There's a right way and a wrong way

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - While I know I'm not Mike Lupica (I'm taller) and this isn't the New York Daily News (we're cheaper), there are no doubt at least a few things he and I have in common.

First off, we're both featured in multiple forms of media.

Yeah, fine: He works for a gigantic newspaper and has a recurring role on a cable conglomerate and I write for a sports-specific wire service and do an occasional gig on satellite radio.

Second, we both get paid to do things we love.

OK, sure: He makes more at a weeknight speaking engagement than I'd take home for a month of overtime shifts -- to say nothing of his actual full-time job.

Funny, the more I think about it, the less ol' Mike and I have in common after all.

But one thing that remains is that we both put ourselves out there.

Whether it's in print, online, in front of a camera or alongside a microphone, both my diminutive colleague and I have years of experience when it comes to assessing a situation, formulating an opinion and sharing it with the public.

To me, it's one of the genuine thrills of the job. Not for the ego boost, mind you, but rather for the opportunity it provides to participate in -- and sometimes prompt -- a healthy debate.

It creates a certain amount of responsibility on this end. To keep myself informed. To enter rooms with an open mind. And once I make a judgment on something, to be able to logically back it up.

As an old newspaper pal, Rocco Laurienzo, once said: "In this business, kid, we sign our work."

I try very hard. And I think I do it very well.

While I make no claim of consensus on each piece every week, I defy any reader any week to scrape aside the opinions and find them built on faulty facts.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

In the meantime, forget the claims of bias. That's why it's called a column. Lupica's not a reporter when he writes about the New York Jets and calls Rex Ryan a buffoon. Neither am I when I write about Floyd Mayweather Jr. and say he's the best fighter in the world today.

We're both tasked with providing a viewpoint seeded in accuracy.

And at the end of the day, that's why people read.

Any competent note-taker can turn around a 2,000-word encyclopedia piece on the sublime genius of a slap-hitting junior flyweight, but when jab comes to cross, the issues that prompt opposite viewpoints are the straws that stir the website-traffic drink.

But with the right of dissension comes a responsibility for maturity.

While I don't have a moment's hesitation in banging out a thousand words that I know will leave me with a filled-to-the-brim inbox, I don't think it's beyond reason to expect a little decorum when it comes to the feedback my viewpoints might arouse.

Let's be clear: I don't care if people disagree with me. We're all big boys and girls here. And I don't at all expect everyone to follow my mantras in lockstep from week to week. Truth be told, it's a blast to know that something I write from my living room recliner can trigger someone to reaction.

It's boxing. It's sports. It's supposed to stir passion. It's supposed to be fun.

Still, there's a crossable line. And I'd just as soon not have it approached.

I'm a respectful grown-up. I'm a college graduate. And I'm assured enough in the validity of my viewpoints that I don't feel the need to belittle those who may hold others. It doesn't mean I'll change my mind. But it does mean I won't lob stones if I don't have them lobbed at me.

All bets are off, though, when the line gets blurred.

Regardless of how learned a responder might be or how much value their points might deserve, they don't register beyond a blip if accompanied by childish insults or needless vulgarity.

Case in point: A reader who followed-up on last week's Mayweather-Ortiz piece.

Rather than a point-by-point list of why I got it wrong when I said Ortiz had it coming -- which, incidentally, I received from more than one person -- the civility-challenged emailer went straight to the low road and instantly reduced the rest of his note to forgettable white noise:

"Moron,

"I refer to your recent piece 'Like It or Not, Larry ... Victor had it coming' which pretty much encapsulates what a complete moron you are!

"With your 'table scraps' comment you take a shot at Pacquaio's [sic] recent opposition yet momentarily seem to forget Mayweather's most recent opponent was alleged 'young lion' Victor Ortiz! What a joke! In the last two years Ortiz has been brutalised into quitting by the limited brawler Maidana, drawn with the Lemont Petterson [sic] and has now firmly established himself as the biggest pea brain ever to step into the ring by allowing himself to be KO'ed in one of the most embarrassing incidents in boxing history!

"I don't recall you describing De La Hoya or Hatton as 'table scraps' when those fights were announced! Did not Pacquaio [sic] defeat both De La Hoya and Hatton in more devastating fashion than Mayweather? Where do you get off showing a true warrior like Marquez so little respect!

"Are you really this dumb or do you have to work at it?"

Pretty clever, no?

And rather than following the hit-and-run pattern penned by the typical message-board ruffian, this joker simply refused to let his ignorance die, sending no fewer than 10 more notes across the subsequent 16 hours that surely made him the toast of the playground at recess.

But the more he blathered, the less I read. And the more certain he was that he was winning on points, the more sure I was that he was blown from the ring inside the first minute.

The results won't change going forward, folks, so let's dispense with nonsense right here.

If you read the quoted portion and found it amusing at my expense, don't bother reading anymore.

Be secure in the fantasy that childish banter carries weight and feel free to follow through on promises not to read any further whenever you see my byline before a piece.

Save your obscenities. Save your threats. Save your shots at my integrity or breeding.

You don't impress me. You don't frighten me. And you don't bother me.

As for those still reading... whether we agree or disagree, I look forward to the discussions.

I won't be any less outspoken and I won't flinch at return fire, but I promise I'll give your opinions my unfettered attention and I'll never stray below standards of courtesy.

Lupica or not, neither of us deserves any less.

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

IBF cruiserweight title - Neubrandenburg, Germany

Steve Cunningham (champion) vs. Yoan Pablo Hernandez (No. 8 contender)


Cunningham (24-2, 12 KO): Second title defense; Held IBF title in 2007-08 (one defense)

Hernandez (24-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since 2008 (10-0, 5 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Philly-born cruiser continues as anonymous elite." Cunningham by decision

WBA light flyweight title - Las Vegas, Nevada

Roman Gonzalez (champion) vs. Omar Soto (No. 12 contender)


Gonzalez (29-0, 24 KO): Third title defense; First fight in United States

Soto (22-7-2, 15 KO): Fourth title fight (0-3, 0 KO); Fourth fight in 2011 (3-0, 2 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Power-punching little man stays atop his division." Gonzalez in 8

WBC super bantamweight title - Las Vegas, Nevada

Toshiaki Nishioka (champion) vs. Rafael Marquez (No. 2 contender)


Nishioka (38-4-3, 24 KO): Seventh title defense (6-0, 5 KO); Winless in first four title fights

Marquez (40-6, 36 KO): Thirteenth title fight (9-3, 7 KO); Former IBF/IBO title at 118 pounds

Fitzbitz says: "Mexican veteran responds with one last vintage effort." Marquez by decision

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Last week's picks: 2-2 Overall picks record: 338-114 (74.7 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 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.
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