Let's play a little game just for the heck of it. Imagine you’re trying hypnotherapy on a dare you lost to your friends. You enter the office, the hypnotherapist greets you and you lie down on the couch. The hypnotherapist then asks you to tell him a bit about yourself and how you’re feeling. You tell him your whole life story in a nutshell and add that you especially feel a bit bummed out in regards to the last Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. The weird thing is that given you like one fighter as much as the other, you were almost sure you’d have a good time watching the fight no matter who won. But you didn’t. You mention to him that fight left you with a bitter taste in your month because it didn’t live up to the hype. He then asks you if you know about superheroes, more precisely about Bizarro Superman; Superman’s complete antonym and nemesis (draws his power from kryptonite, is weakened by sunlight blablablayadiyadida). You answer in the affirmative which spares him the explanation. He then tells you to close your eyes, to take a very long and deep breath, and at the count of"3", he will snap his fingers and you'll instantly find yourself in BizarroWorld, daydreaming. You agree to the odd yet intriguing suggestion and you close your eyes as a sign of readiness. 1...2...3...The hypnotherapist snaps his fingers.
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be.
I’m free to be what I want” – Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxer, promoter, and entrepreneur
“Do what you will, this world’s a fiction and full of contradiction”- William Blake, 18th century English poet, painter, and printmaker
You are now in Bizarro World. (There are obvious space time continuum plot holes in my story but don’t mind that, just stay with it.) In Bizarro World, everything is opposite and in reverse.Slavery has been abolished by President Frederick Douglasubutu.Malcolm Xenebutu was the 35th President of the United States of New Africa and lead the Civil Rights movements with his close friend vice-president Martin Luther Kingbiwiko. Cassius Marcellus Claybutu is not only alive, but a successful boxing trainer. Thanks to breakthroughs in stem cell research, medical science was able to cure him from Parkinson’s syndrome, a disease he developed not long after his third and last fight andfriendly rivalry with Joe Frazierulubiko. His doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, one of the rare Caucasians doctors, suggested he should retire after his gruesome war with Frazierulubiko. As for Frazierulubiko, he is now the top representative of the World Boxing Union, the first boxing union to ever be created. George Foremanubutu I is for his part the Pope of The International Black Catholic Church. Daily exercise is mandatory by all and every session must be recorded and sent to Federal Health Department of New Africa. GMOs and artificial pesticides are banned, biracial families get extra government grants to promote integration and the New African government mimicked the Swedish model by taxing the rich and redistributing the surplus to the poorest communities (ghettos) inhabited mostly by Caucasians. Green and eco-friendly energy is at the heart of every political debate. Haiti and the Caribbean countries are amongst the richest countries in the world alongside most African countries, and Saudi Arabia is a third world country. Boxing is New Africa’s main sport and Floyd “Generosity” Maybutu is its best representative both inside and outside the ring. The undefeated champ known for his modesty and selflessness is set to fight the brash and arrogant Manny Pacquiao in Manila; a fight dubbed The Thrilla in Manila Part II; in order to determine once and for all who the greatest fighter of this era really is. Clinching is forbidden as per the Padilla Rule and fighters cannot disengage from confrontation for more than 5 seconds. The fight begins with the brash, but game Filipino charging in. He throws a flurry of head shots which Maybutu evades and immediately answers with a counter right hand directly on the money. Pacquiao shrugs it off and bores in again, machine-gunning Maybutu to the body and driving him back against the ropes. Maybutu immediately circles to his left, twists, and escapes by throwing a counter right hand. It’s non-stop action here at the Araneta Stadium in Quezon City, Manila. Pacquiao and Maybutu are really going at it giving each man no quarter. They are both dead-set on imposing their will on one another. The fight’s intensity is so intense, boxing analyst Bernard Hopkingsbiko is already comparing it with the first Leonardubutu-Duran fight in Montreal. Both fighters lunge inwith the rear hand and…. the hypnotherapist snaps his fingers again. You look around, you see a calendar, the date, the furniture. You’re back to reality, in the real world. Your heart is beating hard but quickly slows back down again. The hypnotherapist gives you his last instructions before ending the session. You shake hands and exist his office. As the door closes behind you, you cannot help but think back about that dream you just had and wonder what would’ve happened if you had kept daydreaming just a little while longer.
Welcome to the Real World: The Hype & Pre-Fight Build-Up
“Only in America could a Don King happen.” – Don King, American boxing promoter
So the so-called fight of the [new] century is officially in the books. The build-up and the hype was sky-high and everybody and their sister remotely interested in boxing couldn’t wait to see that fight happening. After five, maybe six years in the making, all the ingredients were there to make this fight THE best in boxing history. On one side you had Manny Pacquiao, the people’s champ, the heart and soul of boxing, the humble, soft-spoken, god-fearing king of offense.On the other, you had Floyd Mayweather junior, the brain of boxing, the brash, colourful, flamboyant, arrogant and narcissistic king of defense who always fully and proudly embraced his role as the villain of the story. Two opposing poles, two opposing styles, two opposing personalities. There was only one thing they had in common: they both had remarkable careers with personal feats and statistics which will be landmarks in the annals of boxing probably until I draw my last breath. Toss in to the mix the never-ending rumors and hearsay, memes, shenanigans, and trolls travelling constantly at light speed, courtesy of the technological world [and all its social media] in which we live in. Doesn’t get any better that that, doesn’t it?May 2nd finally came and not a day too soon.The cream of the crop of American society showed up as expected of course: A-lister actors, all-star quarterback slash 4-time Super Bowl champion [and now soon-to-be benchwarmer for 4 games], heiress of the Hilton hotels, late-night host, rich spoiled-brat pop singer, you name it. Naturally not all of them were die-hard boxing fans, let alone fans of the sport; but sporting events such as aPacquiao-Mayweather mega-fight, oups, MAYWEATHER- Pacquiao mega-fight (sorry Floyd, my bad) are more than just fights; they are happenings. Therefore showcase events such as this one serve as a means for other celebrities to remain in the public eye and flaunt themselves. After all, it’s not every day that you have an astronomical 200-million dollar fight. Pacquiao took the “smaller” share, pocketing 80 + million dollars, and “Money May” got the rest of the pie as per one of his many gargantuan contractual demands. Meanwhile Baltimore was in a state of upheaval and unrest but that’s another story. Only in America, right Don?All that to say that everything was pointing towards a great fight and a memorable night. Or was it? Denial is a powerful agent and the connoisseurs knew, if not in their hearts, then in their rational brains, that the fight somehow wouldn’t live up to all the hype and build-up surrounding it. Yet we hoped, we prayed, we had faith that the gods of boxing would somehow force both Pacquiao and Mayweather to give us a fight resembling the first Mayweather-Maidana fight. But it wasn’t so.
