When I first heard that Donald Trump – you know, the former President of the United States – was going to provide ringside commentary for a boxing match featuring former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, I figured it was a prank. When I found out that the event was set for September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history – I was sure it was a prank.
That’s right: Trump – alongside his eldest son, Don Jr. – will be spending the night of September 11 offering commentary on a bout featuring an over-the-hill boxer – Holyfield is 58! – on something called Fite (not a typo) TV.
“I love great fighters and great fights,” Trump said in announcing his plans for Saturday night. “I look forward to seeing both this Saturday night and sharing my thoughts ringside. You won’t want to miss this special event.”
To be surprised by any of this is to fundamentally misunderstand who Donald Trump really is.
Trump is, at heart, a showman and a provocateur. He likes to create controversy. He lives in terror of being irrelevant. And he is utterly incapable of feeling empathy – much less actually having any. (Think that’s too harsh? He repeatedly – as President and before being elected – demonstrated that he is simply unable to identify with or care about other people’s problems.)
Seen through that lens, Trump’s decision to sit ringside and offer live commentary of a fight makes total sense.
Trump has long been a fan of both boxing and mixed martial arts.
The billionaire businessman hosted several of Mike Tyson’s early fights at his Atlantic City property. Trump was, in fact, a sponsor of one of Tyson’s most famous knockouts – his destruction of Michael Spinks in just 91 seconds.
Trump, in office, paid homage to the sweet science by pardoning Jack Johnson, a former heavyweight champion convicted of transporting a White woman over state lines. Of Johnson, Trump said: “The first African American heavyweight champion of the world, a truly great fighter. Had a tough life.”
In 2019, while he was still President, Trump attended a UFC event in New York City at the side of UFC President – and major supporter – Dana White.”Walking into Madison Square Garden last night with @danawhite for the big @UFC Championship fight was a little bit like walking into a Trump Rally. Plenty of MAGA & KAG present,” Trump said in a reference to his supporters. He also attended a UFC event in July in Las Vegas.
See, Trump does what he wants when he wants to do it. People who raise questions about the propriety of, say, doing ringside commentary on the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, are just “haters” and “losers.” Or people who don’t get him. Or something.
Here’s the thing: It’s not a partisan statement to say that a former president should not be at a boxing match – much less doing commentary on the bout – on the same day that 2,996 Americans lost their lives 20 years ago. Period.