The article “Negotiations and Professional Boxing,” written by Habib Chamoun-Nicolas, Randy D. Hazlett, Russell Mora, Gilberto Mendoza and Michael L. Welsh, is an attempt to analyze the boxing world from a negotiation perspective based on the well-known Thomas-Kilmann instrument. Despite it is a very useful instrument, it was a slightly criticized and complemented by the authors of this article.
Traditional conflict management styles of “Negotiations and Professional Boxing” are supplanted by the others. The authors are convinced that those methods help to have better understanding of the whole negotiation process in the professional boxing. Thus, this article focuses upon the conflict management styles that are demonstrated by the professional referee. It is the analysis of the negotiation process, which draws the readers’ attention in the introduction based on the example of a world-known Holyfeld-Tyson match that was refereed by a Judge Mills, a court judge in his real everyday life.
We observe Mills making many judgments. Those decisions provoke a lot of questions regarding the necessity of existence for some conflict manager who would balance the role of referee both as a gatekeeper and arbiter.
As we see, in order to manage conflict effectively, the professional referee must implement various management styles depending on the situation. Such result is only possible if the referee combines dominant styles, and, at the same time, will be able to adopt one of the more traditional styles in conflict management.
The combination of styles described above will not only gain an insight of the fight dynamics, it will also help us to understand all of the intricacies of conflict management that are conducted by a professional boxing referee. When it is achieved, the safety of the opponents will be ensured, and the general rules for the integrity of the sport will be enforced.
The authors agree that the referee must balance his “ultimate authority on allowable behavior,” and he should not be a dictator influencing the behavior of those “who come with premeditated goals to inflict physical pain and harm.” They state, although the “win-win” strategies are usually valued in negotiations, the situation is totally different in sports, and in professional boxing particularly.
The authors present a classification of negotiation boxing styles based on Robert Blake and Jane Mouton scheme, and, thus, they define such interaction styles as: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. By presenting such styles, the authors of this article differentiate between negotiation itself and conflict management style in boxing. The authors are certain that having the ability to identify the style and its tactics characteristic is vital in developing corresponding strategies to reach closing.
It is obvious that any professional boxer when enter the ring have the only intent: to dominate the opponent by inflicting pain under existing rules, which are set in the way to avoid unfair advantage of one or the other boxer. For that reason, there exist various weight ranges, strict blows prohibitions, and division of the game into rounds with preset time lengths. The successful referee is considered to be the one who enforces those rules properly; and very often he is called the ‘invisible third man’ of the ring.
The authors further analyze each of the five styles by also presenting six case studies. Although it might seem obvious that professional boxers do not cooperate with one another, they have to act reciprocally at least to ensure a fair outcome for themselves and their partners in business; an important role is devoted to their fans as well listening to their referee. The authors argue that their ‘invisible man’ shall possess not only professional knowledge of the game, emotional aspect shall be taken into consideration as well.
The interaction style of competing is associated with Fight like a Spartan method, with Spartans as ancient Greek warriors, who would fight to “win at any cost.” It is not only the boxers that use this style; referee is required to use it as well. However, the game should be wisely controlled in order to balance the whole situation as it can lead to unfavorable consequences.
Do Business like a Phoenician is the collaborating style of the boxers’ interaction, which is all about high cooperation and assertive behavior of the opponents. The meaning of the word ‘Phoenicians’ is associated with ancient Mediterranean people who were known as the most exceptional and “highly skilled negotiators in the past.” The main idea of this style is saving the energy of combatant by creating a window of opportunities for each other. The referee’s position in this style is also negotiating, and at the same time, he has to be actively engaged with the fighters.
Compromising or Judge Like Solomon style is about making concessions to the other during the game. The authors chose to name this style by using the name of the Solomon in order to symbolize great wisdom adjusted from the Hebrew scripture about two women who both claimed to be the mother of the same child. The fighters of this style have a strategy to “strike a balance between offense and defense, aggression and caution.”
Avoiding is the interaction style of competing called Avoid like a Politician. This strategy is demonstrated in boxing as “both an offensive and defensive tool.” The referee shall control the fight attentively as can be considered as non-professional.
Delegate like a Diplomat is the accommodating style, which is considered to be much exercised by the boxers, although rarely used by referees. The latter may use such strategy of conflict management on purpose in order to bend the rules to protect a fighter.
The authors present a table, which categorizes those five conflict management styles by offering various responses to the delivery of a low blow between the combatants. They further illustrate the examples of the all styles from the history of prominent matches, if to put them within certain time frames, they start hierarchically with the Case of Jersey Joe Walcott vs Ezzard Charles in June 5, 1952, and finishing with the Case of Robert Guerrero vs. Michael Katsidis as of April 9, 2011. The other matches analyzed are as follows: Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman, October 30, 1974; Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, October 1, 1975; Yuri Foreman vs. Miguel Angel Cotto, June 5, 2010, and Andre Berto vs Freddy Hernandez, November 28, 2010.
As we see, the interpretation of conflict management styles, especially in professional boxing, is inevitable in order to have a better understanding and “a more meaningful interpretation,” for such competitive kinds of sports as boxing. The authors agree that the examples of sports are very helpful to solidify those concepts of the negotiation theory that audiences are either not familiar or uncomfortable with. They are certain that their terminology, which is applied in this article to the professional boxing sphere, could be extended to others making the negotiation process more pervasive.
The examples of the case studies that are used for illustrative purposes is the best depiction of those five styles offered by the authors from the point of view of assertiveness and cooperation that are based on Thomas-Kilman conflict management styles, and that were “reinterpreted for application in combative adjudicated sports” by the authors of this article.