Welcome to the Real World: The Fight of The Century
“Let the games begin!” –Julius Caesar, Roman general, statesman, Consul, & author
The fighters made their entrance. Jaimie Foxx showed us why he was a far better actor than a singer, and Michael Buffer let us know that he was the prime choice at playing an aging Michael Corleone should Hollywood ever considerrebooting The Godfather series. Kenny Bayless maintained the political-correctness by giving both fighters his idea of instructions and the bell rang. History was officially in the making. Mayweather got to work early. At specific times he displayed the full extent of his skillset, which is quite remarkableand reminiscent of the old “Pretty Boy” days, back when he was more offensive and more entertaining. Whether you’re a fan of the man or not, as a boxer, when Mayweather truly wants to get to work, he’s eye-candy to watch. At 37, he’s still very sharp: he still has a lot of speed, possesses cat-like reflexes, and he’s a true marksman in regards to precision. Usually those skills are the first to diminish with age, but megalomaniacal narcissism does have its perks: Mayweather always took great care of himself and never left any stone unturned in regards to his training or diet for that matter. I never saw him fight in anything less than peak physical condition. May 2nd was no exception. He smoothly shoulder rolled a few of Pacquiao’s combinations, a man who he himself has probably nothing to envy of Mayweather [or Bruce Lee for that matter] in regards to velocity. So “Money” landed a few nice, crisp counter-crosses right on the button, slickly and frequently moved laterally to renew his attacks, and countered from different positions, forcing Pacquiao to constantly reroute and start over his assaults. On a few occasions, Mayweather showed the world just how elusive he could be by escaping beautifully being pinned in the corner or trapped in the ropes. So far, love him or hate him, there’s simply nothing to say. The yea-sayers were ecstatic, the newbies were in awe, and the haters were muzzled. It was all Mayweather: no rule-bending, no referee assistance. I may not be a fan of the man, but I’m a fan of the sport of boxing and its science, and had Mayweather stuck to that formula for the rest of the fight, I would’ve been the first to go on his Facebook page to congratulate him on his victory.However, Mayweather didn’t stick to that formula. Included in his book of tricks were excessive clinches from the get-go.It’s not that Mayweather held excessively overall, in fact he didn’t. But he held very early, deliberately and strategically in the fight, just enough to let Pacquiao and the rest of the world know that it would be [yet again] that kind of night. So whenever Pacquiao tried working his way in, Mayweather nullified the action by holding Pacquiao the second he was in range.Then, as Mayweather’s lead became more and more apparent, the slick lateral movements and busy hands quickly turned into circling, back-pedalling, bicycling and manual idleness. Even Mayweather’s old man had to scold junior in hopes of keeping him in a proactive and competitive mindset. The two headlocks Mayweather applied on Pacquiao very early in the fight and worthy of the WWE, set the tone and sorta, kinda sealed the fate of the fight right there.The problem is that holding behind the neck is completely illegal in boxing. The first time this happened, Bayless should’ve issued Mayweather a warning at the very least, but the second time, he should’ve deducted a point. This would’ve discouraged Mayweather from having his way by using a non-boxing technique, and consequently, it would’ve forced Mayweather to keep on using the full extent of his boxing skills to diffuse Pacquiao. Being the shorter fighter with the reach disadvantage, it came as no surprise to anyone that Pacquiao would be the aggressor in this fight.To succeed, the Filippinoneeded to relentlessly press Mayweather and stay close enough to land his shots. The other problem is thateverybody who had watched Mayweather’s fights since his comeback knew that he would pounce on Pacquiao like a lion to tie him up, thus preventing Pacquiao from unloading on him. From that point on, all Mayweather had to do was wait for the cavalry [AKA Kenny Bayless] to show up and separate both men, thus allowing Mayweather to regain a safe distance on the outside. In other words, Mayweather was allowed yet again to bend a rule in boxing which clearly needs to he addressed and rectified in a very near-future if boxing hopes to re-establish itself as the prime combative sport. Mayweather isn’t the only one to blame for the overall lackluster performance of that night. Pacquiao’s strategy was simple: he had to outwork Mayweather by relentlessly throwing punches in bunches, especially at Mayweather’s body where slipping is impossible, and by attacking him from angles, making it harder for Mayweather to counter him.The problem is that Pacquiao didn’t follow the game plan. He bobbed his head frequently to make himself harder to tag, but he was too stilland too linear. He had a few good moments where he had Mayweather trapped and taking a lot of heat, but as Al Bernstein mentioned, those moments were too few and far between.As for Kenny Bayless, he resembled more a scarecrow than a referee willing to apply and enforce the rules.In fact, I believe Bayless to be the man most responsible for the anticlimax we watched that night. I said it from the beginning that the nomination of the referee would impact directly the outcome of the fight. The second I found out about his nomination, the odds I had of Pacquiao winning the fight considerably dropped. The hopes I had of watching an interesting fight also diminished drastically. Don’t get me wrong, Bayless is generally-speaking a good referee, but he’s too lax in regards to holding. Furthermore, knowing that tying his man up is an integral part of Mayweather’s fight strategy (when clinching should be random and incidental, not planned and orchestrated), Bayless’ nomination came as a major buzz kill. Therefore instead of issuing respectively a warning and deducting a point whenever Mayweather would grab Pacquiao behind the head, Bayless simply jumped in and separated the two, much to Mayweather’s relief. As the fight progressed and Mayweather’s lead became more obvious to him, Mayweather became less active and more evasive. Bayless didn’t say a peep about that either during the fight. Then the final bell rang. That was it. The “fight of the century” was over. 48-0. Still undefeated. Still the apex fighter of his era. But still an unheralded fight which yet again failed to live up to all the hype and expectations.
