by Bobby Mac
The above link will take you to AOL’s weak reincarnation of what used to be boxing’s greatest forum, indeed, what arguably used to be the world’s greatest website, but today, it’s struggling for relevance and revenue.
AOL turned out to be more like Enron, all bubble and no ma$$.
Sure, the founders and early investors made out like bandits as the tech bubble swelled, but the story of AOL and Enron should be part of any business course to study how a corporation can gather a huge dominant market share with savvy marketing only to ((PoP)) like a shining, rainbow hued soap bubble for a lack of credible product and/or leadership to hold everything together.
AOL’s website was easily on par with todays’ yahoo/msn with one huge advantage: They hosted largest web forum in the world that created the greatest global internet dialogue I’ve ever seen. Now, their AOL-Fanhouse forum is but a spare set of bones.
The level of debate and qualifications so many brought to bear on the old AOL forum was outstanding overall. Home Internet access and PC use was still somewhat limited in those days. I paid some $2000 for a state of the art IBM in 1998 for example, a healthy hunk of change. However, even in those golden days the political forums were dominated by the unceasing salvos of spam in the never ending War of the Reds & Blues bound and determined to take the US down.
By Jove, what a boxing board we had, though.
We were graced at times by the presence of Ray Leonard, Larry Holmes, and various writers. There was a curious fella by the name of Rick Farris, a journeyman pro boxer out of the 60-70s ama/pro California ranks who was a constant source of insider information on Indian Red and Little Red Lopez, Bobby Chacon, the Olympic Auditorium, and all the rest of the great Cali boxing scene. On the east coast we had a host of expugs headed up by Ice John Scully who showed us the cool calm demeanor he used as a former contender by deftly jabbing and moving through all the insipid schoolboy internet challenges.
I remember one regular out of Jersey way got so incensed at Ice that he drove the 3-4 hour trip up to Hartford where Scully trained the likes of Jason Litzau, Chad Dawson, Lawrence Clay-Bey among others so as to knock his block off.
Imagine the puzzlement of the regulars to find some goof storming their gym spittin’ fire about Ice only to find out Ice was on the road handling a big fight for one of his boys!
PureDeeComedy back at ye olde forum it was and just an example of the monkey shines that went on.
Well, that fight fizzled out as quick as his angry red gave way to embarrassed magenta, but God Bless Ice, he was always up for a spar against any local internet warriors to prove his points. One day I hope to actually find him in his gym for a friendly go and give him some needle on his biography he’s been writing going on a decade now.
The usual stock story about AOL’s decline was the rapid move by customers from their AOL dial up service to DSL, broadband, and satellite. This of course ignores that it was AOL that bought up the Time/Warner communication giant which was the largest provider of broadband and satellite services in the US, so AOL should’ve been perfectly poised to piggyback their brand on the new gains of the Time Warner business, but instead their loyal customers fled for other websites.
Why is that you might be scratching your head?
Well, it’s simple folks, the boys that ran AOL and now also ran Time Warner had arrived at that exact point in time where the Peter Principle starts to take effect:
“In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.”
The stock market high tech bubble had popped which was then exacerbated by subsequent 9/11 attacks, and then the corporate accounting scandals of Enron, MCI, and others leading to AOL’s brand suffering a precipitous drop in value. The AOL marketing boys changed their “old” familiar forum format from a user friendly one to a strange “new and improved upgrade” top down lineal system that was akin to carrying on a conversation through two tin cans connected by a 100 foot string.
The exodus was on.
Oh, dear, how I’ve missed those halcyon day boxing forums, and baseball too. Having myriad conversations with folks from all walks of life was intoxicating in it’s own right, particularly with the boxing and religious forums since English speaking fans from the UK, Australia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America also had access to duke it out.
There are dozens of boxing forums now, maybe a hundred or more, but none match the perfect balance of size, quality, and respect we had on the old AOL forums, it’s simply not found in today’s largest forums who need no mention. Not that I would never claim we were all a collection of AOL saintly boxing genii having our tea and crumpets in the garden, no sir, but we did have a touch of class and humor to round out the rougher edges of our pugilistic instincts and inevitably ran across one or the other at a local boxing match.
Which is how I met Benny Henderson who still writes for Doghouse boxing.
I was covering the Juan Diaz/Billy Irwin title defense with Calvin Brock/Clifford Ettienne on the undercard for the soon to be hacked out of existence Boxing Central website when he asked me for the best directions from Dallas to the Reliant Center in Houston.
Lemme tell you, Benny is B-I-G with fists the size of Virginia hams and he was there with his cousin, I’ll call him Bluto because he looked like Bluto of the Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons had Bluto been training on a steroid and sumo diet.
These boys were so BIG that even their shadows were knocking my skinny ass around.
They promptly sandwiched me between’em, eyeing me like a pair big ol’ grizzlies eye a freshly cut T-bone yukking it up about their latest fights. Lemme tell, there was NO EXIT, so I just smiled and nodded and prayed for survival and oxygen.
Fortunately for me they was just some good ol’ boys from Texas and we got along great, so I figured on using them to hide behind if any spectator fights spilled over to ringside.
Oh, and Benny finally did have his belated pro debut at a slimmed down 363 lbs the very next year, 2006, and he sports a perfect record of 2 fights–2 rounds–2wins–2 KOs in 2 minutes of total ring time, so take that Mr. Money!
Of course I like where I post and write at now, so don’t get me wrong, but a news lead today was the 25th anniversary of the founding of AOL, so I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of koolaide those boys at AOL started drinking to run down their organization so rapidly. The boys they bought out, Time Warner, finally kicked em out on their keisters last year and told them they’re on their own now.
Who’d have ever thunk that back then?
It would’ve never gone down like that had Benny and I been running the show, I know that.