I like Amateur Boxing. I hate Professional Boxing.
For a while in the 1970s, it seemed that (professional) Boxing had shaken off its image of Corruption and Exploitation and under Mohammed Ali (worldwide) or Henry Cooper (in Britain) and Barry McGuigan (in Ireland) had moved away from the seedier side.
Yet there was a reaction…I just couldnt warm to people like Barry Hearn, Barney Eastwood and Frank Warren. …boxing promoters. Nor do I like those trash-talking staged Press Conferences where heavyweight boxers are “restrained” by men who are half their height and twice their age. It is much more like those phoney wars on Wrestling Entertainment.
Nor am I am a big fan of post-bout embracing of former trash-talkers.
Yes …I understand that it is all about ticket sales.
There seems nothing “noble” about the “noble art”. There are exceptions of course…our own Carl Frampton is a genuinely nice guy. All credit to him for retaining his dignity.
Yet …Boxing is still haunted by being about fightin’ men escaping the poverty of East London, South Philly, West Belfast or North Bronx….not to mention Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester….Philipines or Mexico. And while the poverty is not so bad as in the 1930s, there is still something aspirational about escaping a working class environment for middle class comfort and security.
Sometimes….encouraged by the rich men with the big cigars, it is about Greed.
Perhaps the title fight recently involving the Bad American Guy who loves money and the Good Philippines Guy who gives his money away, sums it up. The Bad Guy won.
Even more recently Tyson Fury of Britain defeated Kritsko of Ukraine to become undisputed World Heavyweight Champion. I had never heard of Fury.
Seemingly Fury comes from England’s “travelling community” a d he is a Fundamental Christian. There is nothing “christian” about his views on homosexuals or women. “The best place for a woman is in the kitchen…or on her back”.
But this is not something that can be said in 2015.
BBC News Presenter Clive Myrie referred to him as a “d@@khead” live on air. Another BBC reporter tried to goad him i to repeating his views in a street interview. But Fury…who is articulate and pretty clued in wisely referred to GOD loving the reporter. Yet oddly a local BBC reporter…AndyWest was suspended by the BBC for a tweet which expressed shame that the Beeb had not taken Thson Fury off the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Two things. Why is there a difference in the way the BBC are treating Myrie…a high profile, highly paid national newsreader and West, a rank and file reporter in BBC Belfast?
And secondly, my American readers will wonder what is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year?
I can only explain it by referencing the early days of British TV…two channel land in the 1950s, when the BBC Sport was dominated by broadcasters like Peter Dimock, David Coleman, Frank Bough and Harry Carpenter. It is best described as an annual occasion. Viewers could vote for a Sportsman or Sportswoman by filling in a coupon in the Radio Times, which in those days was the weekly BBC ratings magazine. And the Winner would be revealed during a live hour-long show.
These were innocent days. No manipulation of votes. No “campaigns”. The viewers could be trusted.
In the Internet age, things are different. With votes thru phones and online, the system could be manipulated, undermined or downright sabotaged. There was no real mechanism to stop campaigns for complete unknowns who….for example….maybe played as third choice goalkeeper for a minor league football team.
Ah the Internet is Democratic!!! But as is often the case …when the Internet gets “democratic”, the Establishment changes the rules. And there is nothing more Establishment than the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The Beeb are of course anxious to protect the heritage….but reallt the Sports Personality of the Year is long past its sell-by date. It has been revamped. The “live” Show lasts two hours. But importantly, it os no longer a “write-in vote”. The Public cannot be trusted. So a short-list of twelve people is drawn up by a panel of experts.
And one of the twelve people is….Tyson Fury.
He is a late choice. He only won his Heavyweight title two weeks ago and by any ordinary standard, this achievement is pretty damn big. But what about the Homophobia and Sexism? iS it relevant when recognising sporting achievement? Is it relevant when it is about “Sports Personality” and the implication that it is about being a role-model.
So a campaign starts to have Fury removed from the shortlist. Fury clearly revels in the notoriety but amid speculation that other nominees might withdraw (and even the threat can boost their chances), there is the classic 21st Century battle over so-called “Political Correctness”.
My own position is clear. Political Correctness (and I dont think the term is a good one) is the best thing that has happened in my lifetime. The fact is that Political Correctness NEEDS Confrontation in order to advance.
And another fact is that all confrontations are accidental. This Tyson Fury controversy is accidental. Two weeks ago…unexpectedly …he won his Heavyweight title. And was a late inclusion on the BBC short-list. And then he goes off-script with Homphobia and Sexism.
And the third fact about Political Correctness is that the liberals like me…and probably you….ALWAYS win. So there is no scenario in this controversy which is not a winning one.
Scenario 1….the BBC “listens” to its viewers and removes Tyson Fury, an easier task for them if he says something even more off-script. lIberals win and it is left to the Daily Mail to say its “political correctness gone maaaaaad”.
Scenario 2….other nominees withdraw from the contest and Fury is given a facile victory….or the voting public rallies round someone (Andy Murray or Lewis Hamilton) who can beat Fury and his right wingers.
Scenario 3….it is a “live” show albeit with a (say) hour delay. And Fury says so ething discredible.
Scenario 4….it is 2015 and the leading BBC Sports Presenter is Clare Balding. ….a woman….a gay woman. Maybe Ms Balding, who is now a British National Treasure….will withdraw from the show.
There is no scenario that is not a good one. Even Clare Balding handing the trophy to Tyson Fury.
The re-vamped show trying to appeal to both Tradition and Modernity is past its sell-by date….even if the sportsmen and women are more enthusiastic than ever. There are commercial spin-offs.
But this is the BBC of Clare Balding…not Peter Dimock, David Coleman, Frank Bough and Harry Carpenter.
And yet there is something ironic. The worlds best-loved sportsman is allegedly Mohammed Ali. But the Mohammed Ali…the elderly and frail man of 2015 is not the Mohammed Ali of 1960s and 1970s. He escaped the Louisville, Kentucky ghetto uneducated and articulate (like Tyson Fury) but he was not always popular. He was stripped of his titles for refusing to be drafted to Vietnam and that caused his unpopularity in USA. And yet in Britain his unpopularity can be traced to an angry interview (or ambush by) with Michael Parkinson in which he defended Segregation on the grounds that “red birds fly with red birds and blue birds fly with blue birds”.
Yet Ali is now re-habilitated on both sides of the Atlantic. As indeed is Mike Tyson.
And yet it can be no surprise that the relationship between professional boxers and the women in their lives is often violent.
But for a Boxer to succeed in the popularity stakes, there needs to be compromise….or maybe he just compromises himself. So genial Henry Cooper could trade on his plucky Cockney geezer image. And Frank Bruno, clearly used (or was used) his lack of Education to endear himself. Sadly Bruno suffers severe mental illness.
But no boxer was ever more politically correct than Barry McGuigan. His life on the Monaghan-Fermanagh border, his mixed marriage…for personal and professional reasons he found it necessary to compromise. Boxing under a “neutral” flag and with no anthem but his father singing “Danny Boy”, he found a formula that endeared him to Catholic and Protestant supporters within Norn Iron and with Irish and British fans …in the 1980s. No mean feat. A triumph for LetsGetAlongerism.
Anyway the “BBC Sports Personality Contest” is still more than a week away. Should be interesting TV but I suspect the BBC will prefer something bland.