Welcome to the Real World: Post-Mortem Controversy
“I know how people are. We fixate on controversy and all that.”- Tracy Morgan, American actor and comedian
So the fight didn’t live up to all the hype surrounding it. “I am Jack’s total lack of surprise” some would say. Every fight that either ends in controversy and/or didn’t live up to expectations comes with its fair share of post-mortemshenanigans, rumors and memes. The biggest controversy has been the shoulder injury Manny Pacquiaoallegedly sustained before the fight. Apparently Pacquiao fought with an injuredshoulder, more precisely a torn rotator cuff.The real issue in Pacquiao’s story is thathe allegedly failed to disclose his injury to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and to whomever else it may concern.It seems that Pacquiao failed to disclose his injury believing thatUSADA, the drug-testing body commissioned by the Mayweather camp, would inject him with a shot of Toradol to numb up the pain. So far so good thought Pacquiao, right? Wrong.The problem occurred when The Nevada State Athletic Commission objected to the Toradolshot based on the grounds that Pacquiao’s campfailed to inform them beforehand about Pacquiao’sshoulder injury. Max Kellerman adds that Pacquiao found himself in a very tough spot: he basically had the choice between a bad one and a worse one. The bad one was to roll the dice and hope that his shoulder holds during the entire fight [which obviously turned out to be a bet Pacquiao lost]. The worse one was to disclose the injury, postpone the fight which took years to happen, lose face in the process, and hope that 17 months from now and just a few weeks and just a few shy from his 39th anniversary, Pacquiao would still be sharp enough to take on arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. And that’s assuming Mayweather is still active or interested in fighting Pacquiao altogether. If you put it that way, you may sympathize better with Pacquiao’s decision to go through with the fight despite the injury, especially if you bear in mind that up to the very last minute, he was expecting to receive a pain-killing shot which would allegedly have allowed him to retain full function during the fight. But then again, maybe he still should’ve gone with door number 2. Sure people would’ve criticized and pointed fingers, but better wait another year or so and face Mayweather at 100% then face him weakened. Regarding the Toradol shot, if Pacquiao truly needed only that to retain full function of his shoulder, then it was plain idiotic of him to try to hide it from the Nevada State Athletic Commission. I mean what was he scared of? That the odds of him winning might considerably drop? Who cares?! Especially if you win. Wouldn’t it make his triumph that much more enjoyable knowing bookies had him as a 4-1 underdog? Just tell the truth: say you’re injured but that with the pain-killing meds you could carry on with the fight. If fans don’t like it, you post-pone it. Yes it would suck and you would lose face, but you’d still be in a better position than you are now. Yet there’s also the rumor that the whole shoulder injury is nothing but a hoax, an excuse Pacquiao is usingto justify a lack-luster performance on his part. Then other modified versions of that same rumorclaim that Pacquiao had been carrying that injury for years. On the other side of the ocean, you have the never-ending rumors and conspiracy theories concerning Mayweather and his use of Xylocain to numb up his hands,his bribing of a judge, and the apparent investigationregarding a bottle of Muscle Rev,a supplement currently banned by the WBA, found in Mayweather’s locker after the fight, and…it never seems to end, does it?
Facing Money Mayweather
“It is easy to believe in Freedom of speech with those with whom we agree” – Leo McKern, Australian actor
Fighting post-retirement Floyd “Money” Mayweather is like trying to have a group debate with someone who simply won’t allow you to speak by cutting you offat every opportunity. He keeps you from talking not necessarily by countering every argument you bring to the table with a better one (even though he definitely has the means to), but because interrupting you is simply just as efficient and less demanding.He has strong arguments [skills] and he makes sure to quickly share them with everybody to gain the lead. Sometimes there are uncomfortable silences where nothing happens and you both wait for one another to say [do] something. Yet the second you try to retort [fight back], he interrupts you [grabs you]. The teacher [referee] then interjects [breaks you both], asks your opponent to stop interrupting you [stop holding] and then tells you to continue speaking [box]. The problem is, slapping him in the wrist doesn’t discourage him, so you end up losing your rhythm and your trail of thought altogether. By the time you’re in the groove of things again, he either complainsabout something to trail off, or holds you yet again knowing he won’t be penalized for it. And if things really get heated, he suddenly starts to cough and asks for an emergency bathroom break [disengages and runs]. By the time he comes back, time’s up, and he knows he won the debate [fight]. Whether you had the most compelling of arguments or you were completely clueless and oblivious from the get-go, the outcome is the same: he got his point across and you didn’t. So when the teacher then asks the rest of the class [judges] who was the better debater, the students [judges] have no other choice but to vote in favor of your adversary. How good you really were though, nobody will ever know.
