Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Justice as Fairness? Boxing Edition

ESPN reports that Jr. Middleweight contender Joe Greene (20-0, 14 KOs) is out of his title fight with Sergio Martinez (44-1-1, 24 KOs) due to kidney stones. Bad luck for him, and bad luck for us: Greene is an exciting young fighter who deserves the shot and the exposure on HBO.

But still, the date needs to be filled, and HBO is shopping for a replacement. One of the names on the list is Anthony Thompson (23-3, 17 KOs).

This is where my strong sense of fair play clashes, deeply, with my desire to enjoy my life as a boxing fan. Unfairness really bothers me, and I define "unfair" broadly, as basically being deprived of opportunity and/or recognition for reasons outside one's talent or ability. I find it unfair, in a cosmic sense, when a fighter loses a decision they should have won (due to poor judging or referring or whatever), or suffers an injury during a fight causing them to lose a fight they were winning, or even just loses a really close fight and then gets discredited as a pretender in the eyes of the boxing public.

Anthony Thompson, for example, lost a very close decision to Yuri Foreman two fights back. It was "controversial", but in the acceptable way -- it genuinely could have gone either way, and Thompson had the bad luck for it to go against him. In his next fight, Thompson got genuinely screwed: in the course of pummelling a journeyman, Thompson suffered a cut over his eye, and the fight was stopped. The cut was clearly caused by a headbutt, but the referee screwed up, said it was from a punch, and suddenly Thompson's on the wrong end of a TKO loss. All of which makes me want him to get a shot at the title. Karmic justice, chance to prove himself, etc. etc..

But all that gets weighed against the fact that Thompson is dreadfully boring. He is the furthest thing from Joe Greene. It would be painful to watch him fight. Admittedly, perhaps fighting Yuri Foreman (another, shall we say, technician) doesn't bring out the best in him. But Thompson is, to say the least, not known as an action star.

This comes up surprisingly often in boxing. On fairness grounds, I think that both Fres Oquendo and Evander Holyfield deserve rematches for the fights they recently "lost" to James Toney and Nikulay Valuev, respectively. But as a fight fan, both of those bouts were hideously boring and would undoubtedly improve not a whit in the recast (Holyfield/Valuev was worse than boring, it's very creation was an embarrassment to the sport of boxing).

I really don't know what to do about this. Justice and fairness are all well and good. But they can be mighty dull affairs when attached to the sweet science.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Since when do you believe justice/fairness is something cosmic?