Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wladimir Klitschko's Pointed Sarcasm With Danny Segura: Quote Spotlight & General Heavyweight Coverage Analysis

In yesterday's Fight Hub TV interview, Danny Segura seemingly interpreted no humour in the deadpan delivery of Wladimir Klitschko.

Danny Segura, referencing Bryant Jennings: 
"Now, recently, in a media scrum, he said your chin was questionable. What are your thoughts on that?"

Klitschko, as viciously straight as his right hand: 

"Oh, it's very questionable. It's actually made out of, uh, glass. And, you know, that's why I've been very careful in past fights-so it's not going to get broken. And the best way to take care of it is just to knock your opponent out."

In the exchange, Wlad seemingly threw a wet blanket on the interviewer's question without him knowing it. No smiles or chuckles were given, that day. But some of us viewing got a laugh out of it. Especially those who have watched around ten consecutive years and twenty consecutive opponents in a row point to Wlad's chin in the lead-up to their match with him before losing, and countless English-speaking interviewers mention it to him directly as though there was much to go over.

Fight Hub interview link

Video embed:

Considering the nine years of not even being knocked down, I am almost reminded of Robert Downey Junior being interviewed by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, recently. Now, I am not putting that all on Danny Segura, because I just find this a casual interview with a funny exchange that I laughed at, and am glad was published by Fight Hub. However, as a fan of boxing, I'm about to go into a rant, because we're on the subject of the broader problem with boxing coverage and it isn't a Fight Hub problem, or a Danny Segura problem. This interview is just a segue into a rant on the problem, which is typified by the coverage of the heavyweight champion of the world. We're talking about Klitschko coverage in America. Belittling the big man and the top division in the sport is largely an American problem. I know it's certainly not a German one. But it does hurt boxing.

CNN recently did one of the few good non-dufus American spots on Wladimir of recent memory. The fact that they can cover Klitschko well, in pieces like that, sticks out like a sore thumb. Because, in mostly American media outlets, especially on television, it's basically been Wladimir politely dismantling interviewers' negative jibes about his chin, his losses, his entertainment value, his opponent quality, his weight division's quality, and bothering to speak of little else that isn't directly tied to a negative, even when there's something positive, noteworthy and obvious to mention.

It's almost as if no one at these outlets knows what's going on in the division or about Klitschko, or even boxing in general. Yet a group like ESPN will still throw an apparently uninformed interviewer in there for a bland 3-minute spot leaving you certain they don't even know one Klitschko from another, as well as squandering any chance at getting anything interesting out of a historical fighter for the inescapably impactful American audiences. All while being completely dismissive of both him and his opponents. Why a guy like Povetkin or Jennings should be written off as uninteresting or one of the world's most dominant athletes should be treated like an anomalous footnote in progress by those who are proponents of sport, one can only wonder. I won't name names when it comes to the interviewers. But I'm sure you've seen them if you're reading this.

You virtually never hear one of them interviewing Klitschko and alluding to a good recent heavyweight match when one has happened, for instance. A match with a cracking atmosphere and great action and an exclamation mark kayo between two good contenders like Alexander Povetkin VS Carlos Takam can happen and be immediately followed by Klitschko being interviewed and the dufus interviewing him leads with a remark about how slow and uninteresting the division is before he gets to his first question. It's poor form and it's stupid marketing, and it doesn't have to be that way at all. Instead of a question that would take an interviewer any kind of familiarity like "Your recent opponent Alexander Povetkin had a terrific match with Carlos Takam. What do you think of his victory and the chances of him facing Deontay Wilder before you can get a shot at full unification?" we have been through a decade of interviews akin to:

Interviewer: "Wlad, you've been winning but remember those times you were knocked out? Because your opponent says he's going to do that to you again."

Wlad: "Yes, I have a glass chin, thank you for your interest in boxing and its subtle nuances You're very knowledgeable, discerning and thank you for that."

Interviewer: "Great answer. I'm glad you haven't forgotten being knocked out. You're a really nice guy, for a Russian. Remember those times you clinched to keep from being knocked out like last time or the time you were knocked out before that when you didn't clinch?"

Wlad: "Thank you, yes, I hope you enjoy this fight too. I am Ukrainian."

Interviewer: "Yeah, like Rocky IV, I know, Vitali. I work for ESPN, after all."

Wlad just rolls through it, sometimes aloof with positivity, sometimes playing sarcastic to blank stares and monotone, uninterested, unengaged voices. If I were Klitschko, I doubt I could do the same interviews without getting salty, and salty with no subtly whatsoever. So, I think I'm complimenting him on his choice of handling the interviews. Some have suggested this is because Wladimir isn't American, or a native English-speaker. Which is probably one factor of many. Because it's true his era isn't great. But also true that it's rarely a great heavyweight era. It's true he doesn't currently have any other big stars to interest people. It's true that like virtually every champion, he's been involved in some major stinkers.

But, if we're extending the honesty even further, although he reacts very differently, I believe Floyd Mayweather Junior gets the same thing from his coverage. Two or three stale media narratives they like to sell, like the myth of him ducking fighters throughout his career, nonsense about his celebrity excesses, then some antagonism to get him to react in an inflammatory way where he usually gives them what they want, whereas Wlad doesn't. All while usually not coaxing one interesting question about boxing on a technical level or anything else that hasn't been rehashed thousands of times.

The difference is essentially that Floyd DOES share a weight division with other stars and he DOES give in to antagonism and has a tabloid lifestyle that media eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But this kind of coverage is why even though boxing still boasts some of the highest-paid athletes in the world, which includes Mayweather and Klitschko, it isn't watercooler talk in America beyond the one fight where by pure happenstance the two biggest stars happen to share a weight class. Overall, it is covered in the most ditzy way possible and the Klitschko coverage is a perfect example of it. Undersold positives, oversold negatives and zero appeal to force casual fans to understand anything more substantial than "ducking" or trash talk.

Boxing isn't dead. Boxing isn't dying. But with coverage like this, of the sport's king division, it's not a wonder America isn't tuned into it nearly as much as it once was. You can put it all on a couple of Wlad's stinkers with excessive holding or you could maybe ask yourself if coverage plays a very large role, with the cloudy lens through which it is all viewed.

PS: I rarely go off on a long essay of a post, and more rarely choose to take a personal negative stance on anyone doing their jobs, which is why I am not pointing the finger at one person from my very small corner of the Internet, but I am pointing out something that I think is a huge problem to the detriment of boxing. One which I maintain is structural, and not solely dependent on any particular person with a microphone, let alone one athlete and their one division.

Work that bag,
Basement Gym Boxing

Thanks for stopping by our place. Here are some other pages you might enjoy:

Tony Thompson Demonstrates Klitschko Arm
Wladimir Klitschko's Sparring Profile
David Haye trains with fake Klitschko jab
Klitschko's jab against Brewster, Wach, Peter and Povetkin

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