An Enduring Misconception
“Stupidity is a talent for misconception” –Edgard Allen Poe, American author, poet, editor, and literary critic
The sweet science of boxing is simple: to hit and not get hit. Anyone who moderately knows boxing knows that adage. Usually, but not always, those who manage to apply that science better than others are pure boxers. They particularly excel at applying that maxim because of their increased level of athleticism and polish which sluggers do not possess. Moreover, they can fight from all 3 ranges (long, mid, and short) which pressure fighters (in-fighters), who usually are physically smaller than pure boxers and sluggers, cannot do [from the outside] because of their reach disadvantage, thus leaving them particularly vulnerable. There are however two misconceptions here 1) That hitting and not being hit back is the only applicable scientific aspect to boxing 2) That aesthetically more appealing pure boxers, who possess a cute jab embellished with Ali shuffles, half-marathons, bicycle runs and arm-swinging Sugar Ray Leonard-esque bolo punches, should systematically be considered as the epitome of science in boxing. Let me clarify those two points. In regards to the first one, to get hit, or to not be afraid of being hit, whether it is by voluntary choice or lack of it, doesn’t automatically mean one has no ring IQ whatsoever. When Ali schooled Sonny Liston in their first fight and consequently forced him to quit on his stool because he couldn’t get to Ali [Liston had a shoulder injury; no pun intended] while Ali landed at will, Ali was considered a boxing genius. When Ali knocked out Liston in their rematch with his iconic “anchor/phantom punch”, Ali was considered a boxing genius. When Ali regained his title by knocking out George Foreman in the 8th round after being pummeled for almost as many rounds, he was considered a boxing genius. Now in the first 2 examples, Ali was considered a genius because he was hitting and not being hit back; that’s the epitome of the sweet science. But when he kayoed Foreman in Zaire, fans and experts alike all around the world considered him, and still do to this day, even more of a genius because he willingly allowed Foreman to bomb away to sap his energy. Whenever Ali felt that Foreman had punched himself out, he’d strike Foreman. Whenever Foreman wasn’t exactly in range to hit him, he’d strike him with his 2-inch reach advantage. Whenever Ali sensed that referee Zack Clayton might be considering stopping the fight for taking too many unanswered punches, he’d strike Foreman. Finally in order to diminish Foreman’s power, thus forcing him to throw more punches which in turn drained his energy and broke his spirit, Ali swung away in the loose ropes like Tarzan. Yet the fact of the matter remains that Ali took punches, whether they landed flush, partially or not at all. In the first round and half, Ali did meet Foreman in center ring and used both his speed and reach advantage to score first and avoid retaliation. But as for the other remaining 6 rounds, Ali took punches and leaned on the ropes almost the entire time. Sure many of Foreman’s punches missed, and didn’t hurt as much as they should because of Ali’s rope-a-dope, yet they still made contact. And they hurt. If you don’t believe me, go on YouTube and listen to what Ali’s former doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, has to say about that fight and Ali’s durability. Sure it wasn’t nearly as bad as the level of punishment he sustained at the hands of Joe Frazier a year later in Manila, but Ali still took some heavy punishment. And yet, he was, and still is, considered a genius, a poet, a great man and what not, because everything he did that night was done consciously, willingly and knowingly. Whether he had it all planned out days/weeks/months before the fight, weeks, thus deceiving everybody in the process by claiming he’d dance, stick and move all night, or whether he improvised it all at the very last minute realizing that either his initial strategy wouldn’t work, or that a more efficient one [the rope-a-dope] presented itself at the last minute, he did it all knowing exactly what he was doing. It wasn’t elegant, but it was efficient; and especially, it was scientific. That’s the nuance and the distinction to be made here; it’s not because it isn’t pretty, that it isn’t scientific. To swing away in the ropes to diminish the effect of your opponent’s incoming punches, is scientific. To swing away in the ropes to diminish the effect of your opponent’s punches, thus forcing him to throw more punches in hopes of getting the job done, is scientific [P= work/time]. To punch your opponent while he’s trying to close in on you to amplify the effect of the impact felt, is scientific. To punch your opponent while he’s trying to close in on you with the rear straight right instead of the jab because it is a stronger punch and because time and reach is in your favour, that is also scientific [Work= force x distance/ Velocity= distance/time]. This leads me to point number two. Ali didn’t dance that night. He didn’t jab remotely as much as he usually did either. Yet he was still considered a boxing genius for winning that fight against all odds, hopes or expectations. Therefore we have to stop confusing our prefabricated and subjective idea of elegance and what we personally consider to be aesthetically appealing, with science. They say boxing is a chess match.Very true. However in chess, you lose pieces. The point is to make the better move. If I eat your pawn, but you eat my horse, you made the better move. If you eat my horse, but I eat your queen, I made the better move. The same principle applies to boxing and we have to start learning to appreciate that. Let’s start with pressure fighters who sustain punishment as they are moving in. Before we do though, just bear in mind you that certain infighters with a height and reach disadvantage could successfully bridge the gap without getting nailed at all in the process. Mike Tyson was the prime example of that when he sported the peek-a-boo style. However not every infighter has the luxury of living under the roof of a boxing genius and not every pressure fighter has the level of athleticism to apply and display defensive skills the way Tyson did. Now back to our generic pressure fighter. It’s no easy feat to fight another guy who can hit you from all 3 ranges knowing you can’t. If the shorter pressure fighter comes in and eats two jabs in the process, but lands a rear uppercut, in terms of power and damage, he made the better move. Firstly, because he managed to break the distance from which he was at a total disadvantage. Secondly because he managed to successfully trade a weaker punch for a power punch. Even if by moving in towards his opponent, the effect of his opponent’s jab is increased, the fact of the matter remains that the pressure fighter’s uppercut is 1) a power punch to begin with, 2) the uppercut is thrown with the rear hand, thus adding traveling distance, and 3) the uppercut is thrown with forward momentum, that is; with the entire body weight of the pressure fighter. Those 3 points combined give him the edge. If the slugger not only hits the shorter pressure fighter at will the same way Foreman did against Frazier in Jamaica, how is he any less scientific? Because he’s not decorating every punch with flowery ornaments, showboating and quirky shuffles? Power equals work divided by time, remember? If he gets the job done with less punches and as long as he’s well aware of it, he’s scientific. There’s a reason why he’d spend hours smashing that heavy bag. In other words the only time a fighter cannot be considered scientific, is when he’s totally clueless and random in his actions. If he’s mindlessly doing something absent of thought or strategy, he’s not scientific. Moreover if he’s trying to do something to absolutely no avail or desirable effect, he’s obviously not scientific. This means that if he’s taking a flurry of punches without answering anything back or anything effective enough that might turn the tide in his favour, if he’s losing more in the trade than he’s gaining, he’s not scientific. As a fan of the sport, if you cannot recognize that to hit and not get hit isn’t the only viable science possible (even though it is the supreme one), than the whole scientific aspect of the sport clearly escapes you.
