I am not quite sure what the current ratio between lovable rogues to complete scoundrels is in the boxing world but there does come a time when one must stop seen one fighter as one and start to treat them as another. Over the last week we have been asking where both Devin Haney and Billy Joe Saunders lie within that paradigm.
It is a self-evident truth that those who enter a ring to ask, willingly, for someone else to come in and attempt to render them unconscious must have a screw loose and/or have an appetite for violence. Combined these are, if you pardon the pun (and even if you don’t), heady qualities.
That this allows people to qualify for a licence for registered and internationally sanctioned violence causes some amongst us to fret and strain in complaint but there are few complaints from those of us who follow the sweet science.
Until that is, the boxers go from doing no wrong to not managing to get anything right.
Modern life has brought into that, the issues of something called social media. I have social media. It is often neither sociable nor an appropriate media for much of what is found there but it is also much maligned by those very people never off it.
I can shake my head at the American lady on Facebook y’all, lecturing me and y’all, about the effects of aluminium cans versus glass bottles in the drinking of that corona beer y’all and worry that she has the ability to create other human beings but I am still watching.
That video does, as many do, pale into insignificance when her master in chief is sarcastically trying to suggest we inject bleach. It is sometimes remarked that in times of absurdity, even the moderate and sensible appear unbelievable.
What social media does do well, unfortunately is record effectively the absurd and offensive, then distribute it with alarming speed. Devin Haney for one has vowed he won’t be beaten by a white boy. His defence, he spoke to Maurice Sulieman of the WBC and told him, he aint got a racist bone in his body.
Haney said, “I’ll tell you this. I will never lose to a white boy in my life. I don’t care what nobody got to say. Fight a white boy 10 times, I’m going to beat him 10 times.”
Many have talked, in his defence, of the last time we heard the very same sentiment which was when Bernard Hopkins turned, in the midst of a media melee – we had these before we had social media – and told all who could hear that same thing and directed it at his soon to be opponent, Joe Calzaghe, who was within earshot.
Before he delivered the line, however Hopkin apparently winked, signalling that he was “on the wind up.”
Haney was not on any wind up. Haney, given the proximity of his fight to Vasyl Lomachenko, made the comments in a badly timed, miscalculating, premeditated and very clear manner; no man of that colour can beat him.
A racist WBC lightweight champion?
Without a doubt.
But the fact is that the WBC will not sanction him because he has had a word with the top man and the WBC shall only deflect criticism. In fact, the denial was almost as fevered as the original comment as Haney was reported as saying, “I’m not racist and I never will be a racist. I’m chasing greatness.” To hammer the point he told all “I just had a very positive conversation with Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC, and confirmed to him directly my commitment to be a role model and my absolute rejection of discrimination of any kind.”
For this Great Role Model, there is little doubt he is yet to achieve Greatness, has little by way of a Role within the community and has no right to claim he Models appropriate behaviour. And as an Ali fan, I know that the great man had similar views of the white man and I too would claim they were racists. His sit down with the Klu Klux Klan was evidence of that and was as indefensible then as it is now. In later life, Ali paid penance – will Haney…
As for Saunders, his reaction to what happened with his social media disaster was far removed from Haney’s. He dug deep financially and emotionally with a heart felt apology.
Oh, and like Haney he has never agreed with the very thing he inadvertently promoted.
Saunders was apparently kidding when he showed people how to punch your wife/missus/partner and get away with it. Whilst racism remains a constant thorn in all our sides, it seldom hits the same headlines and emotional responses as domestic abuse.
Old school men, hate it, new school feminists, rail against it and we all find it uncomfortable. Over 6 weeks in the UK, however it has hit the type of figures that would ordinarily guarantee a Government think tank and Dominic Cummings in a secret cabal somewhere thinking up a catchy slogan.
Unfortunately for him, Saunders has previous.
Not for the domestic abuse stuff, but for social media errors. Last time round, after mocking an addict and having the video virally going round the very social media outlets he usually posts on, he was fined £100,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBB of C) and warned for his future conduct. This time round the removal of his licence was swift and commendable.
Saunders was going to the USA anyway, so the next step for the BBB of C may be difficult for them to be effective with. In Nevada Saunders will find registration easy enough – they were the ones who persuaded a judge not to jail Floyd Mayweather Jr for domestic battery.
Whilst Saunders’ conduct was appalling and his apology appeared heartfelt, with the additional penance of giving money to charities which support domestic abuse victims – some of whom are rumoured to be refusing it – I do wonder about his entourage.
If Saunders himself posted this stuff online, hell mend him, but someone had to film it. If someone else has posted this material I hope Saunders has invited him outside for a chat.
I have little idea if Saunders will ever box in the UK again. The WBO for whom he holds the title at super middleweight will no doubt have weighty things to consider but there are others – the Malta Boxing Commission who sanctioned the Hay/Chisora fight years ago and the British and Irish Boxing Authority who were to sanction the Nigel Benn return (though they are kind of one and the same..) could no doubt step in if the cash was right. Unfortunately, there was no word from WBO through Saunders as Haney managed with the WBC. Perhaps they were out socially isolating when Saunders made the call.
Of course, the easy answer to Haney would be for Lomachenko to do what Calzaghe did to Hopkins and for Saunders to be stripped and left in limbo. Only the resumption of hostilities and fighting shall bring that to any end and that isn’t likely to be soon. It’s clearly a world filled with contradictions I muse as I file this piece and turn to both twitter and Facebook to post it…