Well this is odd, isn’t it? The ubiquitous Ronda Rousey now finds herself on the cover of The Ring, even though, you know, she’s got nothing to do with boxing. Sure, she beats the shit out of people for a living, just not in a boxing ring. Boxing twitter reacted to this as you would expect, with responses ranging from snarkiness to murderous anger.
From a marketing perspective, it’s easy to see why they saw fit to place her on that thing–she’s fucking EVERYWHERE. Movies. Award shows. Talk shows. Commercials. Eventually, she’ll appear on The Muppets where she’ll put Scooter in a headlock and accidentally snap his neck and Kermit will have to pay out a hefty insurance policy. That show is weird as shit now.
But it has to sting for women boxers like Heather Hardy and Holly Holm (who transitioned to MMA and is Rousey’s next opponent) to see Rousey grace the cover. And it has to really sting for all of the other women boxers trying to gain relevance in a sport where unless you’re holding up a ring card, you’re rarely getting noticed.
This is no knock on Rousey–she’s obviously an exceptional talent and is one of the most dominant athletes in the world. But this is The Ring. Not The Cage, or The Octagon. It’s a boxing magazine, and there are a whole lot of actual boxers to choose from. And it’s not like they’ve been busy plastering covers with women boxers. Only one female fighter, Cat Davis, had appeared on the cover before Rousey.
But when you’ve got somebody as popular as she is, little hang-ups like not having anything to do with the sport whose magazine you’re fronting matter very little. No, this is a cash grab, and a whole bunch of people are talking about it, so it’s probably a successful one. This certainly doesn’t mean the end of the world, but it is a bit problematic.
For starters, it gives credence to every dipshit hack who spooges this all over the page and gets it published. The narrative will run something like this: “Boxing is dead. Boxing is dying. Boxing is so shitty, they can’t even find one of their own to put on the cover of the biggest boxing magazine.”
It’s true that Rousey’s star far outshines several of the top boxers in the sport. Just take a peek at The Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings. Try to find somebody other than Manny Pacquiao who is more popular than she is. You won’t. But it’s hard to blame boxing fans for being pissed off here.
This sport takes a pounding from mainstream media, when it isn’t being completely ignored. In fact, it seems like the only time boxing moves out from the back page, hidden underneath the local handball rec league, is when somebody sees fit to tear into it. So when “The Bible Of Boxing” uses its cover slot for a non-boxer, it feels like yet another slight.
If The Ring were aiming to land a female on the cover, Holm would have made a compelling figure. Considered one of the best female boxers of all time, she compiled a record of 33-2-3 before leaving to try her hand at MMA. She fired off nine straight wins, and she now looms as Rousey’s next opponent.
So let’s recap–fantastic boxer leaves to try a different sport, is successful enough at this other sport that she gets the opportunity to challenge the best woman fighter on the planet, is a win away from shocking the world. That sounds like a pretty solid cover story to me. But Holm’s story apparently doesn’t do enough for them to warrant cover consideration, not when you can simply co-opt a mega star and slap him or her on the cover, under the guise of boxing journalism.
I won’t pretend to know what the motivations were for this move. Does it reek of desperation? Absolutely. Perhaps they were just acting like every other company does when trying to make some money–they struck while the iron was hot. They weighed the risks of alienating the fans who own subscriptions against the benefits of covering one of the most popular athletes in the world.
Will it pay off? Maybe. Or, maybe it will end up as another check in a long list of head-scratching moves from them. If Holm somehow upsets Rousey next month, will she be next to land the cover? Or will The Ring realize that since Rousey has boxed professionally as many times as Estelle Getty, it might be best to pursue other angles from now on?
It could be that Oscar De La Hoya, owner of The Ring, is attempting to segway into something entirely different, perhaps adding some MMA to the fold. Progressing with the times and all that. If it reads, it leads. But they’d probably have to change the name, wouldn’t they? That, or they could just leave it alone and continue to do what they’ve done for the last 1,600 years.