The Rules of Engagement Need to Be Clarified or Changed Altogether
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” ― Dalai Lama XIV, Tibetan Buddhist and spiritual leader
The 2nd rule of the Marquis of Queensbury clearly states that holding and wrestling are considered illegal tactics. The problem is that the governing bodies such as the WBC consider it a foul only if holding is done in excess or if a fighter maintains a clinch (refuses to break). In other words, it tolerates it without specifying in which exact context the line should be drawn. What is “excessive clinching/holding”? Is it only contextual (quality) or numeral (quantity)? For instance, an example of contextual excess would be if a friend of mine came up to me on April’s fool and sprayed me with a water gun, and then I’d come back later and shoot him point blank with my BB gun. My reaction might very well be considered excessive even though it’s the first and [hopefully] the last time I ever did that. This ambiguity thus leaves it open to various interpretations by referees by creating a very large grey area. This in turn allowed and still allows fighters like Ali, Hatton, Mayweather, Hopkins, W.Klitschko, to bend that rule and use it as a fight strategy per se instead of being the consequence of. Their strategy thus becomes quite simplistic, if not to say cheap: they do what they want to do and whenever scheisse hits the fan, they pounce on their opponent to tie him up, and simply wait for the referee to separate them, thus bailing them out of trouble. Consequently they actually get to enjoy yet another rule for a full step back as to be taken after each break before both boxers may resume punching. Such rules not only favour the taller, rangier fighter by allowing him to regain safe distance on the outside, but it also allows him to clinch almost at will, leaving the shorter fighter with literally a triple handicap.1) He can only fight from 2 ranges [medium and short]; 2) He has to start his assault all over again from a range where he knows he can’t reach but can be reached; 3) When he finally manages to get in range, he still can’t punch because the other guy immediately holds onto him to kill the action dead. So instead of being incidental and the consequence of say, a fierce exchange occurring at short range, or fatigue after a long gruelling war, holding has become a tactical means to an end; an end meant to steal rounds and walk away with anti-climactic wins by decision. And quite frankly, there is nothing noble, skillful or let alone smart by abusing of a non-boxing tactic to get the job done, no matter how ugly and boring it gets. It may sound smart, and it is, but it’s cheap. A smart and skilled fighter would and should find another way to muzzle his opponent other than to take him to prom night and dance with him all night. He would find a way to solve his opponent within the framework of his sport by letting his wits, his skills, and his proactivity speak for himself; not by putting his chips on the referee’s interpretation of a rule which is in dire need to be clarified or changed altogether. Grabbing someone is as easy as breathing. It’s in fact one of the first things toddlers learn to do. There’s nothing great, let alone scientific about it. It thus doesn’t belong in boxing, let alone a few-and-far-between championship fight opposing the two best fighters of their era. For all those reasons, I initially suggested abolishing clinching altogether. Then I thought to myself that legitimate clinching usually occurs when two fighters get tired, so abolishing it altogether would be detrimental to both fighters, even if one is more prone to it than the other. Then I came up with the following suggestion: whenever a fighter clinches another one simply to stop the action and to prevent the other fighter from engaging him, the referee should tell the clinching fighter and command him to lay on the ropes or in a corner, to the other fighter’s convenience. The action thus resumes at mid-range with the clinching fighter shelling up. Only a mutual clinch due to fatigue executed after an exchange at close range should be permitted. This systematic new rule would be a far better alternative to the present ambiguous rule which gives far too much latitude to the referee in charge. Besides, no referee likes to have too much of an impact on the outcome of a fight nor should he, which is perhaps why not enough points are being deducted for excessive holding. Another rule which needs to be addressed is lateral movement and punching, also known as stickin’ n movin’, versus disengaging and avoiding confrontation, commonly known as “running” or “bicycling”. If a fighter frequently moves to avoid taking punishment and immediately counterattacks, not only is it legal, it is the very definition of the sweet science. No problem there. However if a fighter disengages for more than 5 seconds without retaliating, the referee calls time, asks the “culprit” to go to a corner or lean against the ropes (at the other fighter’s convenience), and orders the guilty fighter to shell up while the action resumes from mid-range. I mean there are free kicks and penalties in soccer, free shots in basketball, all kinds of penalties and yard losses in football, penalties and penalty shots in hockey, why not add those two? Penalties exist to ensure that fairness is maintained. If it’s okay for naysayers to say to a pressure fighter who complains that his opponent is running that he should learn to cut the ring more efficiently, I say that a pure boxer labelled as an artist should let strictly his boxing skills such as footwork, speed, positioning, timing, accuracy, and sound decision-making speak for him; not his ability to hold at will or disengage the second he feels the tide is turning against him. Otherwise the other fighter always fights with a double handicap: a reach disadvantage and fighter bending the rules courtesy of the referee’s passivity. These two modifications would consequently deter huggers from holding excessively or avoid confrontation. Such changes would consequently promote fair play on top of ensuring better product quality and an overall greater level of excitement. The governing bodies need to put their pants on because neither the tickets nor the pay-per-views are getting any cheaper, yet the quality of the spectacle is.
