By: Sean Crose
“No way, Sugar Ray” read the cover headline. Alongside those words – staring right at me at the Walden Bookstore in Waterbury’s Naugatuck Valley Mall – was the one and only Roberto Duran. I’m not sure a chill went down my nine year old spine at that exact moment, but one may as well have. For the legendary Duran was preparing to face American superstar “Sugar” Ray Leonard in Montreal. It was the first major fight I was really excited for, and the first issue of Sport’s Illustrated that really caught my attention. There would be more afterwards – many more.
l’ll always remember the article about Donald Curry’s 1985 destruction of Milton McCory for instance (even now I recall Curry being described as having gunfighter eyes). And let’s not forget the 1984 piece on heavyweight kingpin Larry Holmes almost losing to Tim Witherspoon. Or the one on Mike McCallum’s stunning one punch kayo of Curry in the summer of 1987. Or the brilliant piece later that same year on Evander Holyfield’s unique training methods (people forget he rung in an era where fighters began training differently). Even decades later, I still found myself impressed with well presented, fascinating articles like the one penned about a still undefeated Adrien Broner in 2013.
Make no mistake – SI, as it was called, presented some terrific fight writing, writing which impacted this particular fight writer in numerous positive ways. And now we learn that the great Sports Illustrated is firing it’s entire – or a great percentage of, depending on your source – staff of writers. Authentic Brands Group, which owns the magazine, has apparently decided the venerable publication, which has been around since the late 1950’s is no longer worth the effort to keep running as is. In an era of online journalism and changing tastes, the news should come as no surprise. Still, it does.
In a world with more problems in it that one would care to imagine, the loss – or decimation – of a sports publication probably doesn’t mean much. People will go wide eyed at the news, then quickly forget about it in the coming days. Such is the way of things. Those of us who loved some of the work that appeared within Sports Illustrated will still find this a bitter pill to swallow, though. One that represents more than the mere demise of a business. For SI offered more than just sporting news – it offered great writing, at least it did for a while. Hopefully the best of that writing will survive. Great writing tends to.