I can’t decide what bothers me more? The fact that ESPN has largely ignored boxing for the last 20 years, or when it decides to cover it, how embarrassingly bad they are at it.
The display Stephen A. Smith (love him or hate him) put on before and after, Jeff Horn’s victory on Saturday night was embarrassing and outrageous. The entire coverage was deplorable. ESPN’s studio crew covering the fight was Stephen A. and Steve Levy. Who mocked both Jeff Horn and his past opposition, in particular, former welterweight champ Randall Bailey who in addition to holding a strap in one of the toughest divisions in the sport was also one of the pound-for-pound best punchers in the game, he wasn’t the world’s best boxer, but Bailey can crack, like Julian Jackson or Marcos Maidana, Bailey was a threat to anyone. As well as Ali Funeka who competed at a word class level and gave life and death to Nate Campbell and Joan Guzman and still competes at a fairly high level. Funeka is legit. Horn also owns a victory over Rico Mueller. For a guy who had 16 fights that is a pretty good resume. After the fight, Screamin’ A. doubled down with the insulting. People who step into the ring at any level don’t deserve mockery. Especially those who do at the world class and championship level.
Smith is the definition of a casual, he is aware of the big names, I am certain he never watches Golden Boy on his own network. I am pretty sure this is the first fight Steve Levy has watched since the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, and the was the last fight he watched since the Oscar/Floyd fight. Having Levy cover boxing is like having me covering the NHL. I don’t know any of the players, nor have basic knowledge of the game or basic strategy. It’s Chinese to me. Boxing is foreign to Levy and he did zero research, and ESPN paid him to cover a sport he has no knowledge of and did no research on, he didn’t even pull up the BOXREC or watch any YOUTUBE on the dude he was being paid to talk about. As soon as the fight was announced I pulled up the Bailey and Funeka fights. And I said this
When five-time world champ, Timothy Bradley tried to explain why the fight was close, that Horn was putting pressure on Manny, that no one including Bradley himself was able to do. That Pac was laying off and that Horn was putting the pressure on throughout and had Manny bleeding and how this all plays on the judges. The boxing aficionado Screamin A. shook him off and dismissed him.
ESPN is having major rating issues, they have cut staff and budget. Despite these massive cutbacks they have gone all in on boxing. This is great for our sport. “The worldwide leader in sports” has made a major investment into boxing. Now it just needs to package it right. This can be done. ESPN is taking HBO’s fights and fighters, it already has Max Kellerman buy him out of his HBO contract make him your exclusive boxing guy.
Need a fighter ringside, former Welterweight Champ Andre Berto gives awesome insight and can really break a fight down. He’s young and can appeal to the younger crowd which boxing and ESPN both desperately needs. Or there is always Antonio Tarver, who before his PED problem was highly respected for his commentary on SHOWTIME. 2017 has been a great year for boxing, and there is more hall of fame caliber fighters than at any time in recent memory. ESPN has the ability and the means to take boxing at this time and move back to prominence and cash in on their own investment but they need to take it more seriously.