Unanimous Thumbs Down
“Don’t blame me, blame the truth” –Malcolm X, Muslim minister, thinker, philosopher, and human rights activist
Mayweather doesn’t have the majority votes. Part of those who support him will claim that it is because he’s boring, others will claim that it’s because of his color, some because he’s filthy rich, because of his repeated history of domestic violence, because of his complete indifference and lack of involvement in regards to current affairs, because he’s shallow, arrogant and narcissistic, etcetera. It might very well be a melting pot of all of the above. However I believe that there’s another reason as to why Mayweather seems unable to get the thumbs up on a global scale. I believe in fact that there are two other: 1) his lack of risk-taking during his fights; in other words, his tendency to always play it safe light years before playing it to the crowd and putting on a show. This point complements the first of the above-mentioned complaints (the boring part) by the general public, yet it is possible to play safe and still be an exciting fighter, or nevertheless, exciting enough. That’s the subtlety. However Mayweather plays his cards in such a way that even Larry Merchant had to personally ask him once to explain why he was such a boring fighter.2)He’s never tasted defeat. There were a few close calls, especially against Castillo and Maidana, yet he still found a way to end up the victor. That’s all that matters to his disciples, and that’s especially all that matters to him. These two points alone make it hard for fans to relate with the man because he seemingly seems to succeed at everything he undertakes, which obviously isn’t the case for most of us, mere mortals. Every venture Mayweather partakes seems to be a fruitful one, everything he touches seems to be money [pun intended here]. He is today’s black Midas. We, the simple people, aren’t so lucky or successful. We have our ups and downs, our pros and cons, our successes, and especially our failures. What allows us to connect and relate with a boxer isn’t so much the boxer’s success, but rather our ability to empathize with a fighter’s flaws of character, hardships, and failures. Bad and sad sells. So by empathizing, or even sympathizing with a fighter’s failures, we appreciate so much more his success as he rises again from the ashes. 98, maybe 99 percent of people are followers. Most of us are sheep. About one percent of the population consists of natural-born leaders and we look up to celebrities and expect them to be exactly that: inspiring leaders. We all scream for freedom of speech, and freedom of thought, wave our peace’n love hippie flags, and this and that, but as Heath ledger’s Joker said it himself, we are like dogs chasing cars: we don’t know what to do [with it] once we have one. Give us all the freedom and liberty we want, and we’ll feel lost. Our pride prevents us from admitting it but we need to be led, we need to be guided, to be encouraged, to be taken by the hand, and therefore we need to have someone to look up to. We need direction to either escape the reality of our own repetitive, monotonous, mundane lives, and/or to inspire us to become better versions of ourselves. People related with Ali’s struggle in the sixties, they sympathized with Duran’s fall from grace after the No Más fight, with Frazier’s unfair treatment by Ali, with Foreman’s pilgrimage back to contendership, with Johnny Tapia and Arturo Gatti’s chaotic personal lives, the list goes on. And we are both hypocritical and curious at the same time, we point our fingers and judge the second one of our idols screws up because deep down, we want to know if they will find a way to rise up again and triumph. There’s no better way for a sporting icon to connect with his fans then to hit rock bottom, only to reach the top of the world again. What better example than Mike Tyson: most famous public figure of the 80s, most infamous public figure of 90s, global farce by the turn of the new millennium and beyond, filed for bankruptcy and lived almost in the gutter by 2009, now sober as a judge, faithful, successful and praised again. We like to look at celebrities’ lives as Hollywood movies: a cute and jolly humble beginning, success and prosperity by the end of the “early rounds” (act one), trouble in paradise by the middle rounds (act two), and a Rocky Balboa-esque extraordinary comeback rally in the last two rounds (act three). Victory against all odds. The American Dream. We simply love drama stories with a happy ending and both elements are vital for our overall appreciation and acceptance of an elite athlete. We just love our fallen and tradic heroes and our redeeming villains. When we hear such stories, we tell ourselves: “ Hey, if he could do it, so can I.”Yet for almost 20 years now, Mayweather found a way to beat the odds and come out on top no matter how, no matter what. After all, the end justifies the means. There’s no failure, no hardships, or even real drama attached to his story. So he succeeds and thrives and he does so in a safe, unheralded fashion and that simply doesn’t sell or fly high with the general audience. The shoe never fell off in Mayweather’s case. So we, the fans, cannot relate to him because as flawed individuals, we lie, we cheat, we break promises, we neglect, we underachieve, we disappoint, and we fail. We don’t have that sporting icon to tell us without words: “Hey, that’s okay, been there, done that myself. Now let me show you how to get back on the horse and how it’s done.”Mayweather thus lives in a world that is actually very much real to him, but a distant fantasy to us. Mayweather’s detractors might’ve given him a pass if only he were as humble and soft-spoken as, say, Sugar Ray Leonard. Yet every time he succeeds, he makes sure to rub it in everyone’s face and shove it down our throats at every opportunity. When you don’t represent everyday life, when you don’t personify people’s everyday struggle in some way or another, when you don’t find a way to reach out to your audience by transcending the boundaries of your own sport, you’ll never be [fully] appreciated by the public, no matter how talented and great you are.
“The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave.”- Tavis Smiley, American talk show host, author, liberal political commentator, entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist.
Mayweather has done good things for boxing, there’s no doubt about it. He almost single-handedly carried the industry on his back while the heavyweight division, which used to be boxing’s bread and butter, was slowly withering and dying. Up to 15 years ago, the overall health of boxing could be assessed by exclusively looking at its heavyweight division. Knowing how much of a farce that division has become in the last 10 years, love him or hate him, who knows how bad the boxing industry would be faring today hadn’t it been of Mayweather’s omnipresence both inside and outside the ring. Mayweather has done more than carry the entire boxing industry on his back, he successfully managed to show the world that boxing is mind over matter above all, and not the other way around. He understood that heart and will is only useful if you decide to war it out, so he made sure to avoid that. By using brains over brawn both inside and outside the ring, he took control of his own destiny by becoming a successful business man, an entrepreneur, and his own promoter. Since he came out of retirement, his supremacy in the boxing industry has never been more apparent. He has not only shown that it is possible for a boxer to be fully autonomous and self-sufficient by doing without a promoter; he also proved that it is possible to self-promote oneself AND be very successful at it. No middle man equals no hoax, no broken promises, no broken contracts, no falling-outs, no bad blood, no feuds, no bad press and especially, no fighting for pocket change. The Don Kings of this world better cut and run. Now a regular figure of Forbes magazine, Mayweather is slowly [or maybe not that slowly] closing in on a total net worth of half a billion dollars. His latest squabble with Manny Pacquiao earned him an astronomical 200 million dollars (5 million dollars a minute) and broke all pay-per-view records previously established. The most surprising and curious thing in regards to Mayweather’s gargantuan fortune is that the boxer/businessman/promoter managed to secure his position as the highest paid athlete in the world without any endorsements whatsoever. Rumor has it now that there is only one or two fights left for Mayweather before he retires for good [didn’t Brett Favre say something similar? Like 3 times?]. But personally I wouldn’t be so sure. As Mayweather said it himself: “Money isn’t everything; money is the only thing.” meaning that if more money is to be made than in his last fight, he might stick around a while longer. Regardless whether Mayweather hangs up his gloves in the near future to focus on promoting future prospects and other business ventures, money will keep on flowing his way. I personally predict that he’ll be a full fledge billionaire long before his 50th birthday. In the ring, his raw talent and his perfect record, coupled with his penchant towards narcissism and arrogance outside of it, secured him a ticket in the Boxing Hall of Fame even before his first retirement, only to transform it into a VIP ticket when he came back. Lately Mayweather has not only proclaimed that he was the best boxer of his era, but even went as far as calling himself the “ T.B.E/ G.O.A.T which Ali and many boxing fans, casuals and experts alike, are still disputing and might keep on doing so long after I will have left this world.
