There’s very little that frustrates me more than when something doesn’t live up to its potential. So I get downright enraged when potential just has its face spit in, by itself, then laughs at itself in the reflection. (And yes it is possible to spit in your own face. Take a few seconds and think about that).
Essentially, that’s what boxing has officially done to itself. A formerly much hallowed and iconic contest has now officially jumped the shark into becoming a parody of it, and Saturday’s conclusion to the Manny Pacquiao/Timothy Bradley bout was the organ tuning up at the sports funeral. Paul Bearer himself should have been the official that night, or at least took on Michael Buffer’s role (how awesome would it be to hear PB break out the “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” in his shaky promo voice from like ’92?). For a sport that is already on several brinks of disaster, allowing for its co-biggest star to get screwed XNXX-style is unforgivable. And now, what’s left to care about when it comes to big fight boxing?
Before we go too far into that, I have to give my recap of what happened on Saturday. We switch from the end of the Heat/Celts game in time for the middle of round one (once we found an appropriately good link online, because no way I’m paying for boxing PPVs at this point, more on that later). Get through round four or so, and Pacman is landing everything he needs to, and it looks like business as usual, because it is. When the fight starts to look like re-run of everything Manny’s done over the last few years, save for the Passion of Ricky Hatton, I’ve chalked it up to yet another win in the holding pattern that is anybody he fights not named Floyd Mayweather.
Now here’s where the world burns. The first sign of fuckery is the split decision. I’m still not sure how Bradley, who landed absolutely no impact blows, nor enough cuts that weren’t off, clinches being broken, gets even one card. But when I hear Buffer breakout his patented “Newwwwwww (fill in the blank) Champion” call, the fourth wall just broke: boxing has just broken into hallowed category of sports entertainment.
Let’s be clear: I love sports entertainment. Ever since I realized that there’s no way grown men are punching each other in the face and not bleeding in a “Gangs of New York” style, I’ve really loved the WWE. But the match is rarely the big deal over there; it’s the whole package of getting behind a character, seeing some trash talked, somebody smacking somebody with a chair in front of his girl, and then them settling it over the next few months. There’s no expectation of realistic results, because it’s not “real” in the first place. Boxing however has always been the place where the words get mixed up, then you fully expect somebody to really beat the brakes off somebody later. And if they don’t knock them out completely, there will still be an accurate enough call to get a winner.
Well, those days are apparently over and while I’m not a sports conspiracy theorist, I also wasn’t born yesterday. The first sign of “Hey, something could go wrong here” was when word on a November rematch leaked this week. Under what circumstances would there be any reason for a rematch between these two guys? Bradley is a good fighter, but Manny is one of the biggest of all-time. If he beats him, why should the upstart get another shot?
Hindsight reveals much. In this situation, hindsight shows that the November fight was the rematch all along, perhaps even the only “real” fight at all. The fight where the “fallen hero” comes back for what’s his own, to build himself back up, right? That’s a great premise too….everybody didn’t know the outcome already.
For what it’s worth, Bradley looks ready for the part….of being an Academy Award candidate. Because he played an amazing role of the underdog; one that Christian Bale should have studied before shooting ‘The Fighter’. I mean bravo to him for portraying like he had a legit shock that he won the match. However he was the one that leaked the promo screen for the rematch beforehand. So while I have no doubt he is very humbled by getting yet another big payday to face Pacquiao again, he definitely isn’t humbled by the shock of the decision or the glory of the upset.
The biggest fat cat on the fix though? Fight promoter & Pacquiao handler Bob Arum, who made Don King look like a candidate for Pope with the way he set this all up. Arum is sport’s public enemy #1: the reason why Mayweather and Pacquiao REALLY can’t get in the ring together, and now the author of the biggest sham since baseball’s pill popping fiasco.
But you know what Bob? You screwed yourself, and pulled boxing down to its knees with you. You tried to spring sports entertainment on us all, but you underestimated how wise we are. See this is where McMahon has always gotten it right; People don’t mind having lies be told to them, as long as they know it in advance. I got more actual competition drama, even looking backwards now, out of The Rock beating John Cena at WrestleMania a few months ago. And I’ve got a huge problem with something I knew was already decided going in giving me more suspense than something that wasn’t supposed to be. If you’re going to force a dream on me, at least let me know I’m sleep in advance.
But now the idea that “the desire to see Pacquiao get even” will make the next fight a huge buy is over. Because everybody knows they were duped already, and already know how the next fight will end. Now, in order to get your biggest ticket back on top, you’ve forced him into a match with Mayweather that now has a much lesser sense of importance. It is a fight where Floyd holds all the leverage now; because he’s not fighting a potential peer anymore, he’s fighting a puppet, a pawn, a character even.
All of the spinning and faux-investigations aren’t convincing either, the jig is up. There is nothing to watch boxing for at all now. Sacrifice Bradley to Mayweather early next year if you want to. Floyd drilling him into the ground just would further the crock it was that he was ever allowed to have appeared to beat Pacquiao.
When legacies are sacrificed for money, it’s never a good idea. It ruins the morality that people still like to believe in out of sports. When legit competition is ruined and trust is lost, there’s no easy way back from that.
I just hope it was worth it, because that was the end of an era. Maybe you should have brought out Paul Bearer to do a “Rest in Peace” for boxing at the end of the PPV on Saturday. Because it’s not about its only fitting since that’s what the “sport” has come to be now, merely off the cuff entertainment.
I just know this much, if boxing is going to keep up with the closest thing it has to a rival now in sports entertainment, they better hire some better script writers than Arum.
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