The women are coming... but does anyone really care?
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
In a past life as a newspaper sports guy, I frequently encountered a colleague who -- whenever an assigned opinion column deadline drew near -- would lament his way around the office saying, "Uh oh, I've got to find someone to rip."
Rather than using the weekly or monthly task as a platform from which to educate, opinionate or celebrate, that particular co-worker and far too many others simply identified "column" with "attack."
If there wasn't a target, there wasn't a reason.
And quite often in the finished product, there wasn't a point.
It was a philosophy I never really agreed with or understood.
It reeked of limitations in some areas, and perhaps overcompensation in others.
And since taking on a Tuesday column slot here, I've tried to maintain a variety.
When there's a bull's-eye to be blasted, I'll be first to take my shot. But if circumstance calls for interpretation or crusade rather than demonization, I do my best to serve those purposes, too.
Most weeks, the choice is pretty clear.
But truth told, even as I write this on the trusty Acer laptop... I'm not quite sure which way to go.
I'm a little confused by what matters and what doesn't.
Judging by the responses generated in the message-board threads alongside columns, or in the volume of e-mails that reach my personal inbox, it's pretty clear which topics move the readership.
Simply drop the names "Manny Pacquiao" or "Floyd Mayweather Jr." into a piece -- regardless of its point of view -- and page after page of comments are all but a guarantee by the next morning.
That's not a bad thing. It's what people care about. And more often than not, putting together an item that includes either man to any extent is a product of passion for the writer involved.
As for women's boxing, though, the jury's still out.
Over my three years on staff, I've probably written as many words about the female side of the sport as anyone without a vested interest in its success.
I've chatted several times with Holly Holm, Melissa Hernandez and Mischa Merz, among others, and been punched in the mouth, arms and gut by Chevelle Hallback.
I have as much or more respect for each of them as I have for 99.9 percent of the people I've met, known or otherwise dealt with over 42 years of life.
But I'm still not sure it resonates.
Using reader response as a guide, it remains clear that women in the ring -- be they champions, contenders or wannabe journalists -- simply don't compel the audience enough to make anything approaching visceral responses necessary.
A column on a fantastical heavyweight title match between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson last week resulted in several pages of message-board commentary -- with readers from either side debating which man would ultimately win and why.
Sure, some saw it as pointless. But it was a heated discussion that yielded a steady stream of e-mails in all directions even several days later.
Mean time, an article about an award-winning author who frequented one of the country's most important gyms and wrote a book describing the blood and tears shed by females fighting for a place at the table... drew nary a word in reaction.
I was surprised. I was disappointed.
And now it's got me wondering whether any more effort makes sense.
Will a continued occasional drum-banging eventually prompt enough people to pay attention, or is it just a modern-day version of windmill-tilting noise?
Will the inclusion of women in the Olympics be the tipping point? Or will the transcendent fights be buried so deep in the morass of cable-outlet coverage that no one will even notice?
For the sake of the women I've met and the stories I'd told, I hope it's the former.
But if a conversation I had with another co-worker a few days back is any indication, I fear it's the latter.
"Men don't care. Women don't care," he said.
"And unless the sport changes so much by next summer that it's barely comparable to what's out there today, it won't help a lick. They try. I admire the effort. But in the end it won't matter. Olympics or no Olympics, write about it all you want, and see if the meter moves."
London 2012 will be calling soon enough.
This week's title-fight schedule:
IBF junior flyweight title -- Club Once Unidos, Mar del Plata, Argentina
Luis Lazarte (champion) vs. Ulises Solis (No. 1 contender)
Lazarte (48-9-2, 18 KO): Third title defense; Lost first four title fights (1999-2007)
Solis (32-2-3, 21 KO): Thirteenth title fight (8-2-2, 5 KO); Drew with Lazarte in December
Fitzbitz says: "Road warrior Solis wins 108-pound rematch over 40-year-old vet." Solis by decision
WBC light flyweight title -- Coliseum Don King, Texcoco, MX
Gilberto Keb Baas (champion) vs. Adrian Hernandez (No. 1 contender)
Baas (35-20-4, 22 KO): Second title defense; Unbeaten in eight fights (7-0-1, 6 KO) since 0-5-2 stretch
Hernandez (20-1-1, 12 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since 2008 (7-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: "Baas continues torrid stretch with second title-defense stoppage." Baas in 10
WBO mini-flyweight title -- Foro Polanco, Mexico City, MX
Raul Garcia (champion) vs. Rommel Asenjo (No. 1 contender)
Garcia (29-1-1, 17 KO): First title defense; Held IBF title from 2008-2010 (four defenses)
Asenjo (20-2, 16 KO): First title fight; One fight past eight rounds (1-0, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: "Garcia maintains championship form against overmatched foe." Garcia in 8
WBO junior flyweight title -- Foro Polanco, Mexico City, MX
Jesus Geles (champion) vs. Ramon Garcia (No. 1 contender)
Geles (12-1-1, 5 KO): First title defense; Four fights against better- than-.500 opposition (3-0-1, 0 KO)
Garcia (15-2-1, 8 KO): First title fight; Lost split decision to Geles in February
Fitzbitz says: "Geles returns home to reverse result in 108-pound rematch." Garcia by decision
Last week's picks: 0-2 Overall picks record: 293-101 (74.3 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.