In many ways boxing is different than team sports when it comes to fandom. If you went to college at Penn State or live in Pennsylvania then most likely Penn State is your favorite team. If you live closer to Philadelphia than to Pittsburgh you root for the Eagles and Phillies instead of the Pirates and Steelers. And vice-versa.
In teams sports the teams stay and the fans pass on. In boxing the fans stay and the boxers move on. Fans have the opportunity to have more than one guy. You can have a heavy, a middle and a welter. As opposed to teams sports, you can have the Braves. You can't have the Braves and the Yankees. But in team sports, allegiances are often passed down, especially for passion teams like the Steelers, Red Sox or Celtics. Because of that, it can be very special to root for the same team your father and grandfather jumped out of their seats for.
In boxing, it is not possible to have the same guy your father had. (Holyfield joke here) So due to allegiances being passed through generations you can have giant Steeler fans living in Georgia or Florida. But by in large, region is the number one and only determining factor on which sports franchise a fan is fanatic for.
Boxing is different. Yes, region place a part. But no more than say... nationality. To venture a guess on what motivates every boxing fan or even most boxing fans in chosing a boxer as their guy, would be foolish. So, I'll be a case study. I'll be honest and frank, and you will have to deal with it. And I'll have to deal with how you deal with it.
One factor that I will ignored as a qualification is being a quality fighter. It can be assumed most of the time fans don't go out of their way to root for a 10 and 27 journeyman. Although some of these men can hold a special place to fans.
The first thing for me is fighting style. Action! I do like big punchers. As I would guess everybody does. Sure, going for the KO has me going for the DVR, but for me, it is not nearly as important, as a lot of punches. Bring the fight. Stay in the pocket. Throw multiple-punch combinations. I don't even mind reckless and even a little sloppy.
I also love the jab. I like the jab like some folk like a dunk, like some like a double play. I like watching it. I like everything that it sets up. I like when opponents get sick of getting stung by it, and you can see it in their face. Almost like the old playground taunt of I'll hit you with so many lefts, you'll be begging for a right. No matter the style you prefer, counter puncher, slickster, body puncher... whatever. How much does the style of a fighter draw you to him. Where does it rank?
Personality. It even trumps fighting style sometimes. If I don't like the way a guy acts or talks, if he is too disrespectful of the sport or his opponents or too brash, I cheer for the other guy. But if he's a charmer like a Ricky Hatton, respectful and humble like Manny, classy like Shane I root for him. Some folk like the brash, the big talk, the man capable of selling animosity. Some, I'm sure don't care in the least. Does personality rank for you and if so, where?
Nationality. I cheer for Americans, if all things are equal. If 2 guys are fighting and both have styles I like. If they both seem to be good guys or both seem not to be J.O.'s. I go for the American. Unless one is of Italian descent, then he rockets to the top of my list. I also give Italians the benefit of the doubt. Calzaghe might have been a little too brash for me, but I've got to take what I can get. There are not too many Italian wall flowers. And if all other of my factors are equal, an Italian-American outweighs an Italian from another country. But, nationality really only plays a part when the factors mentioned above are equal. Am I the only one that thinks this way? Does nationality make some sort of a difference to anybody else?
Region/State. If I don't dislike a fighter for how he fights or how he acts. He becomes my guy or one of my guys if he is from one of my regions of choice. Georgia or Ohio, but Pennsylvania trumps them both. Now this means a lot to me. Bernard has been one of my guys forever. He's a PA kid. Again, these guys get every benefit of the doubt I can give them. Unless the guy inside or outside the ring is unbearable to me. I'll root for him. Does anyone else put that much weight into where a guy is from?
Race. I promised honesty. Hate me if you will. But I've discussed it with enough of my fellow boxing enthusiast to know I'm not alone. Depending on your comments, I may appear to be on BLH. But race is a part of sport. When discussing it with one of my dearest friends. He said it matters to him. He would expect it matters to others. He told me he cheers the hell out of a black quarterback due to their relative scarcity, unless they are in the Detroit Lion's conference. And forget it if that black quarterback is from somewhere in Michigan. He's gonna have the jersey! Why wouldn't a white guy cheer for a white boxer due to their relative scarcity?
Now that I'm finished defending myself...2 Americans, no preference in style, and no difference in personality, or region, or maybe I don't know too much about them... I'll root for the white guy. Especially if I'm watching it with my crew of regulars. They are all black, and in the interest of busting balls, I am expected to back the white fighter.
Race is trumped by personality and country and region, and style, but it's there. Does race matter to anybody else? Do you think I should be ashamed of myself? I won't be ashamed for it. But what do you think?
Yes there are sharp expections to these guidelines I have uncovered about myself. Ricky Hatton was one of my favorite fighters. I like him so much for his action and personality that I cheered the UK great against my guy Paulie. I had never cheered Mayweather due to style and bile. And when Floyd stepped in versus Ricky it was as easy as deciding who to cheer for, the flu or NyQuil. Then our National Anthem got booed. I cheered that night for Floyd. It was the last time, never again, but I did it.
So, these aren't rules. They aren't hard and fast. They are just the things I think makes me root for certain guys. There are intangibles that I can't really understand or isolate. Sometimes I like a guy and I don't know why. Sometimes I don't, and I don't know why either. In the interest of science here is my all-time 3 and my current 3.
Marciano, Ray Leonard, Tyson
Pavlik, Williams, Wladimir Klitschko
How close are my factors to yours? What am I missing that makes you root for certain guys? What is part of my thinking that plays no part in yours?