Sports

How I Became Boxer Errol Spence Jr.’s Cornerwoman

The profile story in our May issue almost didn’t happen. I had to go head-to-head with Tim Rogers to get it in the magazine.

The story of Errol Spence Jr., which took a circuitous path to get to me, became the biggest fight of my time at D. It all started when a sports writer from New Jersey, Joe DePaolo, pitched a feature to Zac that then went to Peter who sent the pitch to Tim who forwarded the email chain to me. My main area of focus is known as the “front of book,” the punchy one-pagers with bite-size pieces. Usually, I’m more than happy to snap up good stories, but once I read about Spence—an undefeated DeSoto boxer who is poised to become one of the greatest fighters of all time—I couldn’t stop. This wasn’t bite-size material. This was a feast.

Now, let me back up for a moment. Before Kathy Wise and I were added to the D masthead a year ago, the editorial staff, a.k.a. Tim Rogers and Zac Crain, had developed a reputation as a Boy’s Club. So us ladies were perceived as adding the proverbial floral accents to the D Mag bachelor pad. Which is in part why Tim was particularly surprised when I contended that we run a larger story on Errol Spence Jr. in the feature well. “I can’t believe we hired a woman and she’s fighting to get sports in the magazine,” Tim said, more than once.

Tim’s main argument was simple: we’re not a sports magazine, so we don’t run sports stories. My argument was more complex. It was true: I’ve never cared for any sports with the exception of the few years I spent in San Antonio during the Spurs’ Ginobli-Duncan-Parker heyday (don’t @ me, Zac), but this wasn’t a sports story—this was a boxing story. Boxing stories transcend. For one, you don’t have to explain the rules as you would need to for, say, a story on curling (what the heck is with those brooms?). It’s punching. Everyone gets the gist. But mostly, I argued, it’s universally romantic, which probably has a lot to do with Rocky. “Boxing is the sexiest sport,” I said, more than once.

The North Dallas boxing gym that has no air conditioning, the trainer who worked alongside Floyd Mayweather in his fighting days, the young boxer who hardly spoke a word for several years, the fact that his fight with current welterweight titleholder Kell Brooks will (and I don’t believe this is an exaggeration) make or break the young fighter’s career. What’s not to love?

I eventually got my way, because, even though Tim packed a good “no sports stories” blow, I had the stamina to annoy the hell out of the Boy’s Club for more than six months until they finally gave in. I also had a secret weapon: Kathy Wise manages the magazine’s run sheets, and she was in my corner.

So give the story a read here or in D Magazine’s May issue, on stands now. Follow Spence IRL here. And then on May 27, tune in to Showtime to watch him become the best fighter in the world.

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Comments

  • CowboysJ

    Hell of a piece on Spence.. Can’t wait for May 27th.. I wouldn’t mind more local sports stories or at least on local boxers of the DFW area in the magazine..

  • MattL1

    I too like boxing, but since nobody else I know really follows it, I find it tough to keep up. Glad you got this piece in the May issue. I’m marking the 27th on my calendar.

  • Where do I start? The boys’ club “reputation” you refer to existed only in this office, and it was ill deserved. Since I’ve worked at D Magazine, the staff has always been roughly 50-50 male-female. Once upon a time, Eric Celeste roamed these halls full-time. He, Zac, and I are friends. “Hey, it’s a boys’ club!” Ridiculous.

    When I said, “I can’t believe we hired a woman and she’s fighting to get sports in the magazine,” I hope you understood that I was joking. I can’t tell from the way you positioned that quote. I’m afraid it makes me look far more sexist than I am, as if I think women don’t enjoy sports. D Magazine has told sports stories since its inception, in 1974, but I, at least, have always edited them with the following understanding: if it’s a sports story, it can’t be about sports. We’re not here to explain why the Rangers’ bullpen sucks and how Banister is making bad late-game managerial decisions. We write about PEOPLE. And in the case of Errol Spence Jr., I wasn’t convinced that HIS story should be in the pages of D Magazine. I think what I told you was that every boxing story, to me, is the same story. Poor guy from a bad neighborhood. Has a heart of gold. Works hard. Fights his way out of poverty.

    Yes, you wore me down, and the story made its way in to the magazine. But your secret weapon wasn’t Kathy. It was Elizabeth Lavin, our staff photographer. The two of you went to gym and came back with photos and said, “Here. It will look like this.” I knew Elizabeth would get striking photos; she did.

    My apologies if I’ve been overly defensive here. Elizabeth deserves credit. And my mom reads this blog. If she thought I was being that sexist at work, I’d get in trouble.

    • S. Holland Murphy

      Agreed that Elizabeth deserves credit. The photos were a big part of my argument. I will also give credit to you, Zac, and the rest of the edit staff for giving me far more respect right off the bat than I ever expected having come straight from stay-at-home-mom life a year ago. I’ve definitely enjoyed the creative freedom that the D Mag workplace allows. This is one story of a debate we’ve had. Of course there’s been a hundred times where you said “yes” to my pitches. Those don’t make for a very interesting blog post. Question: Did you have any clue when you hired me what a pain in the ass I’d be?

      • The level of ass pain you’ve caused has been a delightful surprise. I mean that. You were right about the Spence story, and you’ve been right about 100 other things. Except the macarons thing. You’re very wrong about that thing, and if you keep it up, I will fight you.