The Soul of Boxing
“Boxing is entertainment” –Cus D’Amato, boxing trainer, manager, thinker and philosopher
One question remains in the back of the heads of many boxing fans, yea-sayers and naysayers alike. It’s on the tip of everybody’s tongue and yet nobody seems to want to say it or found the appropriate words to verbalize it so I’ll give it a shot: despite all of Mayweather’s accomplishments, has boxing lost its soul somewhere in the process? I’m saying this because let’s be honest, boxing has always been about money and Mayweather did not create that reality; he simply put it on the forefront. Once upon a time when boxers were just boxers; that is: unidimensional and somewhat simplistic, boxing used to be inspiring, motivating, and empowering. Fighters fought and really laid the leather on each other. The managers managed and tried to keep their fighters from being screwed over by promoters, and the promoters bargained, swindled, and connived then, as much as they do today. However all of that was done backstage and in the shadows. Cash was flowing as much as it does today, but the con-artists, the mobsters, the deceitful, dishonest promoters or all of the above, made sure to remain in the passenger’s seat. They made sure to put a lid on all their dealings and leave the stage to the fighters and keep them in the limelight. Nowadays, by multitasking and becoming a businessman, Mayweather may have opened a Pandora’s box. Add to this that technology and communication has given not only fighters, but also head trainers, managers, promoters, assistants, waterboys, and fighters’ friend of a friend alike, a platform which they exploit profusely and surely enjoy to the fullest. The media circus really started with Ali and now it seems to be more important than the fights themselves. Everything has become so technical, so systematic, so distant and so cold. That in turn takes away a certain sense of legitimacy, sincerity, authenticity and humanity in regards to boxers’ intentions. We don’t know any more if fighters truly fight for honour, respect and glory or simply for the wealth, fame, bravado and spotless résumés. This in turn accentuated the rift between the elite boxers and the people. It’s becoming harder and harder for many fans to relate with the posh and lavish divas which today’s boxers have become. And many of those who do relate to them, relate to them the same way groupies relate to rock and rap superstars and other Hollywood celebrities. I’ve been writing this article for almost 3 weeks now. I wanted to take my time to write it perfectly, I wanted to let the dust settle, I wanted to take the pulse of the people [connoisseurs and casuals alike] and read as much as I could on the subject and verify my sources. In the meantime, I watched a few fights. I watched the Duran-Hagler and the Duran-Leonard I fights. I figured it’d give me distance and perspective before sharing my opinions and beliefs in regards to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Let me just say this: the level of excitement, entertainment, and sheer thrill, the rivalry and the level of competition which those fighters of that time brought to the table was simply night and day by comparison to the Mayweather-Pacquiao anticlimax. These old-school warriors really were out there to hurt each other and they gave it all, and put everything on the line. Those guys really meant business and I’m not talking about live gate or pay-per-view percentages here. Sure there was clinching and holding, but these guys punched from the clinches, fought out of the clinches and back into the clinches, and not once did they look at the referee to bail them out of trouble. “Hey ref, a lil’ help here?!” The wanted to do it on their own [esteem] without assistance or outside influence. At certain moments, the level of intensity was so high, that the referees couldn’t even approach the fighters to break them and/or command them. There were countless opportunities for Leonard to simply tie Duran up and wait for referee Carlos Padilla to break them up, but he never did. Instead he chose to fight. He chose to stand up to Duran, hold his ground and answer him back in kind. Many scholars criticized Leonard for deliberately choosing to fight Duran’s fight, that is; to go to the trenches and trade toe-to-toe with him instead of staying to the outside, stickin’ and movin’. However by choosing to take the fight to Duran and by refusing to take the easy way out and constantly tie Duran up and wait for the break, fans and scholars alike discovered and appreciated a new side of Sugar Ray Leonard. We discovered that Leonard was durable, we discovered that Leonard had heart, we discovered that Leonard could fight as well as he could box, we discovered that he was game to go the distance and lay it all on the line. We discovered a warrior. The same thing could be said about Hearns in regards to his fight with Marvelous Marvin Hagler (and Hagler simply doesn’t require further explanation in regards to his worth). Ironically both Leonard and Hearns lost their respective fights, but despite the loss they both suffered, Leonard and Hearns both morally won something out of it. That thing is respect. And that is something that Floyd Mayweather will always struggle winning unanimously from the fans simply because that’s an aspect of him [warrior] we never really saw, and probably never will. It’s not just because he’s loaded, it’s not just because he’s arrogant and conceited, it’s because he was never willing to lay it all on the line. We never got to discover his mettle. And the more I think about it and analyze it from every possible angle, the more I can’t help myself but feel that somewhere along the line, boxing has lost its magic and perhaps even its soul. Not too long ago, when two fighters really wanted to fight one another, it’s because they had something to prove. Our own misplaced sense of self-righteousness won’t allow us to admit it, but when hatred was part of the equation, as fans, we simply loved it. That’s why The Ali-Frazier trilogy is a landmark in boxing history which will hardly ever be equalled. That’s why Duran was so loved and praised as a fighter. To be at his very best, he had to hate your guts and curse you and everything about you, even if the grounds for his hatred were questionable or totally uncalled for. It gave him that drive, that extra edge, that eye of the tiger, that killer instinct he needed to take you to hell and back. Nowadays fighters fight for the paycheck first and foremost, closely followed by the untainted, unblemished, perfect records and all the statistics mumbo jumbo which come with. They