Boxing fans and media are more than capable of separating a fighter’s ring work from their personal life– until they choose not to.
On Wednesday, when word came out of Gervonta Davis’ domestic violence arrest, you could cut the hypocrisy on social media with a knife.
Self-awareness and a sense of irony are apparently not strong points in some of Davis’ harshest critics, who routinely post weepy-eyed social media tributes to guys like Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti while insisting that Davis’ ring existence be tainted forever for both real and alleged transgressions.
The late Corrales, hailed for his ring heroics, assaulted his pregnant wife back in 2000, breaking her collarbone and bruising her spine in an attack the deputy district attorney assigned to the case called “absolutely brutal.” Arturo Gatti was, similarly, tied to several accusations of domestic abuse.
And we don’t have to stop at modern day fan favorites Corrales and Gatti. How about Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Marvin Hagler, Joe Frazier, Jack Johnson? Middleweight great Carlos Monzon was convicted of strangling his wife to the point of unconsciousness and then murdering her by throwing her off a balcony. We could go through a list of all-time boxing greats and a good number, if not most, would have some history of abuse against women.
If Wednesday’s pro-woman/anti-abuse set were truly consistent in their beliefs, their list of he-man heroes would be pruned considerably. Hell, these moralists probably shouldn’t be boxing fans at all.
Boxing has become a niche sport and one of the last bastions for the drink a beer and cheer for blood, non-politically correct crowd. It has a long history (tradition) of giving shelter and support to extremely bad men who would not be accepted and allowed to thrive in any other legal line of work. Those who take up boxing are usually not saints– and neither are the fans who seek out man-on-man brutality as a form of entertainment. When a troubled youth grows up to be a troubled adult, facilitated by wealth and a wealthy man’s support system, it’s absurd to clutch at our pearls in mock horror. Nobody in and around the boxing business has much room for moral indignation. We are all sinners and the only point of debate is whether we can separate the man from the fighter or simply flush both into oblivion when outside-the-ring nastiness pops up.
I’m not saying that we should look the other way when it comes to fighters who abuse women. On the contrary. Zero tolerance should mean zero tolerance– across the board. Picking and choosing your outrage and whether it taints a fighter’s legacy as a whole is a coward’s game. It’s the game of someone who’s wielding an agenda and exploiting an ugly, traumatic familial event to settle their peculiar grudge.
There’s no definitive answer to these questions of whether a fighter’s violence towards women is pertinent to the coverage of his boxing. But if it is pertinent, those media members and fans who virtue signal the hell out of certain fighters’ actions better be ready to point the finger at every guilty party, all of the time, with the same self-righteous fervor. They better be willing to stomp on all legacies equally. A fair-minded man– a REAL man– can’t bury all things Gervonta Davis and then publicly marvel at the bravery and nobility of Diego Corrales.
It’s probably unrealistic to ask anyone in this generation of instant hot take judgments to wait until all stories are told and all investigations are held before judging a man. We can, however, decide on consistency in our actions and judgments.
A fighter can be both a brilliant athlete worthy of our consumer dollars AND a scumbag of a human being who engages in vile behavior. Both stories should be told. In the real world of boxing, neither cancels out the other. And, really, that’s okay.
It’s okay for fans and media to voice their opinions on Gervonta Davis’ actions. It’s okay for Davis and his supporters to issue their own version of the facts. It’s okay for fans to not buy Davis’ pay-per-view on moral grounds. It’s also okay, though, for fans to support Davis, the boxer, and not be made to feel that doing so makes them some sort of enabler of domestic violence.
Paul Magno is a proud non-member of The Boxing Writers Association of America who’s been all but banished from public discourse due to his irreverent style and willingness to call out fellow members of the media. You can find some of his earlier (sometimes NSFW) work here: www.paulmagno.com.