The latest chapter of the Alex Rodriguez saga, which featured the slugger storming out of a closed-doors grievance hearing and then lashing out in an extended radio and television interview, showcased A-Rod’s unique penchant for garnering headlines, and attracting attention and controversy.
Sports fans are drawn to the train wreck. We always have been. Incognito-Martin. Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Barry Bonds. Bountygate. Spygate. And so many others.
Yet, as a boxing fan, what stings the most is that for all other sports, controversy lures in eyeballs, spurs on debate and water cooler chat sessions, and generates overall interest. But in boxing, another controversy is nothing but another nail in the coffin, another sign that boxing is dead, another watermark that the Sweet Science ain’t what it used to be.
None other than A.J. Liebling, the pound-for-pound kingpin of boxing scribes, opined on the sport’s inevitable death. More than a half century ago. In the midst of, what was with the benefit of historical hindsight, a fantastic era of fighting.
He wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, to declare boxing as dead.
Think about that — the man whom modern boxing fans remember as perhaps the sport’s biggest historical advocate was but another signaling its demise. Remarkable.
Here boxing is, king of the controversy, undisputed champion of distress and inharmonious discourse, and still nobody pays us any mind. You want tabloid-worthy stories? You want scandal? Come on down to the squared circle, my friends.
Here’s only a small sampling of the mayhem the sport can unleash in any moment, just a few of the most memorable and infamous out of the ring moments of recent years, which makes something such as Alex Rodriguez’s latest episode nothing but a drop in the bucket.
A Revered Trainer Suffering from Parkinson’s Disease Gets Attacked
Who in their right minds would karate kick a 52-year-old trainer, one of the sport’s most famous names, a man battling Parkinson’s Disease? Alex Ariza would, that’s who, although the phrase “in their right minds” doesn’t apply.
The ugly scene unfolded in the days before Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Brandon Rios. Roach was not entirely an innocent in the spectacle, hurling a variety of slurs at various people in the midst of the chaos, but Ariza certainly comes off worse, further marring what was an already less than stellar reputation.
An 80-Year-Old Announcer is Ready to Throw Down
The pound for pound champion needs to defeat tough challengers in order to establish himself as legitimate, and there was none tougher than the 80-year-old HBO announcer Larry Merchant. Wait, what?
Following Mayweather’s fight against Victor Ortiz, and a controversial finish to the evening, the two men began trading insults on live television.
Mayweather screamed, “HBO needs to fire you, you don’t know **** about boxing! You ain’t ****!”
To which Merchant replied, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I’d kick your ass!”
Unfortunately, the Mayweather vs. Merchant pay-per-view showdown never materialized.
Mike Tyson Wants to Eat Lennox Lewis’ Children
Mike Tyson is nothing if not quotable. Today, his quotes inspire a mix of pity and laughter. But in the good ol’ days, Tyson was no jokester or apologist.
In the lead up to his highly anticipated clash with Lennox Lewis, Iron Mike went on an infamous tirade, highlighted by this gem:
“I’m coming for you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children.” Then, for good measure, because it’s the only logical conclusion to that thought, “Praise be to Allah!”
David Haye Decapitates the Klitschko Brothers
Big-mouthed British challenger David Haye showed up to a press conference for a pending fight against champion Wladimir Klitschko with a unique outfit. He wore a t-shirt which depicted Haye holding the bloody, decapitated heads of Wladimir and older brother Vitali, with their lifeless bodies dormant on the canvas of the ring, and Haye posed triumphantly above them.
The fight was ultimately postponed for two more years, and then Haye put on one of the ultimate no-show performances in the sport’s recent history, refusing to engage Klitschko.
All of this, and we haven’t even gone back to the days of boxers publicly acknowledging throwing fights, of blatant, aboveboard payouts to judges, referees and fighters, and who knows what else. Promoters who were convicted murders, fighters biting off ears, and parachutists landing in the ring of an outdoors fight in the midst of a round.
We didn’t even get to illegal hand wraps, referees refusing to stop fights, routinely awful decisions, our own failed drug tests, fighters not making weight, judges who’ve apparently never seen the sport they’re judging, sanctioning bodies awarding 17 titles to fraudulent “champions” while stripping the best fighters of their honors, all-time great champions throwing their hands up in the middle of a fight, giving up, and walking away, fighters knocking out other fighters while they’re sitting on the canvas, and on and on we go.
The bottom line is if you’re looking for Broadway-esque, Shakespearean style drama, you don’t need to wait for Alex Rodriguez’s next grievance hearing. Give the Sweet Science a try!
*This article was first published on Yahoo Sports on November 22, 2013.