Boxing needs to adopt media training immediately. The sport is unquestionably very good at promotion, public relations, marketing and presentation. What is missing, and has been for the past three decades, is the ability to communicate with the media in a way that allows the sport to cross over into the mainstream. Media training can, and would, change that.
On Sunday night, Showtime presented a bantamweight title fight between Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko. Mares landed myriad low blows against Agbeko, including one that put him down, and was never reprimanded by the referee. Mares won a decision, and the referee, Russell Mora, was eviscerated by just about everyone. It didn’t have to happen. While an improved post-fight interview would not have prevented the criticism, it may have taken a bit of the sting away and prevented his name from becoming a trending topic on Twitter.
This isn’t about boxing – it’s about dealing with the media. Immediately confronted by a brutal line of questioning, Mora stuck to his guns and defended his officiating and claimed they were not low blows.
Mora does a good job in his first sentence, and then falls of the rails completely. An admission, or an apology, centered on the principle that judging a live fight is difficult, would have gone a long way. Those few lines after may do more damage than the actual officiating. Media training would have provided him the skillset necessary to handle the post-fight interview.
It wasn’t just the referee – everyone involved could have done better in their handling of the media – from both fighters’ camps to the promoters, Golden Boy and Don King Promotions, to the title organizations. Public relations and marketing are very important, but are also very different than training in public speaking or handling a hostile interview.
In every major sport, media training is now a staple. It is time boxing followed that lead.