Five Head-Scratching Issues With Modern Boxing Broadcasts
By Eric Coronado Jr.: Boxing broadcasts exhibit significant disparities across regions, broadcasters, venues, and promoters, setting them apart from other sports in terms of broadcasting standards. This fragmentation often results in a lag behind other sports when it comes to innovations and broadcast quality. While many of the issues require extensive solutions, here are just a few where the solutions are as simple as making it so.
Inaudible Punches – One of the most irksome issues that is, unfortunately, one of the more frequently encountered ones is that the action inside of the ring is simply not loud enough. When I tune in to a fight, I want to become one with the action. Nothing takes me out of the fight faster than blaring commentary and quiet or inaudible punches. I’ve noticed this more in UK broadcasts than anywhere else, and as much as I appreciate Darren Barker, I would be more appreciative of a balanced audio experience rather than his voice in full surround sound, telling me how spiteful someone’s punches are rather than allowing me to hear for myself.
When Sergio Martinez ended the second Paul Williams fight with an explosive overhand left, the low thud that emanated, followed by a moment’s pause before the startled crowd reacted, was haunting and visceral. In this rare instance, the sound of the punch was as significant as the sight of it. When watching Mike Tyson’s fights, one can’t help but notice the sound of the impact of his rapidly placed punches. I do not want to be robbed of these moments because of a simple sound-mixing issue.
Superimposed Replays – You will not find someone who loves slow-motion replays more than this writer. Slow-motion replays break down the action and allow us to dissect the split-second decisions that fighters make that are sometimes imperceptible at full speed. That Andre Ward clip that everyone’s seen at least twenty times, with the parry, the counter, and the block off of one hand. The Canelo punch that sent Kirkland spiraling after a missed hook. The Crawford uppercut that sent Spence to the canvas for a second time that was nearly invisible to the naked eye.
I live for those moments, and despite the brilliance of them, there is simply no reason that during an active round, a replay should be superimposed and made the focal point of the broadcast. Replays, as magical as they are, are supplementary. Live action is the meat of the event. I can’t think of any single thing I’d want to see sharing the screen with the live-action fight outside of the round number and time. The uninterrupted flow of the fight is what keeps us on the edge of our seats, and anything that disrupts that intensity detracts from the overall experience. Let the fighters and their skill be the stars in those critical moments and reserve the breakdown of the action for the time between rounds.
Intrafight coach interviews – This one is pretty straightforward. I am simply not interested in what the fighter’s corner has to say to an interviewer in the middle of a round. It’s always the same kind of inattentive reply. I can think of only one of these instances when I was actually interested in what the corner had to say, and it was when Freddie Roach, when speaking about Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s chances to pull out a win against Martinez replied, “the speed is just too much.” Typically, the responses range from, “he needs to keep punching,” to “We’re getting ready to make our move.” This goes back to my primary issue, which is that during the round, we ought to be able to focus on the action before us and not what’s going on off to the side. Additionally, if you want to know how the coach really feels, do a better job of capturing the action in the corner between rounds. Modern broadcasts seem to be skimping in this aspect, but this is far more likely to furnish insight and interesting dialogue than a halfhearted interview taking place while a coach should be coaching.
Slick decals – Fighters have too much going on in front of them to have to worry about decals that turn slick when sweat inevitably coats them in a fine film, sending them tumbling to the canvas repeatedly. This head-scratching decision is pretty common and bafflingly irresponsible. There are plenty of ways to display logos and other promotional images on canvas that do not involve slick vinyl on a surface where sure footing is necessary. Breaks in the action, possible injury, and confusion about knockdowns are a few consequences that could easily be eliminated with a less slick decal or even computer-generated images.
Biased commentary – Unbiased commentators are like honest politicians. They might be out there somewhere, but they’re lost in a fog of agendas. Out of this entire list, this is the least likely to change since it pays to direct the narrative. How many times have you heard someone prematurely named as a top pound-for-pound fighter or heard commentators try to spin a fight’s story to benefit the house fighter? For hardcore boxing fans, this issue is simply an annoyance; however, more casual viewers are often swayed by commentary. Biases, whether consciously or unconsciously expressed, can significantly impact the perception of the sport.
Take, for instance, the surprisingly common opinion among casual fans that Floyd Mayweather, due to his undefeated record, is the best boxer of all time. As great as Mayweather was, it is hard to argue that he is the best to ever do it when you consider that he fought a carefully curated selection of opponents compared to fighters of days past. He also fought in an era with more belts than ever before and fought far less frequently than champions from the past. I must stress that these are all trends in modern boxing and are not meant to directly disparage Mayweather. He is a true generational talent deserving of high praise. However, the prevailing opinion now is that being undefeated is more important than facing the toughest competition in your era. This is an opinion built upon years of people prioritizing that coveted “0,” of weighing a loss too heavily, and of commentators leaning into and repeating these misconceptions until they hardened like cement blocks on the feet of the sport. In the ever-evolving world of boxing, where narratives are shaped by voices both within and outside the ring, it’s crucial to recognize the impact of biased commentary and to strive for a fairer, more transparent portrayal of this remarkable sport. This means sacrificing short-term gains for the enduring prosperity of boxing.
What are some more ways that boxing broadcasts can be improved upon?