The news earlier this week that former U.S. president Donald Trump (and his son Donald Trump Jr.) will provide commentary on an alternate feed of the Triller Fight Club Saturday card (headlined by a fight between 58-year-old Evander Holyfield and 44-year-old Vitor Belfort, arranged on short notice after Belfort’s planned opponent Oscar de la Hoya bowed out following a positive COVID-19 test) certainly caught a lot of people by surprise, and it also drew some criticism for Triller for working with (and reportedly providing an “obscene” payday to) Trump.
Well, one approach to try to defuse that criticism is to say “We’re not political, we’ll get famous politicians from both major U.S. parties.” And that’s apparently what Triller principal Ryan Kavanaugh (who, it should be noted, told LA Magazine in April that his company received a huge user boost from Trump’s 2020 threat to ban TikTok in the U.S.) tried to do Friday. The problem is that the Democratic politician he cited, former U.S. president Barack Obama, apparently wasn’t “in talks” with them at all. Here’s how that played out, first from ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, then from Kevin Draper of The New York Times:
Triller’s Ryan Kavanaugh tells me he’s in talks with the Obama Foundation to have Barack Obama commentate on a gamecast of the Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos fight. Donald Trump is calling a gamecast of Evander Holyfield-Vitor Belfort tomorrow with Donald Trump Jr.
— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) September 10, 2021
An Obama Foundation spokeswoman says the Foundation has not spoken with Ryan Kavanaugh and the idea that Barack Obama is in talks to commentate a boxing match is “inaccurate.” https://t.co/5vRSfakrH2
— Kevin Draper (@kevinmdraper) September 10, 2021
Of course, “in talks” is a super vague phrase that often doesn’t lead to much anyway, so it’s not like Kavanaugh’s earlier comments (as reported by Coppinger) were a definitive sign that Obama was actually going to do this. And this was always somewhat questionable as an idea, as it’s so far from the other post-presidency projects Obama has undertaken. Yes, he did some sports things in office, but not really anything with boxing (unlike Trump, who has a long past with boxing). And this would seem like an odd fit for him.
But with that said, it’s amazing that Kavanaugh would tell a reporter on the record that they were “in talks” with the Obama Foundation if he hadn’t actually spoken to that foundation. That’s the sort of inaccuracy that’s absolutely going to come out. And it coming out this way isn’t a particularly good look for Kavanaugh and Triller.