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Saunders vs Lemieux: It’s easy for boxing fans to go negative

Are fight fans too quick to be negative during shows?

Matt Heasley-Hogansphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

It’s quite the age we are in today, what with social media giving anyone and their brother a platform and bullhorn to shoot their opinion word wide.

You see this in effect on a night like Saturday, when boxing fans took to Twitter and the like, and made their stances known on the quality of the fights, and the fighters, and the style matchups.

HBO had their year-end card, topped by Billy Joe Saunders, the WBO middleweight titlist, against David Lemieux, and with Cletus Seldin vs Yves Ulysse and Spike O’Sullivan vs Antoine Douglas support bouts.

The dynamic I described with social media being the platform and engine for harsh critiquing was front and center in the first televised fight, which saw the Canadian Ulysse showing an athleticism and seasoning edge over the Long Island rumbler Seldin. The month before, Seldin had been the recipient of heavy-duty hurrahs on Twitter, after he came out hard and fast and nasty on vet Roberto Ortiz, earning himself a TKO3 stoppage at Nassau Coliseum and on HBO.

But as the 31-year-old hit the deck in the first, and the second and the third, the slams on social piled up.

He’s a bum…this is a wicked mismatch…he shouldn’t be on HBO, ever, etc etc.

That’s not to say well-reasoned critiques weren’t warranted, to an extent, or fair game. Heck, I take no issue with HBO fixture Jim Lampley, as he noted CompuBox stats, stating that the Ulysse-Seldin pairing as bad a mismatch as the cabler has offered the public. (Though I bet if I had a the time and a great intern I could find more egregious tangoes in their five decades of showing fight fare.)

But in this age, the ease of publishing one’s hot take, and the likelihood that said hot take will skew negative, the burns thrown at Seldin and team seemed out-sized, excessive.

I noted his resilience, and how he’s to be admired for not quitting, around round five. Because, had he said “hell with it, I’m out,” then you know the backlash against the Star Boxing hitter would have been considerable.

Mind you, I’m going to repeat here that critiques are not unwelcome. I think it is grounds for debate whether Ulysse was the “right” style match for Seldin, a throwback rumbler cut from a 1950s-style cloth. But we celebrated his willingness to be that old school warrior when he took a fight four weeks after his last one, because, don’t forget, so many of us hammer boxers and deal-makers for not gloving up more than twice a year, and then some of us toss aside the praise and use that inclination to be throwback-busy against him.

I did it, too, wondering if Seldin’s body wasn’t in full cooperation mode because he was burnt out. (Yes, I am not immune from the disease I decry.)

The Twitter chorus in the second televised bout, which saw Antoine Douglas seek to get his career back on track after being stopped by Avantdil Khurtsidze in March 2016, mostly focused on reactions to the commentary by Roy Jones.

The living legend sagely noted that Douglas’ reactions weren’t looking stellar, as he was readying himself for receiving a blow more so than looking to slip or duck or roll with incoming. Some noted that Jones himself, by fighting on at an advanced age, should be taking some of his own medicine on the matter.

That didn't read to me like "hating," but more so fair game, and yes, the silence in the air, as booth partners Lampley and Max Kellerman didn't serve up a not-uncalled for nod to the irony pile-up, was noted, silently, by me, and publicly, by others in the Twittersphere.

In the main event, watchers and commenters mostly expressed surprise at the relative ease with which the Brit traveller Saunders was handling the Canadian, who a healthy contingent of armchair analysts said looked “fat.”

Here’s my point, boiled down: It is easiest to go negative and you are more likely to be heard when you go negative. And these certainties are contributing to a culture of unceasing negativity which I don’t think is ideal, within our boxing community but in fact within most every sphere.

The political arena, especially in the spectator sector, is beyond poisoned, as you likely know, if you have even half an eye on that milieu in America. Words are now weaponized with unparalleled regularity and monstrous effectiveness.

Not sure how we change this, but I think that starts with all of us being aware of it. I see “smart” people buying in to the argument that pretty much all media outlets are biased and reporters are bad actors spreading seeds of dissent knowingly and defiantly, ie bundlers and purveyors of “fake news.”

They don’t realize that they are being weaponized by slick and conscience-free propagandists who seek nothing more than retaining their own power base. Until these “smarts” wake up, I don’t know how that gets changed, either.

But it starts with a willingness on all our parts to open ourselves up to a mindset of humility. Maybe, in fact, we are not right…maybe sometimes the other side is right, and we should be OK with acknowledging that. And maybe there are things about a fighter, or how and why a match was made, that we don't know.

Maybe we don't know it all.

Follow Woods on Twitter and listen to the podcasts "TALKBOX" and Fight Facts, every week, if you like.

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