taking lunchtime selfies with Gerry Cooney. The question, though, is whether the self-proclaimed “hardcore” “die-hards” have the energy or even the will to be anything other than nostalgic consumers.

Okay, maybe we don’t HAVE to burn down the IBHOF. Consider that a bit of clickbait bluster for this new age of internet readership. Maybe we can just board it up and put all the belts and plaques in storage until we get things in order. It’s a small sacrifice to make for the sake of something we all LOVE, right?

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