I have always been amused by the antics and the words of fighters before a big fight. During the respective weigh-ins, Tyson charged at Lewis and Chisora slapped Vitali Klitschko. Really, it is quite hard to determine how much of it is just promotional theatrics, mind games, or just outright hostility – probably a mixture.
I am not a professional fighter, but I suspect that the days leading up to the big fight could actually be quite harrowing, especially if there is a lot riding on the fight – pride, ego, reputation, revenge, money, and maybe a number of other things. It’s a test that the fighter is personally very invested in. I’m sure the waiting period is not unlike the time before other potentially life changing events, such as before a major exam, a verdict from a job interview, the sale of a house, or the time leading up to the birth of your child. Let’s not forget that for a professional fighter, the fight is their livelihood.
It is because of this reason that I am convinced a fighter is at their most unstable in the hours/days before the big fight, and they’re already going to be ‘fighting’ tooth and nail to mentally hold it together.
Smack talk is no doubt a way for the fighters to let off a bit of steam, but also help them keep it strong in their own minds that they are going to win and that their opponent does not stand a chance. And some fighters probably need to do that more than others. From the standpoint of selling the fight, it’s probably a delightful side effect of this necessity that smack talk also helps promote the fight.
Recently, Carl Froch, in the wake of his big rematch with Mikkel Kessler on May 25th, got into trouble with some comments he made about his opponent.
“On Saturday night, if I have to, I will kill [him]. It sounds brutal, it sounds horrible, but this is what it means to me… I’m going to leave it in the ring. And when I’m smashing his face in, I am going to go for the kill. I am going to go for the finish.”
Clearly, Froch intends to go into the ring with Kessler and fight harder than he’s ever fought before. In Froch’s professional career, he has only lost twice. Once was to Mikkel Kessler (the other was to Andre Ward). As Froch is at the tail end of his career, avenging past defeats is obviously very important to him as he attempts to leave the best legacy possible.
British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) general secretary, Robert Smith, is looking into Froch’s comments, calling them “uncharacteristic” of Froch, while acknowledging that this is a major fight for Froch and there is no doubt a lot of pressure. Putting this in the context of smack talk before a major fight, and knowing that it will take place in a ring with rules, and knowing that Kessler and Froch are actually friends, is something Smith seems to have willingly forgotten, and seems to be becoming indignant for the sake of it.
The only argument that I am convinced scores any points against what Froch said, is whether or a not a child saw their boxing hero talk this way. But any child, using these words as a justification for violence, especially on into their teens and into adulthood, would not have been condoned by these words alone, but rather promoted by a lack of parenting, or a serious pathological problem. Any boxer knows exactly why Froch said what he said, and would not deliberately misunderstand it.
And to be perfectly blunt, there are far worse things getting said on TV all the time.