Amir Khan's conspiracy theories are hard to get behind, says Oli Goldstein. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Oli Goldstein is back at Bad Left Hook this evening to look back at what we've just been through, and what's ahead for a sport that tests its fans' patience like no other.
Ah, boxing. The sport which perennially stabs itself in the heart - and just when you think it might stop self-harming, it goes and stabs itself another time.
The Fight... which still isn't actually anything of a fight right now, instead just a series of spats and flirtations played out in Nevada courtrooms, through Oscar De La Hoya's self-congratulatory Twitter feed and the imaginations of the poor, neglected boxing fans who tut and mutter their oft-repeated words of contempt and frustration. From drug testing to retirements, personal feuds to legal squabbles, the clash of boxing's finest prima donas is currently being held up by the horrific cut suffered by Manny Pacquiao in his most recent November outing, a cut so horrible and shocking that it went largely undetected by most viewers. In their most recent attempt to compellingly recreate the type of argument often played out by pre-pubescent children, Bob Arum politely observed that Floyd "Money" Mayweather brings no business to Las Vegas, while Oscar De La Hoya - ‘bringing the fights to the fans' until Golden Boy fighters lose when they're not supposed to - has returned to his position as the self-elected authority on ‘what's wrong with boxing.' One can only imagine the collective frustration of Messrs Du Boeuf and Schaefer as their bosses continue to fan the flames of a squabble far more suited to the playground than the world of elite sport. As with many of boxing's most infamous promotional battles, the juxtaposition between the work of the sport's competitors and the engagements of its politicians remains stark and arresting.
But never mind that, you say - It's a New Year, Oli! Time to remember and celebrate some of the fabulous action fights of 2011, you urge. Think Yaegashi-Porpramook, or Marquez-Concepcion, or Wolak-Rodriguez, or Khan-Peter...
Oh, yeah, that one. Khan-Peterson. This time, a fight actually - shockingly - took place, as Oscar De La Hoya and Co. brought the fights to the fans, only to worryingly discover that sometimes, believe it or not, favoured fighters will lose, and consequently screamed about what is wrong with boxing and withdrew the privilege of fights being given to fans.
Now, instead of looking back on what was really a tremendous fight filled with back and forth action, and potentially looking forward to an even more enticing rematch, we're forced to suffer conspiracy theories and Twitter tirades as Team Khan looks to do everything possible to throw away any good will generated by that great December battle. First, the controversy centred on Joseph Cooper, who disgracefully made the correct decision and deducted Khan points for repeated pushing. Then, the controversy surrounded the IBF, who ludicrously decided that the judging of this extremely close fight was not incompetent.
Finally, Team Khan has settled on an unnamed ringside observer as their man. Well, what do we know about the mysterious Man in the Hat? First to attempt to solve the mystery of who this character of Dickensian depth could be was Richard Schaefer, with the Golden Boy CEO revealing him to be an IBF official who most certainly should not have been at the fight. The waters became further muddied when Gilberto Mendoza, the WBA's prophet and suddenly an authoritative and torch-bearing figure in the growing confusion, declared that the Hatted Man was not an employee of the WBA. Adding to this ground-breaking announcement that Hatman was not a WBA official but, as already known, IBF-employed, Freddie Roach provided his own valuable input when revealing that this quasi-mystical ringside figure at Khan's fight was actually Mustafa Ameen, who Roach had nobly ejected from gyms around America as he lurked menacingly in the shadows.
Now, without wanting to poop on Khan's parade, this is truly one of the least interesting conspiracy theories ever. I mean, you connect the dots... And then what? We've got an IBF official at an IBF fight, who's not employed by the WBA, who's purportedly been told to leave the Wild Card Gym before by Roach. Forgive me for not being totally shocked. Moreover, somewhere along the lines of Team Khan's investigation - dubbed "Khanspiricy" by its leader, whose clever bit of wordplay was somewhat undermined by the failure to accurately entwine ‘Khan' and ‘conspiracy' together - the fundamental problem of Ameen handling the scorecards appeared to be forgotten.
But hey, Oli, you say, don't be downbeat! ESPN's Friday Night Fights is back, and after the great series we saw in 2011, it could just get better and better this year!
And then the skid-mark that was Dyah Davis and Alfonso Lopez happened. Somehow, David and Lopez contrived to produce a "fight" which should set the benchmark for downright rubbish for many years to come. You know something's bad when Scott stops scoring it. I mean, he scored Hopkins-Jones II, for God's sake. (118-109 Hopkins, if you're interested.) Davis-Lopez was really, really bad. Davis, who won, actually apologised later on Twitter. It was that bad.
But as Joyce Carol Oates once expressed so poignantly, there is always a fight which seems to redeem the sport, and in a battle fought that same night between two young, inexperienced fighters on ShoBox, boxing offered yet another example of why we keep watching. Fighting in front of a small crowd in the obscure Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Omar Figueroa and Michael Perez provided a gem, displaying the age-old characteristics of resilience, courage and determination to steal the show. This sport might be a business now, and its biggest fights might be no closer to coming to fruition, yet boxing fans can feel safe in the knowledge that the sport's fundamental attraction - the sight of two competitors leaving it all in the ring - is alive and kicking in the likes of Figueroa and Perez. Forget Arum and De La Hoya, Mayweather and Pacquiao, Mendoza and Ameen: it is guys like Figueroa and Perez who boxing fans pay to see. To hell with the prima donnas, it's time we raise a glass to the fighter: long may he continue.