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The self proclaimed “Bible of Boxing” is a monthly boxing magazine currently owned under the Golden Boy Promotions banner (and therefore their main man, and former fighter Oscar De La Hoya). To many boxing fans this is THE magazine, the one with it all in, good articles, the results that matter, the new that's important and around 100 years of history. Infact some believe it's that good that the belts that are award by the magazine are often seen as “the true champion”.This is the magazine for fight fans and fighters alike all around in the world.
At £4.99 an issue the magazines first stumbling block is it may seem rather costly, but as it works out at £1.25 a week this is cheaper than Boxing News (£2.70 a week) or even your girlfriends magazines (Closer is £1.30 whilst Heat is £1.65) I feel this is a fault of perception as opposed to a real gripe. And as the magazine is 130 pages of glossy pictures, well written articles and interviews the price isn't an issue. However saying that until recently I'd never bought an issue (having now bought the last 2 released in the UK). I used to make a habit out of reading the magazines from cover to cover in WHSmiths feeling £5 was too much to pay for what I was effectively getting for free as a student waiting for a train. The problem at the time wasn't even the price, just the fact I knew the results (the magazines about 4 weeks behind in Britain) and that was the key thing, the fight write ups and the results. Now 2 years on and in full time employment I can happily afford to buy the magazines and enjoy some boxing writing in the privilege of my own bed. Which I did, with the first issue I bought (A recent one with Manny Pacquiao on the cover after his emphatic victory over Ricky Hatton). A quick flick through to the ratings section showed that the magazines system was quite decent, and pretty accurate (it's never possible to be accurate in boxing, when it comes to ratings).
After a quick look at their fabled ratings I sat down to go through it properly, and really enjoyed it, well bits of it to be honest. Starting with the cover story, the Pacquiao vs Hatton fight had a wonderful write up, lots of pictures and seemed really well written and professional, the sort of thing I aspire to writing. The I went to the start and started reading the book review part, where they review new books based on boxing, that month their was a new release on Joe Gans. Gans was a great black lightweight, one of the greatest of all time in fact, the first black fighter to be regarded as a world champion. Now where as the magazine could have simply reviewed the book, they decided to play on over 100 years of history to pull out the misquotes in defence of the founder of the magazine. All noble and honourable you might feel, which it is, but it's unprofessional to bash a book because of a mis-quotation. This part, sadly, seemed like it was written by me, with a sense of masochist self importance that devalued the entire column in a rather cannibalistic manner .
A read of a regular section by a Mr Ryan (no magazine at hand by there was a Ryan in his name somewhere) had restored my faith in the magazine. Although again it was self profiting this time it was the author not the magazine which was getting the kudos, but it was done with humour and a tongue in cheek approach. An ability that brought out a genuine giggle and a smile whilst at the same time being genuinely well written. Other pieces included a piece on an young up and comer as well as the “perfect execution” section by Bernard Hopkins, which is almost a training guide to a part of boxing every week.
However the highlight of the magazine was a column by a guy called Bagg, or the Braggster, or the Braggy one or... (I think you can see where this is going). Which was a compelling read, mixing serious boxing talk to humour perfectly to result in a great round for the magazine. The writer has a silly side, which I personally adhere to being the key part of writing, whilst at the same time the multitude of self referential comments were fantastic and totally outstanding in a magazine that at times seems to love it's self.
Though the magazine may have several really good rounds, it also loses some rounds and badly, especially the self importance of the magazine which can quickly become graining, even more so when they begin to talk about the position of their belts. They, as well as many boxing fans, feel the “Ring Belt” is the most important strap in the world of professional boxing, with which the magazine has often referred to as the “real” or “true” champion. This would possibly a good idea in principle, however it tends to just add more confusion to an already muddled scene of world champions. They also seem to effectively attempt to avoid the proper world “titles” (WBC/WBA/WBO/IBF) to make their title seem like the only one worth knowing about which just seems silly and hypocritical. The magazine talks enough about the alphabet soup of titles, yet wants to push it's own. Their titles also only ever go from vacant to a world champion, in bouts between their 1 and 2 ranked fights (some times 1 and 3), meaning we have the bizarre situation where we don't have a welterweight champion despite the top guys regularly fighting each other.
The magazine also suffers from a little bit too much America, not enough Europe, with fighters like Carl Froch often spoke about as being “virtually unknown” (the same for Joe Calzaghe) until they beat an American. For Calzaghe it was Jeff Lacy whilst Froch's recent come from behind victory over Jermaine Taylor has got him the plaudits in the magazine.
Overall The Ring comes across as a likeable all rounder, with a slightly large mouth, in a world where this is common place. However it's far from the unbeatable undisputed champion it tends to believe it's self to be so. Some what ironically it's merely a belt holder, when it dismisses such things, and like several others, it's no better or worse than some the top competition.
The good points do out weigh the bad, though it's ego dwarves even that of Ali, so lets not inflate a flawed publications sense of perfection further than it already is.
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