The only thing worse than the Horn-Pacquiao decision was Stephen A. Smith’s commentary. Leading up to the fight, Smith consistently bashed Horn, a 15-0-1 up and coming power puncher who left his job teaching high school to slug it out with some of the best in the world. Sadly, Smith ignored the Rocky tale right in front of him, on his own network, and instead of playing up the engaging plot, decided to bash Horn’s entire history. Rather than play up the fact that Horn went 2-1 in the 2012 London Olympics, rather than mention that he has defeated former champions, he instead called the men he’s beaten nobodies.
Beyond the blatant disrespect that is frowned upon across the martial arts, this was the exact opposite of how a broadcaster should promote a fight. It was silly, short-sighted and just plain ignorant. Not to mention lazy. This could’ve been built as a young powerhouse taking on Manny Pacquiao, the legend. That way, if Manny won, he still looked good. If he lost, it was to youth and power. Respect all around, and they live to fight another day.
Instead, the worst possible outcome came for the storyline hastily built by Smith. Granted, Pac was robbed, but that’s beside the point. Robberies happen all the time. The judge’s scorecards were read, and bedlam ensued. Play up the rematch. Be shocked that the bloodied underdog got the nod. Do anything but constantly bash the fighter who pulled out the win and rallied against the better opponent. Smith’s rants were decent for ratings, perhaps, but it also shined a light on how completely out of his element he is when he’s talking about any combat sport.
So, Boxing Hall of Fame announcer decided to address Smith’s terrible commentary.
I seldom criticize sportscasting colleagues. BUT I cringe when announcers who don’t really follow boxing denigrate fighters for no reason. Perhaps before Stephen A. Smith said that Horn opponents Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka “give new meaning to the term no names” he might have done 5 minutes of research and realized that Bailey only 5 years ago was a world champion and as recently as 6 yrs ago Funeka fought twice for a world title. Are they household names to all sports or boxing fans…no. Were they aging fighters that Horn could build his name with…yes. BUT within the sport they are not no names. it is awful to read their names and a few others in a mocking tone and suggest they’re some kind of bums. These two men had excellent careers. I doubt if he would pick an aging NBA player who isn’t a superstar and call him a no name even though casual NBA fans might not know who that 2nd string power forward might be.
When asked “what do you have on Jeff Horn?” Smith said, “gotta admit I don’t have much on this dude.” Really? How could you admit that on National TV when you are being paid to cover this “dude.” Then he denigrated Horn’s opponents without knowing anything about THEM. And, again, I’m not saying Horn has faced super tough competition, but don’t sit there with your co-host and laugh and mock their names, after you have admitted you didn’t even do any homework on one of the fighters who is in the main event, let alone his opponents. When I have covered other sports beyond boxing I make it my business to NOT overreach and make statements based on no knowledge. Instead I actually prepare, so that I can stay in my lane, be factual, and do the job I’m being paid for.
When I covered major league baseball or the NBA on Sportscenter when I was at ESPN I didn’t offer unfounded opinions on players who I did not cover on a regular basis. I stuck to the facts and any insights I gathered from players or others who covered the sport regularly. If Smith is going to keep doing these boxing shows, I suggest he and whoever sits and co-hosts with him do the same. Sorry for this tirade, but this is more than a little distressing to me. Boxers deserve respect and accuracy when they are reported on.
And like that, Bernstein dropped the mic. Of course, this is exactly the business model ESPN is going for. Hot takes, draw eyeballs, but why draw eyeballs to ignorance and laziness?