Convicted Artist Magazine

Feb 25th
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Adrien-BronerAndy Kaufman was the first comedian to make mind-games the whole show.  So good was he at luring in an audience, it was almost like watching a magician work, more than a comedian.  As brilliant and brave as it was, it had a very negative side-effect.  Generations of unfunny comedians were released into the population, thinking they were being misunderstood artists because the audience hated them.  Clearly there was a line between creatively insane, and just a selfish jerk, who was using an example to justify his lack of craft.  I make the analogy not just because boxing and comedy are the two worlds I understand, but because the boxing world has it's own Andy Kaufman in that way.  In fact, they share a January 17th birthday.

Muhammad Ali was the first to bring pro wrestling trash-talk into legitimate sports.  His braggadocio and poetry were insulting to many, but few could deny he worked at it, and was trying to sell tickets for both he and his opponents.  He had the standard ego and insecurity issues that plague many a human being who achieves stardom at a young age.  The bizarre mix of feeling superior, yet inferior, to the world around you at the same time.  What was considered novelty in Ali's day, however, has now become par for the course.  A whole category of entertainment programming is based on trash-talking.  Whole celebrities have been made out of this.  It is almost expected of a star athlete that he be what the WWE fans would call "a heel" at some times.  The enemy who wishes to be hated as much as loved, doesn't even get his wish very often.  It has become so old-hat that it is often ineffective.  In fact, people are forgetting what made it so effective for Ali in the first place.

When it comes to ability, we are talking about one of the greatest fighters of all time.  I don't mean top 100.  I mean in virtually everyone's top 3!  He predicted which round he was going to stop an opponent, and was often capable of succeeding!  When his body began failing him, he found new strategies and ways to win.  He took a stand, socially, and made himself available to be interviewed at different stages of his life, up or down.  If he didn't have this personality, he'd still be remembered by fight fans as one of the best, but with it, he became an international celebrity... the most recognizable sportsperson in history.  At some point, however, we stopped requiring fighters to be top-shelf before doing this.

It is ok for James Toney to talk trash... ditto Floyd Mayweather.  If Vitali Klitschko suddenly wanted to, he's earned it.  Their accomplishments stand the test of time.  Adrien Broner has looked good against top 20 guys, and a few top 10 guys, and not so good against the one top 5 division guy he faced.  He is the exciting version of Floyd, but more for his deficiencies than his attributes.  His accomplishments look good mainly because of how many belts there are these days, and careful matchmaking, not because he's proven himself unbeatable for a stretch of his career.  If he wants to be funny... i.e. the hair brushing, the crazy outfits, rapping, dancing, etc. that is fine.  It takes more to sell tickets these days, and I begrudge no one what it takes to make that happen.

 However, insulting opponents, mock-proposing to a girlfriend, and littering the earth with 5 kids at the young age of 22?  This all speaks more to an insatiable ego than any kind of promotion.  I do have a masters degree in Psychology, so this is where people would say my training is causing me to over-think things.  They're wrong.  It is actually my ego's need to tell everybody my education level.  You see... I know it when I see it, because I am guilty of it.  We need, as fight fans, to reward fighters based on their performances.  Pacquiao and De La Hoya were able to become major stars without this strategy, as was Mike Tyson, although you can't really fake what was going on his his life.  However, there is a reason we DVR the press conference nowadays.  There is the all-too-great chance that it will end of more exciting than the fight, and when that happens, it is shameful.

Chris Strait

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