As an amateur, part-time writer dealing with constant aggravation and headaches, I’m forever evaluating and debating whether to continue to write for another week, another month, another season. Usually I try to keep my work reporterly and professional, but I began writing this for myself and then decided to share it with you.
Politics – It seems that many people in boxing have their own agendas, and their own Machiavellian ideas of how to achieve their goals. When you become a boxing writer you must know this: the person who whispers sweet compliments in your ear today will be insulting you tomorrow. The person who was a trusted and reliable source yesterday will try to feed you false information today. The person who detested you a month ago will want to be your best friend a month from now, and when they realize that what they want isn’t forthcoming, or even when they get what they wanted, they’ll drop you like a hot rock. The person who has won your respect with their moderate attitude and thoughtful contemplations in public will turn out to be a complete ass in private. And some people will try to use you to prosecute their own vendettas or further their own careers, and they’ll threaten and ultimately discard you if you fail to cooperate. Because people have their own agendas, you’ll never know what they’re going to say or do next, and once it’s done, you’ll probably never know why they said or did it. Even worse, some of them – because they’re such conniving and manipulative sheisters themselves – just can’t accept good will when they find it. The idea that anyone could be without a secret agenda is so impossible for them to accept that in their misguided minds they fabricate one for you. This is the aspect of the business/game of boxing that I find most repellant.
It’s an expensive hobby – Aside from the travel and the meals on the road and the lost weekends, I once had to pay more than $300 for repairs to a borrowed laptop computer. I didn’t damage it – a fighter and a promoter broke the display when they climbed over the press table to enter a ring after a fight, but I’ve never mentioned it to either of them. To mention it to them would be unseemly, and to try to collect money would be scandalous.
The egos are obnoxious – Recently I was accused of being arrogant. Yes, I who have so little to be arrogant about. Yet I have to confess it’s probably true. Find me a writer who isn’t arrogant – considering that the writer lays himself open every time he writes, displaying both his knowledge of the subject and his inner thoughts, excessive self-confidence (or the ability to fake it) is practically a prerequisite for sportswriting! But fighters are the same way – they have to be self-confident to get in the ring, and most fit and healthy young men have narcissistic tendencies anyway (I know, I was one many years ago myself). Toss in a few fawning females and a promoter or matchmaker who will say anything to get what he wants from the fighter, and you’ve got a recipe for a considerably overinflated ego. But the fighters aren’t all egotistical bastards. In fact some of them are humble and down-to-earth beyond all reasonable expectation. The promoters – some of them at least – are much worse!
I’m an amateur writer and it shows – I got my journalism degree from Neverbinta University. I’ve learned everything that I know about journalism by trial and error, and the trials and errors have taken place in public. When I started the Fistic Mystic blog I had no further experience as a writer than composing business letters in the office and one theme paper in high school which my composition teacher rejected on the grounds that he thought it had been plagiarized. (Evidently old Mr. Hollister didn’t think I was capable of writing anything more than my name at the top of a page.) So when the Fistic Mystic was brand new I wrote some articles that today I’d rather hide than share, and a couple of times I alienated people whose good graces I later wished I could win back. Along the way I’ve learned a number of important things, for example ‘Never repeat an out-of-town fighter’s criticism of a local promoter,’ ‘Never speak anything that you wouldn’t publish,’ and ‘Don’t try to mediate a dispute between a fighter and a promoter.’ Oh, and there are others, believe me! It would be nice sometimes to have a do-over, but I think you stop getting those when you leave the elementary school playground. Anyway, readers expect professional quality and polish, detailed technical analysis, and a constant stream of inside information – all of which must be both accurate and interesting. It’s a very high standard to try to uphold, and I’m sorry to confess that sometimes I don’t succeed.
Time – I’m 36 years old, nearly 37. If I was ever going to have a real writing career it would certainly have happened by now. I work two jobs; one full-time and one part-time, and I’m a married man with four kids.. Sometimes I don’t have the time or the energy to write anything for days, or even a week. But if I don’t post something new every day the readership dissipates rapidly. If I told you how much of my best writing was done after midnight on a weeknight you wouldn’t believe it. If I told my employer how much of my writing was done after midnight on a weeknight they’d probably fire me.
Free admission to a boxing show is hard to pass up. Sure, it might have cost me $60 for gas and $10 for two greasy, tasteless fast-food meals on the road, not to mention the forfeit of time with my wife and kids and a good night’s sleep, but it feels so good to pick up that press pass and walk into an arena or auditorium without stopping to pay for a ticket!
Inspiration – I am a writer, and boxing inspires me. I haven’t always considered myself a writer, but I am one now. Writer is as writer does, you know. I always thought I could write, but I haven’t always had something to write about. But I’ve been a boxing fan now for eighteen years (the first pay-per-view I ever bought was Bowe-Holyfield 1 back in 1992), and there’s no other topic on earth that gets my creative juices flowing like the fight game and the people who populate it. Besides, the writing is a great excuse for watching fights. “I have to see this one, honey. It would be an inexcusable act of journalistic faithlessness for me to miss it.”
I enjoy meeting and getting to know the fighters and officials and journalists, and I enjoy being known by them just as much. I’ve had opportunities to meet fighters, to interview them, and to write about them. In the process of writing and rewriting articles, and sharing drafts with the subjects and having them vetted for errors, I’ve learned things about some of these guys that they never intended to share. Even better than meeting them in their gyms, I’ve been privileged to visit some in their homes and even to host some in my home. More than a few times they’ve reached out to ask me to write for an obituary, an announcement, or to give a mention to a worthy cause. It’s also fun to get positive feedback from people whose opinions really matter. Sure, everyone is a critic. But when the most thoughtful and significant and knowledgeable critics toss a compliment my way, as occasionally happens, well I might as well be a dog with a bone. I’m not one who typically drops names, but when Graham Houston said he thought I was a “competent” boxing writer, I’m sure my smile glowed in the dark for the next two nights.
The Fistic Mystic says: I’ll keep writing. It’s become a habit – a bad habit, and that’s the hardest kind to break. The pleasure that I draw from the sport seems less and less healthy as time goes on; like the pleasure that a smoker gets from the first draw on a new cigarette, it feels less like pleasure and more like relief. But for now the pleasure still outweighs the pain. Seems to, anyway.