All day every day, the boxing cult of personality on twitter talk as if texting each other, sharing their views on everything from the demeanor and entertainment value of Andre Ward to whatever item Adrien Broner has flushed down the toilet in the last hour. Whereas a few years ago, live round by round breakdowns of boxing matches were done on message boards by a select few with a talent for it. These days, every twitter feed is a round by round filled less with description of the action and more commentary on the event itself. The round card girls, who is ringside, who is boring, who is afraid of who, and endless one liners both good and groan-worthy. Talent for descriptive communication is not a prerequisite to do so in 2013.
On press row or at home, a reporter is subject only to the information he chooses to take in. The guy making one liners next to you at a fight or observations of who he thinks is winning is easily ignored. If you don’t respond, they understand you are at work and focused on watching the event. But in the world of twitter, no one wants to be ignored. Everyone has an “educated” opinion.
More often than not, fight fans and media watching fights together on twitter ends in a group mentality. Few want to upset the herd and risk ridicule in the court of twitter opinion. Added to which, when making a pick online, fighters see it. They remember it. Recently, I was reminded by boxer Sergio Mora that I picked against him in his last fight. Never mind that before twitter, I picked him first week to win the Contender series and openly praised the fact that for the one of the very few times, a Mexican-American male was depicted on TV as enjoying the act of reading and feeding his mind. What Mora remembers is the tweet where I picked against him. Before social media, more often than not, fighters in my experience would avoid reading what we wrote or picked. Now? Favorable press and predictions affect access more than ever. Relevance is measured by your twitter followers count and it doesn’t matter if its accurate or not.
For instance, Boxingscene, one of the self-professed top news sites for boxing, boasts 135,459 followers. The site Fakers.statuspeople.com measures if an account’s followers are “Fake” (meaning bought followers who don’t actually exist the way you or I do or marketing bots), “Inactive” (marketing robots or dead accounts), or “Good” meaning actual people who interact on twitter. According to them, boxingscene’s twitter account is 89% Fake, 4% Inactive and 7% Good. This is a “news” site misrepresents itself to the general public every day about the size of their following and influence. But in the twitter popularity contest, no one seems to care that they get casually lied to by a news organization whose job it is to tell you the truth so long as access to the club is still allowed.
Group-think is rarely more evident than on fight night or in the gray area waiting period of fight negotiations. On fight night, you can literally see the Groupthink take shape as opinions about a particular event meld into one thought, oft-times not based in reality of cold, hard facts but instead peppered with emotion and sauteed with personal bias.
An example is tonight’s Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse co-main event tonight on Showtime PPV. The common perception is that Matthysse, 34-2, 32 knockouts, is going to knock out Garcia, 26-0, 16 knockouts, in just a few rounds. However, it appears that the general consensus is more about personalities than records or styles.
Garcia, 25, is a Philly fighter of Puerto Rican descent with a trainer/father who is probably talking trash at the MGM Grand as I type. Throughout Garcia’s rise, his father/trainer, Angel, has become more and more of a controversial figure. While Danny is easy going and not prone to predictions or trash talk, his father is quite the opposite. He is a perfect boxing character, an easily hated or loved quote machine. But the Philly Puerto Rican’s no words spared behavior grates on some and because of it, they ignore the nuts and bolts of Garcia and his resume. A two belt champion at 140 pounds, Garcia won his first belt by beating Erik Morales over twelve rounds in March of 2012.
Morales was an ancient version of himself (he lost his belt on the scales missing weight) but just two fights previous, fight fans were praising the legend for losing competitively to Marcos Maidana. Morales had few moments versus Garcia and was dropped in the eleventh round before losing a clear decision.
Garcia was counted out among pundits in his next fight vs. Amir Khan. “Too fast. Too tall. Too good,” was the consensus. But Garcia can adjust mid-fight and as the speed of Khan became less of a blur, Garcia landed home with a left hook that turned the fight around. He stopped Khan in round four to win his second belt. In the subsequent rematch with Erik Morales, Garcia showed what he learned in the first fight by knocking out Morales with a single left hook to end the fight in four.
Garcia’s most recent win came this April against Zab Judah. Garcia flashed his right hand more than his left in this fight, displaying variety and an ability to change up his look. He dropped Judah in the tenth but woke up his champion’s heart. Judah rose opened up his offense, hurting Garcia late in the fight. While many saw it as evidence that Garcia was not as good as advertised, to this writer it appeared to be a faded champion offering a parting lesson to a young lion: fight’s aren’t over until the final bell sounds.
Garcia’s most notable wins have come against Zab Judah and Amir Khan. His underrated wins include an educationally tough fight from veteran Nate Campbell in 2011 that served Garcia perfectly in his next fight, a decision win over Kendall Holt. Through win after win, that pattern has emerged.
2013 feels like “The Year of the Puncher” and Lucas Matthysse is billed as exactly that. Besides Lamont Peterson, who he stopped in three lopsided rounds this year, Matthysse’s best wins are his two losses to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander. Though he put Judah down in the tenth round of their 2010 fight, Matthysse lost a close decision he blamed on Judah being the hometown fighter despite Judah being from Brooklyn and the fight being in New Jersey. Danny Garcia, a Philly fighter, beat Judah soundly in Brooklyn.
Matthysse’s other loss is to Devon Alexander. This was a much clearer robbery. Matthysse dropped Alexander in the fourth round and had him on the run and hurt throughout. The fight, held in Alexander’s home state of Missouri, was Matthysse’s but the decision went to the other corner.
In between and around those fights, Matthysse has iced Mike Dallas, Jr, a fighter few gave any chance of winning, in one round. Vivian Harris, who never had a chin and should have been retired years ago. Humberto Soto, a quality fighter who was effective as a featherweight and junior featherweight but who was clearly pushing his limits at 135 and beyond them at 140 where he faced Matthysse. DeMarcus Corley was 37-15-1, had lost four of his last five fights when he faced Matthysse. A year previous, Freddy Hernandez had knocked him out in five rounds. Matthysse knocked him down nine times en route to an eighth round stoppage victory. Olusegun Ajose is a quality win. Despite having really no names of note on his resume, Ajose is a rugged, big 140-pounder. He was coming off a year layoff when he faced Matthysse and lost by tenth round TKO in 2012. Dallas and Peterson are Matthysse’s most recent victories.
The difference between these two appears to be public perception. Matthysse won boxing fans’ heart with his no-nonsense approach to the sport. He is a humble fighter from Argentina with a giant punch who got screwed by the powers that be twice, in many fans’ eyes. Garcia is viewed as a silver spoon fed fighter represented by much debated on adviser/manager Al Haymon with an out-spoken dad the twitteratti feel needs to be shut up.
Never mind resumes or skills. This is about personality and boxing fans and media alike have spoken. They like Matthysse and not Garcia. Never mind they both are represented by Goolden Boy Promotions and Al Haymon. Never mind you can punch holes in both resumes. Luckily for all of us, the fight will tell us which man, who both possess strong power, tenacity, boxing ability and leaky defense, is the better fighter on the night. Not twitter. Not facebook. Not an instagram with either man. Not the tenth “exclusive” interview of the week with either guy. The fight itself will be our truth barometer (unless it goes to the cards and someone gets robbed).
My pick: I’m going the Ricky Roma route and taking Garcia by TKO in 9. Call it a gut feeling or just my contrary, analytical nature. But make no mistake, a win by either man will be considered high quality should ti be done with honor and integrity inside that squared circle.