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Level Playing Field?
By Bernie McCoy
June 6, 2003
  Sporting events, despite what we've been told, are seldom, if ever, contested on a "level playing field". There is usually a "home team" and that benefit comes equipped with a "home field" and a "home crowd" and other similar advantages. Boxing is no exception. One fighter is usually at a disadvantage, sometimes slight, sometimes more so. A fighter is often going into the other fighter's "backyard". One fighter is often connected to the promoter of the card. Sometimes the advantage is subtle, sometimes the advantage is blatant.

On first glance, Trish Hill, who is fighting Isra Girgrah on July 11, in Atlantic City (the first ads for the bout appeared in today's New York Daily News), definitely falls into the latter category. The "bottom line" is that Trish Hill will be stepping into the ring and trading punches with the person who is paying the referee and the ring judges. Isra Girgrah, through her newly created company, is promoting the July 11 card, with the  Girgrah/Hill bout as the main event. Girgrah's company is called "Raging Promotions Inc." and is a business arrangement in partnership with her husband, Marty Wynn.

To be fair, this is certainly not the first time the promoter of a boxing card has had a business arrangement with a fighter on that card. Johnny McClain, for one, has been the promoter of the many of his wife's, Laila Ali, bouts; while the other successful "boxing daughter", Jacqui Frazier, has been featured on boxing cards promoted by her husband, Peter Lyde. It should also be noted that both McClain and Lyde have done good jobs in both the handling their respective wives' careers and in running those promotions.

On a somewhat less sublime and slightly more ridiculous note, Bob Arum promoted the matches and handled the career of Mia St John as, during her early incarnation in the ring, she moved through a series of bouts that can, only kindly, be called boxing matches. In most cases, as Arum has noted, he picked very carefully the opponents in the opposite corner from St John, stating, candidly, that his toughest promotional task was finding opponents with little or no boxing skill. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, "its good to be the promoter" or at the very least to have the promoter in your corner.

In the case of Girgrah, not only is the promoter "in the corner" but on July 11 in that Atlantic City ring,  the promoter will be coming out of the corner once the bell rings. Is this a good situation?  The answer, in my mind, is an ambiguous, Yes and No!.

Yes, its good to have a promoter who knows Women's boxing, from the inside, the real inside, as Girgrah does. She has been "in the game", performing in the ring with great skill, for ten years. She's seen "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of the sport and she's seen it "up close and personal". She brings a decidedly unique perspective to the promotion of  Women's boxing, one that often seems absent from the thinking of the current "movers" of the sport. Girgrah has stated that she intends to concentrate on giving women boxers "exposure" and that goal, in itself, is both unique in today's promotional environment and badly needed for the sport. One only needs to note the "benign neglect" that HBO has exhibited towards the sport of Women's boxing to note how critical exposure is to the future of the sport.

On the downside, its difficult to get past the fact that the judges for the fight and the "third person in the ring" on July 11 will each owe their "gig" for that evening to Girgrah. Will they be influenced by this fact? One hopes not.  And, in point of fact, the vast majority of boxing officials are upstanding, fair and knowledgeable individuals (despite the fact that you may not agree with every decision they render). Thus, it is unlikely that they will consciously be swayed in the direction of the fighter who is paying them for their night's work. Unconsciously? That's for someone with much more training in subconscious behavior than I have. It should be noted that Isra Girgrah's last fight was an exciting eight rounds with Laura Serrano. A fight which was telecast on ESPN that brought exposure and kudos to the sport of Women's boxing. It was a close fight, which went Girgrah's way, and quite honestly, might have gone the other way, and, as Girgrah graciously admitted "could very well have been called a draw". Its fortunate, in retrospect,  that the Serrano bout was not a "Raging Promotions Inc" boxing card. Close decisions are usually indicative of good fights, as was the case of Girgrah/Serrano. Such a fight, however,  would have presented a nightmare scenario if one of the fighters had been the promoter.

Here's hoping Girgrah/Hill is a good bout and a successful promotion.  Here's hoping its the first of many successful Women's boxing programs put on by "Raging Promotions Inc". Here's hoping that "Raging Promotions Inc" sidesteps the problems that any new promoter faces and, in  particular, the ones that may accrue to Raging Promotions.  Here's hoping that Isra Girgrah is as successful a promoter as she has been a boxer. If she is, she goes right to the head of the promotion class of Women's boxing.    Bernie McCoy


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