By Ingming Aberia
In what appears to be world bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire’s Facebook page, a recent wall post reads: “Oh n btw, Chino, Ampong, n Pinol- Why dont u cm pick a fight with sm1 ur on size huh? ME AND PAPANG also said it was the media. We ALL pointed at U! So back off.”
This closely follows an earlier post which reads: “Chino, Pinol, n Ampong. Shut up n Leave my family alone: the Donaires n Marcials, esp my wife. Keep talking n ull feel what Montiel felt. U won’t see it, ull just feel it. Sonic Boom!!”
Filipinos didn’t have a monopoly of the window through which media peeked into the private lives of the Donaires and Marcials. But why Donaire singled them out as targets of his deadly left hook is one question nobody but him may correctly answer.
The Donaire off-ring explosion could have been triggered by media reports that made public the feud he apparently had with his father, Nonito Donaire Sr, among others. The reports started coming out in 2008, at which time Donaire Sr—who worked his corner since his amateur years as a boxer—was cut by Team Donaire as trainer. Recent reports say the Donaires have reconciled, but in a video recording, Nonito Jr blamed the media for creating stories of the feud bigger than they really were.
For those who are not keen about figure of speech, the threat to bomb Chino et al with a Donaire atomic warhead might just be a welcome solution. After all, before it became a commercially-powered sport that it is today, boxing was in fact a masculine art of settling disputes. I remember Recah Trinidad—Chino’s father—once set a date ages ago for a fisticuff with a reader who quarreled with him over an article he wrote, just to go over their “hatred” for each other in a “manly” way.
Even after boxing’s elevation to the category of spectator sport, its utility as a means by which political and cultural tensions could somehow be eased was not totally lost. The 1936 Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight made people think of World War II in the context of a ring battle. More than two decades earlier, in 1919, Jack Dempsey knocked down Jess Willard 7 times in the first round before finishing the lanky champion in the third. Willard knocked Dempsey himself out of the ring in that wild opening round, but the punishment he got (7 front teeth were knocked off along with 3 broken ribs) from the offense-minded Dempsey was too much for him to continue.
It was Dempsey who provided relief to a boxing championship that had been a source of ridicule from not a few boxing fans. Some historians say Willard’s ascent was stage-managed to get rid of then erstwhile champion Jack Johnson, whose being black and at the same time being defiant of American culture at the time irritated the establishment.
Dempsey himself got a bad press (the term used in this era) most of the time. But his all-out-offense fighting style—the Pacquiao-like aggression inside the ring—packed the fans in. His 1926 fight against Gene Tunney attracted 120,557 fans (beat that!) to the Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia, USA.
“Bad press is better than no press,” somebody said. Unlike that of other businesses, the product of a boxing show is something on which the producer (in this case the fighter) has complete control. He can always reverse a bad press with a single night of excellent performance. For a business to flourish, it is not enough to advertise; the product it sells must match the hype. Boxers can get hyped all they want, but will not get paid real money unless they deliver. Conversely, they can attract attention the other way, but if they make the fans satisfied, the fans will come to see them perform.
If Dempsey was competing in this era, one might think that his pay-per-view record would be at an all-time high. Which further means he could have been one of the richest athletes who ever lived. And so this madness is upon us: Why did Dempsey, whose brand of boxing entertainment was arguably superior than those delivered by many of today marquee fighters, earn only a fraction of what the likes of Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have earned?
The answer: communications technology and media have a lot to do with it.
In Dempsey’s time, a fighter earns money only from his share of gate receipts (he earned nothing in his title-winning fight against Willard; his manager lost it in a bet that Dempsey would knock Willard out in the first round). Today, a fighter earns from a myriad of sources, such as the guaranteed purse, pay-per-view sales (from everywhere in the planet that has satellite access), and product endorsements printed as tattoo or attached to boxing shorts.
In Dempsey’s time, the fledgling radio communication and print media were about the only hi-tech means of promoting a fight. Today, the media has made it possible for one to know somebody has just sneezed at the opposite side of the globe.
Sam Langford (1883-1956) who, at 5’6”, knocked out more than a hundred heavyweights, used to answer “I need to catch the next train,” when asked why he finished a fight too early for the fans who came in late. In Dempsey’s and Langford’s time, it was not rare for fighters to face two opponents in a single day (in different venues, of course). That was how they earned their living.
Today, a fighter can fight just once a year and still make millions of dollars. Again, what makes this possible is technology and media. When Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) fought on television as an amateur for the first time, he knocked on the doors of his neighbors to ask them to watch him perform. Today, one only needs to update his followers on Twitter or his friends on Facebook to get a word across millions of people around the world in seconds; hundreds of websites and traditional media outlets will pick up the line and millions more will get to know the message.
If Donaire earns millions in his next fights, it is not necessarily because he is as entertaining a fighter as Dempsey. But it is necessarily because of technology and media. People are attracted as much as to what he says and does both in public and in private as to what he can deliver inside the ring, and he has media (good and bad) to thank for having such a free advertising. It had been a great ride—and something which Dempsey did not have.
Dempsey got a bad press not only because of the lifestyle he led, but also as a consequence of his having earned a living from the paying fans. The press wanted the boxer to account for the sensibilities of his publics. Donaire may have gotten a bad media, but that is all a function of his being a public property. You stop collecting money from the fans, and Chino et all would do well to “back off.”
Celebrities are in many ways created by media. And yet they are quick to complain when something said about them is not to their liking.
Donaire’s outbursts indicate he hardly knew how he got to where he is now. It would be hard to expect he knows where he is going. He is virtually lost in the wilderness of fame.
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Hermilando “Ingming” Duque Aberia is a sports fan and a literary enthusiast. He has written a book titled “Manny Pacquiao: Story Bigger Than Boxing.” He has a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and is a practitioner in social development work.