Happy Holidays, everybody. I hope you’ll be enjoying some quality family time, gaining a few pounds and relaxing for a couple days. I’ll be doing some of that myself, so I won’t be blogging as much as usual over the next few days, I expect.
I did, however, want to take this occasion to do three things: review the blog’s 2009, meta-style; offer a sincere thank you to the people who read and contribute to this blog for making it one of the more fulfilling elements of my life; and encourage you to help me take it the blog the next level by contributing even more — with your own blog entries.
(This may all come off as a bit self-congratulatory, by the way, but it’s really as much about you as it is about me, plus it’s the holiday season and I’m thinking about what I’m thankful for, and to whom I’m thankful.)
Because so many of the people who regularly visit the site really only began doing so this year, you may not remember how it looked at the start of 2009. It was called Ring Report, the name of the blog when I inherited it with Sean Malone, and it was a simple two-column deal with posts and a sidebar of recent posts only. It’s obviously a lot different now.
We renamed it to The Queensberry Rules, a name I wasn’t sure about at first but that I now quite like. We added a bunch of features along both columns, similar to what we have now, and changed the URL. As the year went on, technical difficulties became commonplace, however, and MVN switched back to its old platform, WordPress, which created a whole different set of technical problems. Finally, we migrated over to Bloguin, where I think every kink has been worked out.
That doesn’t mean we’ve reached perfection or anything like that. But the site as it is now is how I envision it basically being for a good long while. There might be improvement around the periphery. For instance, you may have noticed this week a new feature in the left column for iPhone and Android apps. As always, I invite you to let me know about any problems or difficulties you have with the site, and if you have any ideas for making it better, please feel free to suggest improvements. And thank you for your patience amid some of the more tumultuous times of transition.
I tend to shy away from specifics on this stuff, but as good as 2008 was for the blog’s growth, just in terms of the sheer number of visitors, 2009 blew it out of the water. When we inherited the blog in late 2007, it had a couple hundred visitors a month. By early 2008, we’d grown to a couple thousand. By mid-2008, we’d moved to five figures, and closed out the year with many tens (plural) of thousands. Our high month in 2009? Multiples of hundreds of thousands, and it wasn’t the only month where we crossed the six-figure threshold.
Some of that has something to do with building an audience. Some of it has to do with the popularity of specific boxers; one third of our traffic is from the United States, one third from the Philippines and one third from the rest of the world. You can imagine, I’m sure, that a certain Filipino pound-for-pound king with a slavish following accounts for much of the traffic from the Philippines. Some of this has to do with the rising figures in boxing as a whole. There was a tremendous surge in traffic from the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight, for instance, and the Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito fight.
We also hit all kinds of crazy numbers on comments. We had a post that drew 300 comments. Some people agreed with me, some people called me a “faggot.” Either way, seeing what other people say is half the fun for me of doing a blog — I’ll elaborate on this in a minute — so if you’re a regular reader who is what we call in the industry a “lurker,” don’t ever feel afraid to jump in. Even if you want to stay anonymous, though, I thank you for stopping by.
The Queensberry Rules’ recognition level outside of myself and a small pocket of boxing fandom began to increase in 2008, when we began getting circulated regularly on Deadspin, Philboxing and a few other key sites; people like Nonito Donaire and Al Bernstein agreed to interviews; and I attended a couple major fights as a credentialed member of the media.
That has continued to grow in 2009. A Wall Street Journal blog, The Daily Fix, began linking to us. Mainstream boxing outlets such as BoxingScene acknowledged us. With just a couple real “clips” in those boxing outlets, I managed to finagle a couple freelance assignments from the Bible of Boxing, Ring magazine. It took some convincing, but the biggest promoter in the biz, Golden Boy Promotions — rather than smaller but important promoters like K2, who credentialed me for a 2008 fight — credentialed me for a fight, I hit a club show in the D.C. area, the Bernard Hopkins fight in Philly and a Fight of the Year bout between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez. All of this was ringside, as opposed to being stuffed in the balcony of Madison Square Garden like I was in 2008 for a fight.
With the recognition has come some measure of impact. Some of that has been quiet. There have been two instances where I reached out to a boxing news outlet, informed them of some forthcoming criticism on my blog, and discussed it with them. I never issued the criticism because it was fixed behind the scenes. There are other ways in which I think my screaming into the void contributed a voice to major problems in the sport (the Margarito hand-wrap scandal comes to mind) that weren’t getting attention they deserved, or where I helped sway people as a bit of a tastemaker on this or that, but it’s hard to quantify how much of a difference that made. And, frankly, we’re still unknown to tons of people in the sport. I’m guessing half of promoter Dan Goossen’s annoyance at me for my somewhat confrontational questioning at a Williams-Martinez news event was that I was some jackass he’d never heard of, and accounting to me wasn’t in his day planner. But all in all, the “impact” trend is upward. And like everything I’ve written about so far, a good deal of that comes from the fact that I can tell people, “Hey, I have an audience of X number of readers.” So, thank you for that.
