On last night's episode of The Fight Game with Jim Lampley on HBO, Lampley took to task something that had been a hot topic in boxing circles: the tabloid style promotion of the June 22 Showtime fight between Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner.
Far from a hit piece-like commentary against a rival network, Lampley gave the fight itself credit, but said what many of us believe to be true, that the build-up to Malignaggi-Broner crossed lines of good taste even by the low standards of boxing hype:
"Now to add our two cents to the story that gave boxing fodder to TMZ and its imitators these past few weeks. The Brooklyn battle between Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner was a pretty good fight, made entertaining by Malignaggi's spirited effort to defend his title and the chance to see how Broner would fare in his twelve pound jump from lightweight to welterweight. But hard as we tried to see the humor and intrigue in the tabloid style buildup to the event, the relentless back and forth about which fighter was now sharing sexual calisthenics with someone named Jessica and what that meant to them, we just couldn't manage it. An excerpt from the sometimes erudite sports website Grantland says it plainly:
'As the promotion for his fight against Paulie Malignaggi revved itself up, Broner's public persona kept getting dumber..... Just know both fighters found it appropriate to promote a fight with claims of domestic violence and sexual degradation, and the networks and promotional companies that tacitly condoned it should be ashamed.'
"Fight promotions are by nature theatrical. But in every such enterprise there is a tipping point, and it's my opinion we saw it last week. It's a given that fighters in the heat of developing conflict with each other might go off the rails from time to time. It isn't necessarily equally inevitable that the media and promotional culture surrounding the sport must go right off the rails with them. Some things can and should be usefully ignored in favor of the real grist of the fight game. Did Broner's power travel effectively up to the new weight class? Did Malignaggi really come close enough to merit consideration for a rematch? Those are the primary questions emerging from last Saturday night in Brooklyn, not which of the two winds up dealing with an obviously misguided young woman who wanted and got her fifteen minutes of fame."
While I'm not personally sure that the slut shaming sort of comment at the end was really germane to the whole statement here, and while you can certainly argue that giving the whole thing post-fight press simply adds to the problem, I think it's important that these things are said by media members, particularly high-profile guys like Lampley. If boxing promotion were to be allowed to go the way of Malignaggi-Broner without any resistance from the people who cover the sport -- and thus, in their own way, contribute greatly to the promotion of the sport -- we would be giving the all clear for it to get worse and worse.
Personally, I hope Malignaggi-Broner (which even Malignaggi admitted went too far) is as classless as we ever see again. It became absurdly personal and also just plain absurd. If fighters want to talk about decapitating one another in the boxing ring, then that's getting a little wild, but at least it has something to do with the fight. Jessica shouldn't have been a factor. We shouldn't know who she is. But as they say, you can't put the genie back in the bottle -- pretending this didn't happen or that she doesn't exist won't help now. Acknowledging it with valid criticism like the Grantland piece or the Lampley statement last night is, I think, necessary. It happened, and it doesn't need to happen again.