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It’s All Up To Interpretation

Sergio Martinez is very well-spoken, but we didn't know this fact until very recently. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Sergio Martinez is very well-spoken, but we didn't know this fact until very recently. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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As boxing fans we want to hear the words from the people in the ring. We don't want to see statements from the promotional company or from the manager. Words from the trainer are somewhat acceptable but the real meat comes from the fighter. However what happens when you are interviewing someone who does not speak English, yet you are broadcasting to an English-speaking audience? You need someone who can take the words from the fighter and convey the meaning and emotion of the words. You need a translator. The New York Times piece by Thomas Golianopoulos examines the subject of translations inside the boxing ring. Outlining some of the difficulties of the job is the US coordinator of Teiken.

"You can't just go out and hire somebody that is bilingual. The vocabulary is different. If you translated ‘uppercut' directly in Japanese, it wouldn't work. We hire people that know boxing language."

The article then focuses on Jerry Olaya, the longtime Spanish translator for HBO. On this site I know that a number of Spanish-speaking commenters have criticized both HBO and Showtime on their poor translations of Spanish to English. One example I can remember is when they absolutely butchered a statement from Sergio Martinez. The most interesting quote from Olaya is when he speaks about accuracy.

"The key is to be 100 percent accurate. You don't summarize things. You don't change things. You don't editorialize. You are there to be seamless. If you are not noticed, that's all the better."

I can't tell you how many times the fighter speaks for what seems to be two minutes and Olaya gives you a 2 sentence "translation" of what the fighter just said. I can't imagine that in a world filled with former fighters who are bilingual, that someone like Olaya is the absolute best option. The funny thing about this article is that in the end, Oyala recommends that all fighters learn English, a half-admission of his own futility. I agree with him in principle, but the fact remains that translation in the boxing ring is very poor and several people have noticed. My idea would be to track down former fighters who are bilingual. They would have the inherent boxing knowledge and the ability to go from one language to another. How would you fix the current state of boxing translations?

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