OK, this part has less to do with you guys. But as I was told at one point last year that gamblers pay attention to my predictions, it makes sense to let you know how I did on that count in 2009. I definitely don’t bet on fights and don’t want anyone to bet on fights just because of what I predict, but I at least want people to know how I’m doing so they can make up their own minds.
I made official predictions for every major U.S.-televised card with an element of competitiveness and some untelevised cards, too. There were 72 such fights in all. I got 54 winners correct, called 14 winners incorrectly and four fights ended in a draw or no-contest. That’s a 79 percent success rate, or 75 percent if you throw in the four draws/no contests as wrong calls. Last year, I was a far more unimpressive 35-15. In 2007, when I first started blogging that summer, I was a horrid 12-9. I’m not saying I won’t be heading back to a 57 percent success rate in 2010, but this is a positive arc.
Which calls were I happiest with? I’m proud of picking Andre Ward to upset Mikkel Kessler. I predicted the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz fight almost to a T. Which calls were I least happy with? Thinking Marco Antonio Barrera would beat Amir Khan feels kind of dumb right about now. The one that hurts most is Mosley-Margarito, because when Margarito beat up Miguel Cotto in 2008, I said, “He looked great, but I still think a fighter like Mosley or Floyd Mayweather would pick him apart.” But then Mosley looked less-than-stellar against Ricardo Mayorga, and I got cold feet. I was right the first time. Overall, though, I wasn’t wildly wrong in any prediction, like I was in 2008 with Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik and Cristian Mijares-Vic Darchinyan — fights I thought Pavlik and Mijares would win with ease, but where both men got slaughtered. If I called a slaughter this year, I didn’t get egg on my face, and if I got it wrong, I usually explained in advance how the other eventual winner would pull it off.
Besides the sheer number of commenters, the quality of the comments here is off the charts. This isn’t just flattery. I’ve had numerous peers, and some pals of mine from other walks of life, say to me how impressed they are by the people who are regulars here. One person said to me, “I really learned something by clicking on the comments section on that post.” I learn things all the time doing that myself.
And you all have contributed in other ways, too. You’ve suggested innovations like the Open Thread, or book club, or giveaway contests, that I think have made the blog infinitely more fun. (Sure, some of those ideas fizzled after a few applications, but I enjoyed them while they lasted. And Open Thread has new life after a brief revival yesterday.)
We had seven different people besides myself contribute full blog entries in 2009, from features to post-fight write-ups to ringside accounts to literary critiques to perspectives from other countries. I thank those people for their excellent work. Which brings me to that aforementioned plea.
When I think of how The Queensberry Rules can grow beyond where it is now, short of the passage of time and me just keepin’ on doin’ what I’m doin’, it almost always goes to the notion of more blog entries contributed by you.
Maybe you aren’t interested and never will be; some of you have said you’re not wild about the idea of being at center stage. But let me try to placate any concerns you might have. If you’re a regular who leaves comments here, I’ve seen your writing and it’s definitely good enough to be published here in a blog form. If you’re worried or self-conscious about that, know that since I’d be effectively serving as your editor I’d be happy to work with you in a way that would make you more comfortable, and know that I won’t let anything get published that would embarrass you. Maybe you’re wondering what would be in this for you. Well, I can tell you how exciting it is to publish a blog entry then see how people respond — I’ve been saying it this whole blog entry. And since I finally cashed my first blog-generated check in 2009, I’m expecting that at some future point in 2010, I might begin to be able to offer some nominal fee for contributions. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m on it. If there’s some concern I haven’t mentioned and you want to discuss it with me, please do.
If you haven’t contributed and want to, all you have to do it tell me you have an idea — a list, a complaint, a video you saw and want to comment on, an old fight you re-saw recently and want to reflect upon; the kinds of things I’d be interested in are varied — and we’ll go from there. If you’ve contributed before, I’d love for you to contribute again. I’m also not going to rag on you if you propose an idea and don’t come through with it. You’re doing this for fun (and for now, for free) and I want it to be low-pressure. This plea you’re getting from me? It’s about as high-pressure as I get. If you want to continue experiencing the blog the way you do now, by all means, do. Just consider my plea. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org, as always, if you want to discuss.
And have a wonderful time getting fat with your family. I’ll be back in a jiffy with a Quick Jabs column, a broader 2009-in-review and final 2009 pound-for-pound top-20.
(Santa vs. Jesus fight poster taken from gamerswithjobs.com.)