Some have tried to lead racial discussion in the lead-up to Wilder-Fury 2, but so far Tyson Fury has avoided digging in on the topic.
We in America ā and especially, I think, in this age ā donāt do a good job at focusing on positives.
It makes sense. Brains are wired to ponder negatives. Evolutionarily it makes sense to be on the lookout for danger signs, it helps keep us out of the mouths of the woolly mammoth.
The media also does better when they report on bad stuff; consumers lap it up. It is exciting, sensational and also allows for surges of schadenfreude buzz, or maybe a āThere but for the grace of God go Iā exhale.
In that vein, may I offer that Iāve been impressed by this element of the Wilder vs Fury 2 promotion: no one has played the racial angle.
Oh yes, it is a most effective way to get attention, playing the race card, putting forth a construct which tens of millions of people would respond to, and would find quite easy to process.
The black guy versus the white dude. Playing up that dynamic would be good for an easy uptick in attention and PPV buys. But when given the āoppurtunityā to run with that, the fighters, and especially Tyson Fury, said āNo thanks, not gonna play that brand of ball.ā
At the final main event press conference Wednesday, in Las Vegas, Andreas Hale of Sporting News asked a question.
āDeontay, the first fight, you went viral, you had the āTo this day,ā you had the knockdowns,ā Hale began. āThis is Black History Month, are you looking to make a big moment in Black History come February 22nd?ā
āOh, my God. They picked the wrong day, they picked the wrong month for this to happen,ā Wilder answered. āIāve said that many times, and when I knock the āGypsy Queenā out, weāre gonna have a black history trivia question, and itās gonna be spread all over the world, and they gonna be able to write it any type of way they want it.ā
Hale followed up with Fury.
āTyson, question for you. Do you think thereās any chance that Deontay can win a decision against you in this fight, or is the only path to victory a knockout?ā
You have to ask Hale if there was any implication inserted in that query ā like, are the judges pre-disposed against Wilder for some reason or reasons, maybe?
āYou know, Iām not sure,ā Fury said. āBut Iām not really into this racial thing, with a black man versus a white man, and black history month, and I will refuse to go into any sort of thing about it. We are two human beings, two heavyweights at the top of our game. This is not a racial war, this is two heavyweight boxers going toe-to-toe, for all the jewels in heavyweight boxing. Nothing more, nothing less. Iād just like to clear that up nicely.ā
Now, letās take a look at this angle, from another angle. (And keep in mind Iām a white male, so this take will be filtered through my decades of experiencing the world, a world thatās miles away from someone who, perhaps, has dark skin, and thus has been stopped and frisked, or pulled over by a cop for the infraction of being black.)
Maybe it isnāt good that race isnāt much discussed as we take a look at this sequel. Maybe it should be on the table. No, not by being sensationalized, or to be used merely as a marketing scheme. But yeah, the three judges on Saturday will be light skinned. Maybe judge sets should be more varied, racially, ethnically, gender-wise. And maybe we do steer away from hard conversations about race too much, and maybe thatās why right now, one of the most important advisors to the President has a long history of espousing white supremacist ideals. Maybe because we have been too polite about it, because too much of the nation had believed the hype about us being an āexceptional nationā in ways that, in fact, we are not.
It comes out now and again, interestingly, quite often, in the sports and entertainment realm. It popped up when we heard about the Kobe Bryant tragedy. Bryant was and is an icon in the eyes of many, and many of his fans were beyond annoyed when they heard media pointing out that heād been accused of rape. Mostly white press but no matter who brought it up, that person got slammed. Gayle King was driven to tears as she heard it from the pro-Kobe crew, who wondered why press had to disrespect his memory like that.
Yes, media can and will āgo thereā because they recognize āif it bleeds, it leads.ā That Kobe case provides oodles of drama, enough to serve up more helpings, re-heated 17 years later. And Jason Whitlock at FOX, who does a talking head show with Marcellus Wiley, is more than happy to dig in and offer spin on race matters. Heās provoked debate when heās said LeBron James is too rich and famous to experience racism, and heās raised eyebrows by accusing Colin Kaepernick of being a civil rights activist just because heās an āattention whore.ā
On Wednesday, Whitlock tried to go the race route when he and Wiley had Fury on their show. The first fight had some racial elements present in the pre-fight build, he started to say. Fury broke in and said, āWeāre all human beings, it doesnāt matter if youāre black, white, pink or green. We share the same blood, we are humans!ā The live audience whooped and hollered their agreement. āThis fight isnāt a racial war between blacks and whites.ā
Good for Fury, for not taking any bait. I, too, applaud his āweāre all human beingsā stance. But also, itās not for me to say or even imply that this one or that shouldnāt bring up the issue of race. I have to recognize the filters I see through, and the advantage I have felt being Caucasian. Stories about how Michael Bloomberg has to properly answer his push to ramp up āstop and friskā donāt hit me the same way as those who have been stopped and frisked because their skin tone is darker than mine.
Fury is right, we all are human beings, but too many people in power donāt stop and think and summon from their empathy reservoir the indignities that black and brown, and others deemed ādifferentā or āless thanā by large blocks of society deal with. Isnāt it maybe for Fury, with his white skin, to offer a āwe are all the sameā stance because he can drive a nice car around, and not get pulled over because a white cop thinks the car might be stolen?
Itās clear, this nation has far to go before all the people see race through the Fury lens ā and more, much more, discussion will have to take place for us to advance meaningfully as a society that is really, truly color blind.