want to gain as much as they possibly can for the least amount of effort and sacrifice possible. Sounds like businessmen talk to me, doesn’t it? Let’s maximize profits and minimize costs. In a way, who can blame them? Who wants to go in there and get hurt? Who wants to end up with kidney and liver failure, impaired vision, dementia pugilisitica, Parkinson’s disease, Parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s disease or any other brain-related disease? And yet that’s the name of the game. That’s what they supposedly signed up for. Hope for the best sure, but plan for the worst. If you’re afraid of drowning, don’t become a lifeguard. If you fear fire, don’t become a firefighter. If you value your life and your health more than anything in the world, don’t join the military or don’t become a fighter. Back in the day, fighters couldn’t care less about their records. Mind you that no fighter, great or mediocre, enjoys losing. Yet old school fighters could look at the big picture without losing sight of it. Back in the day it was about righteous pride, about glory, respect and honour. Sure the green undoubtedly had to be part of the equation, but it wasn’t the only thing that mattered. For Joe Frazier, fighting Ali in Manila wasn’t about the money, or even about the championship belt even if he enjoyed both the riches and status just like any other fighter. Fighting Ali was about pride and dignity. Boxing always used to be the ultimate contest of will. No other sport tested your mettle like it. What you are willing to sacrifice about yourself (time, health and a shortened lifespan) in exchange for honor, fame, and glory has always been what separated boxing from other contact sports, let alone any other sport in general. You play golf, you play hockey, you play football, you play baseball, you play basketball, you play soccer, but you don’t play boxing. There’s no playing in boxing. The goal is to hurt the other guy. No matter how the PR people try to position it, rephrase it or down-tone it down to preserve mainstream acceptance, exposure and TV ratings, the fact of the matter yet remains that regardless if your goal is to win on points or by a brutal knockout, in order to achieve any of that, you have to punch the other guy. And punching someone causes both pain and bodily damage. The road towards greatness is simple, but it is never easy. That’s the biggest nuance. You have to train, eat, sleep boxing 24/7, 365 days a year. The second a training session is over, you’re already preparing yourself for the next one. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. However, you have to be willing to do all that knowing that you’re going to sweat bullets and fill up buckets, that you’re going to hurt and bleed, that you might have to train coming off a 12-hour shift at the slaughterhouse carrying the fatigue, soreness, pain and injury from previous training sessions (and your shift), that you have to do all of that and yet still find a way to perform optimally and give it everything you have. There is no strong and silent type anymore. Back in the day fighters let their fists and their actions speak for them. Nowadays it seems to be the other way around. There seems to be more talking than walking and more barking than biting. That’s why boxing is in dire need of a new Cinderella man, a fighter who will find a way to prevail and succeed in spite of hardships. That is what inspires the masses and brings new fans. That’s the kind of thing that transcends the sport. When watching and following all the divas and spoiled-brats in boxing, we are slowly forgetting the roots of boxing and its essence. Boxing is slowly losing its essence. Boxing is a poor man’s sport. It’s not supposed to be an enjoyable, get-away retreat. It’s only supposed to be fun and enjoyable only for us: the fans and paying customers.
“Aut viam inveniam aut faciam /I’ll either find a way or make one” – Latin proverb
Whether you are a lover or a hater, the moment you decide to pay to watch something, you encourage it. Maybe boxing is simply following the rest of society and the rest of the world for that matter. Maybe we aren’t really coming up with new things; new ideas, new trends, new philosophies. Maybe we’re just recycling everything. The world has become very individualistic and because boxing is part of society and part of the world, maybe it’s simply following the flow. I’m not praising old school ESPN classic fights because I’m some 60-year old nostalgic beatnik who misses Woodstock and his electric Volkswagen van. Yett back then, the world in effervescence, we seemed closer to one another. Perhaps it was the indirect effect of socialism on Western society? Boxers like Ali and Duran lived excessively and enjoyed their fame and wealth more than plenty. Yet they both found a way to retain their humanity by remaining close to the people, Ali by denunciating and creating socio-political and racial awareness, Duran by generously sharing his wealth even to perfect strangers. Who knows? It’s hard to pinpoint one specific reason. Yet today it simply feels like boxers have become mercenaries, whoring themselves to the highest bidder. Managers are dumped, allegiances and promises are broken, and things are the way they are now for those reasons and many others. The boxing establishment thus has some soul-searching to do in order to revamp its product which has been diluted for quite some time now. Today boxing is rivaling with the UFC and other mixed martial arts organizations. If it aspires to stay on top, the governing bodies must seriously begin to address the issues which are plaguing and weakening boxing by finding quick and efficient solutions in regards to clinching and disengaging. As fans, we have to ask ourselves some important questions as well. If you are tired of seeing fighters waltzing, performing Le Tour de France, or running the Boston marathon, then simply stop spending your money on that. Stop paying for something you do not want to watch. Even if you feel compelled to pay to watch a fighter fail, don’t; resist the temptation. I’m saying this because you might end up being [once again] disappointed and in the end. The fighter you paid to watch lose ends up winning in every single way. Don’t even talk, discuss or even bother arguing about boxers and fights which you don’t like or wish to see. You don’t change a winning combination and as long as you spend your dollars on a product you don’t even really want, nothing will change to improve the situation. But, if numbers start dropping and if complaints start rising, only then will we get what we truly want, deserve and paid for.