The failure again to make a fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao has the hand-wringers and Chicken Littles out in force, bemoaning yet again the fight game’s pitiable state.
If you didn’t know better you’d think peewee football games were drawing bigger crowds.
For all its life the fight game has been the hypochondriac of the sporting world, forever checking its pulse and waiting for its turn to join the great majority. For nearly as long it has been, in America at least, the old dying uncle around whose bed everyone gathered to count down the clock until they realized it could be a while yet and went back again to their balls and bats and little hats. The time would come soon enough.
The time hasn’t come yet. It never will. There are reasons yet to love boxing. Lots of them. Here are 66.
1. If a boxer has giant, gnarled, hairy feet with blackened, crusty toenails, you’ll never know it. Boxers wear shoes when they go to work, like any civilized people.
2. Every time we turn around Tomasz Adamek is punching someone in the mouth.
3. You never know how long a fight will last. Could be 19 seconds. Could be 48 minutes. This leaves you lots of flexibility in your schedule.
4. Boxing doesn’t discriminate. If you can fight it doesn’t matter if you’re 7-foot-2 (218cm) or 4-foot-3 (130cm). White, black, bronze, magenta, or something else. You can make a living inducing brain damage in another human. Sweet.
5. Douglas KO 10 Tyson.
6. When he gets knocked down, a boxer gets a chance to decide whether he wants to get up and keep fighting, or stay where he is and call it a night. There’s no greater test of a man’s will or a greater mirror into his character.
7. Thanks to boxing, you know what beer to buy. And what motor oil. You know when to start dying your hair.
8. Joe Frazier.
9. Boxing cares so much about the rules it reminds its participants of them before every fight. And if it’s a big fight, we get to listen in. If they did this in basketball, every game would begin with the officials telling the team captains: “If you start dribbling the ball, you may not stop dribbling and then start again. That’s called a double dribble. If you step out of bounds, play ends.” And so forth. Think of the consistency.
10. Round card girls.
11. Foreman-Lyle. Rounds four and five.
12. Manny Pacquiao.
13. Journeymen. Particularly the heavyweights. They all have great stories. Some are funny. Marcus Rhode, one of the most dependable out there, once told me he was tired of all the do-gooders trying to get him and others like him banned. “They want to get rid of all the guys with bad records. Why? They don’t kick the Detroit Lions out of football.”
14. “It happened! It happened!”
15. Lou Pinella and his temper tantrums wouldn’t last six months.
16. When your favorite boxer announces his retirement, you don’t get depressed, because you know he’ll be back.
17. The crowd you see at a boxing show is not the same crowd you’ll see at a monster truck pull. Or a demolition derby. Or a Klan rally.
18. Lou DiBella’s tirades.
19. Its history. There’s nothing else like it.
20. Jake LaMotta.
21. No matter how old you are, if you can still fight and complete a sentence, they can’t make you retire.
22. Boxers don’t punch like girls.
23. A boxing match ends when it’s supposed to end. No double overtime or extra innings or seven-hour matches. You’ve got stuff to do.
24. No dumb jocks at ringside calling the action. Or women.
25. There’s usually a guy with a microphone in a fighter’s corner between rounds and you can hear everything that’s said. Even when the advice is awful. Or hilarious.
27. There are no Dallas Cowboys in boxing.
28. Nobody tells the truth, and everyone knows it. So it’s fair.
29. Fairly often, guys in $3,000 suits find themselves in close proximity to guys who live on $3,000 a year. This makes the guys in the suits uncomfortable.
30. No real boxing match will look like the fight you had with Tubby McClain in the lunchroom in third grade.
31. Double knockdowns.
32. Tex Cobb.
33. Boxing affords morbidly obese men the opportunity to scream at 135-pound guys for not boiling down to 130 like they said they would.
35. Double hook. Body and head.
36. The noise made by a well-thrummed speed bag.
38. Big muscles: not mandatory.
39. A little guy who’s really good can beat the snot out of a bigger guy who’s not as good. Learn it and believe it and you’ll clean up.
40. Joe Louis highlight compilations.
41. Champions Forever.
42. Once the fight is over a boxer can say whatever the hell he wants when he‘s on camera. He can sob, curse, thank his Lord and savior, tell Don King to kiss his ass, chastise Jim Gray. Ever seen a ball player do that?
43. “Down goes Frazier!”
44. Michael Buffer and “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
45. When a fighter gets hit below the belt and goes down, you never really know whether he’s faking or his junk really hurts.
47. You can break camp, drink beer and over eat and still score a couple decent paychecks against bad heavyweights.
48. Many boxers get Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia when they get old, but hey, so do people who never took a punch in their lives. And what’s so bad about wearing a diaper and forgetting all your troubles anyway?
49. Chief seconds shake hands and wish each other luck after the referee’s instructions.
51. It typically takes years before the effects of repeated concussion really manifest. By the time your favorite childhood fighter gets punchy you won’t care that much; you’ll be busy trying to pay the mortgage.
52. The Professional.
53. Joe Goossen.
54. A fight crowd will boo at a point deduction, a draw or a spit decision even when it’s the right call. Every time. Predictability is a vastly underrated quality.
55. Fat City.
56. No more John Ruiz.
57. The Super Six tourney.
58. “Let me pour some water on your balls.”
59. Bennie Briscoe
60. The pause between the reading of the scores and the naming of the winner.
61. No timeouts.
63. The stakes are high. Sometimes uncomfortably so.
65. Al “Bummy” Davis
66. Rumble young man, rumble.
Some random observations from last week:
Bob Arum is either a genius or a moron. I’m not sure which. I think I‘ll never be sure…
Antonio Margarito: “I’m gonna fight who?”…
Kudos to Teddy Atlas and his guy Alexander Povetkin for passing on a fight with Wlad Klitschko. Whether it’s to get his kid more “seasoning” or to wait until Little Brother is a little older, it’s probable that Teddy made a smart move…
Shame on Atlas (and Joe Tessitore too) for trumping up Beibut Shumenov for having won the light heavyweight “world title” after just 10 fights. Come on. Belts are handed out like free bowls of soup at a homeless shelter these days. Teddy knows that.
Shumenov wouldn’t have lasted two days as a sparring partner with any top-10 light heavyweight of the 1970s or ‘80s, forget about Billy Conn or Archie Moore. Teddy knows that, too...
Speaking of guys with no fighting talent, how bad must the 22 guys be that Viacheslav Uzelkov beat before losing to Shumenov?…
In case you missed it, there’s a big brouhaha in Australia. Reportedly, a lot of late money came in on a first-round knockout before the Danny Green-Paul Briggs fight, and, lo and behold, out went Briggs in the first round from nothing much.
Watch it here.
Briggs is a worse actor than Steven Seagal, but as usual, everyone’s missed the larger issue: The fight was “sanctioned” by the, ahem, IBO. Everyone‘s calling it a “world title fight.” That’s called getting a foothold, folks. Great job, everybody!