Ring Magazine: Bible of Boxing or Book of the Dead?

by on February 13th, 2011
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For those not familiar with me, you should know that I’m not one of those boxing trivia nerds who waxes poetic about old boxing scribes or one of those guys who thinks that, because they once read an article in an old magazine about some booze-addled Irish boxer in the 30′s, they actually know something about the sport. I get no tingling feeling from clutching old Ring Almanacs nor do I secretly pine away to be a member of the boxing writer fraternity.

I have no warm, fuzzy feeling about the old school of boxing journalism or about token pieces of boxing nostalgia. Again, as I say over and over, my only loyalty is to the fighters and the fans. Pundits, experts, and half-baked shills from all generations don’t interest me at all.

And that brings us to Ring Magazine.

While the self-proclaimed “Bible of Boxing” certainly exists as part of boxing history, it has become laughably irrelevant and in desperate need of a quick mercy killing.

As tough as this may be to accept for some of those die-hard Ring lovers, the magazine fails on every level and is just sinking deeper and deeper into the hole they created for themselves by over-reaching and over-stroking their bloated egos.

As a news source, their four-month-old fight reports are about as useful as, well, a four-month-old fight report. Unless Ring Magazine’s target demographic is elderly mountain men who are afraid of computers, the company completely fails as a real news provider. And its website, filled with not-so-veiled infomercials for owner, Golden Boy, makes these “major” boxing sites that routinely fill their front pages with puff bio pieces about sponsors’ fighters, look absolutely legitimate in comparison.

As boxing journalism, well, how can anybody with a straight face regard a magazine, owned by a promoter, as a credible source of non-biased thought and analysis? The truth is that all of the major boxing sites are subsidized by promoter and/or managerial money and that’s certainly bad enough- but Ring Magazine is actually owned by Golden Boy. It’s a branch of Golden Boy’s organization. One look at their website, which features a tab for GBP’s Fight Night Club series, should let you know that somebody, somewhere is very aware of Ring’s status as a subsidiary of Golden Boy Promotions.

Outdated fight reports and questionable journalistic standards can almost be forgiven in the face of Ring Magazine’s greatest sin- their self-appointed status as de facto sanctioning body and ratings authority.

Most recently, Ring Magazine decided to keep Bernard Hopkins as their 175 lb. champ, pending a California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) review of his controversial TKO 2 loss to Chad Dawson on October 15th. The decision, which would coincide with the WBC’s official ruling to make the contest a technical draw, brings up a lot of issues about whether the publication should be in the business of awarding titles or acting in any semi, quasi-official capacity when it comes to actual in-ring activities.

Normally, nobody would care at all about whether a magazine is going to respect an in-ring decision or wait for a state commission ruling- and, really, they shouldn’t. But Ring Magazine has been having delusions of grandeur for ages, right through pay-for-play ratings scandals, questionable ratings decisions, and professional conflicts of interest.

They’ve stepped into the vacuum of boxing’s chaos and leveraged their name and market share into a legitimate place of authority for many followers of the sport. Many otherwise intelligent fans will loyally declare the Ring Magazine rankings as the only legitimate rankings and their champions as the “real” world champions.

But, while they talk the talk of a real sanctioning organization that hands out belts and makes “important” announcements about their championship decisions, they are, literally, nothing more than flapping magazine pages. They have no infrastructure and no actual judges, referees, or officials of any kind. All of their decisions are based off of decisions already made by the corrupt sanctioning bodies they supposedly exist to remedy.

Universally recognized rotten decisions, like Beibut Shumenov-Gabriel Campillo II and Ulises Solis-Luis Lazarte I get incorporated into their ratings structure while other awful decisions, like Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara or Hopkins-Dawson, get tossed aside via executive decision.

Who decides which crappy decisions get swept under the carpet and which get acted upon? Why do some injustices bring about editorial “justice” and others have no impact on the ratings process at all? Who knows? But one thing is for certain- Ring Magazine ain’t telling you.

These random, inconsistent fits of righteous indignation from their editorial board also bring their ratings into question.

Little more than an opinion poll to begin with, Ring Magazine likes to legitimize it’s rating process by pointing to its panel of journalists from “around the world.” However, to what degree are these journalists used in the nuts and bolts ratings process? Who knows? Emails to several members of the ratings panel have gone unanswered, so I can only assume that Ring Magazine feels that their explanation of the ratings process is sufficient:

THE RING Ratings are compiled by the magazine’s editorial board, with the participation of THE RING Ratings Panel of boxing journalists from around the world

Pretty vague for something aiming to be legitimate and universally respected, huh?

Clicking on the link to their Rating Panel doesn’t exactly instill confidence in their process, either. Unless, of course, “Wikipedia Editor” and “Showtime” can be considered trustworthy, independent authorities among a slapped-together list of writers, photographers, and publications/websites.

The Ring has become a schizoid organization that wants to be all things to all people but, because of its desperate struggle to stay alive, has compromised itself on all levels.

Whatever street cred Ring Magazine gets is based off the fact that they aren’t the sanctioning bodies and because the name, for better or worse, still resonates among fight fans.

But their time is up. They are an irrelevant piece of boxing history that serves no purpose today. Instead of mucking up the already-soiled boxing landscape, they should bow out gracefully and stop with the delusions of grandeur. Ring Magazine is a magazine without readers, a website without credibility, and a wannabe sanctioning body with no power. Their place is in boxes, lined up along the dusty basement walls of boxing nerds.

This article is also posted at The Boxing Tribune, Boxing’s Source of Independent News and Media

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