Thursday, March 18, 2010

Boxing is beating itself to the punch

While this column I write appears on an MMA related site, one of the first things I asked when I started was if I could also write about boxing? The reason was simple; As much as I love MMA, I also love the sport of boxing just as much, if not more. That is why it is with much dismay that I witnessed the latest incident where boxing just continues to shoot itself in the foot, instead of shooting punches at its critics.

With an opportunity to put its best foot forward on a grand stage, with its most popular fighter in the main event and during a rare weekend where there weren't any major MMA cards to compete with, boxing failed miserably. This past Saturday, Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao, Boxing's biggest star, regardless of what Floyd Mayweather, Jr. thinks, was defending his welterweight championship against formidable contender and former champion himself, Joshua Clottey.

This match of course came about after all the political BS and personal bickering that made the potential Pacquiao/Mayweather fight fall through. While that is the fight everyone wants to see, I was looking forward with much anticipation to this fight because as a fan, while I felt Pacquiao would win, I thought Clottey could and would present some interesting problems. I guess you could say he did, but not in the sense that I had expected.

For 12 rounds, as he always does, Pacquiao threw punches in bunches and did his best to put on a show and take out his opponent. There was one problem though, his opponent didn't throw any punches in return. As a matter of fact, Clottey was content to just hold his hands up the whole time covering his face and body in a peek-a-boo style and what I like to call a 'chicken wing defense'. That is perfectly fine strategy, if it is actually a part of one, but there was none in place.

Clottey, who comes from a country in Ghana that is known for such courageous fighting legends such as Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey, did his countrymen and himself an injustice. He came to survive and get paid instead of trying to win or at least go out in blaze of glory as Miguel Cotto did when he lost to Pacquiao. Sadly, this fight was just the icing on the cake of a night filled with letdowns.

The preliminary fights leading up to the main event was a brutal thing to watch. Not because of what was happening in the ring, but because of what wasn't happening. Pay-per-view customers paying $54.95 had to be salty when they were forced to sit through three boring fights before the main event. The undercard was filled with names that included former champions way past their prime, such as Jose Luis Castillo and David Diaz, along with up and comers Alfonso Gomez and John Duddy, that have been on the come up so long, they're on their way back down.

The result, as you would expect, two fights going to a lackluster decision and one ending mercifully after five rounds because it took that long for Castillo to finally stay on his stool and realize he is past his prime; Yes, there is a God. The undercard was so bad, that even the broadcast team of Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Emanuel Steward openly, critically and frequently chastised it. They even questioned why the promoter, Bob Arum, on such a big stage with a prize fight in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, would put together such boring match-ups; I feel for the 50,00 plus fans that were in attendance.

Lampley in particular, who has been such an advocate for boxing while openly being critical in his assessment of MMA, didn't do boxing any favors on this night. Besides constantly bringing up the ineptness of the fights he was calling, instead of trying to do his best to cover it up, he seemed to digress from the Emmy award-winning broadcaster he's been for so many years. During his call of the main event, his fawning over Manny Pacquiao was so over the top, it was borderline obsession.

On top of that, at one point in the fight his call even became comedic and amateurish when to describe Pacquiao's constant barrage of unanswered punches he just went into a tirade of using the phrase, "Bang, bang, bang, bang....." It was kind of funny at first, but it quickly became annoying. I didn't know if I was listening to comedian John Witherspoon doing his "Bang, bang" bit from the movie 'Boomerang' or I was watching an old episode of the '60's TV series 'Batman', where they would write out childish sound effects, like in a comic book, to describe each blow. It was just a bad night overall.

I don't want this column to come off as though I am anti-boxing or blinded by my affinity for MMA. Over the years, MMA has had it share of snoozers as well; does Nate Quarry vs. Kalib Starnes or Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Kevin Jordan ring a bell? However, for the most part, fights such as these are far and few in between in MMA. Sure, part of it has to do with the style of fighting MMA presents, but I think another part has to do with the length of the fights.

In MMA, with most fights only going three rounds, there is no time to waste; you either put it on the line or you lose. I know boxing has been around well over a century, but I think they need to look at this model. During 'The Contender' TV series, even with second rate fighters, five round fights made for action packed bouts. There is no time to "feel your opponent out". Not to mention, this would be a lot safer in terms of repeated punches to a boxer's head and body.

As I stated above, I love boxing, I truly do. I grew up on it, appreciate the science behind it and have even laced up the gloves and made it a part of my training regimen over the years. Boxing has a long and storied tradition and I believe it is not as dead as most MMA purists want to say it is. That said, I have to admit, I found myself comparing the two this past Saturday as I sat through each agonizing round. I noticed the crowd I was in was not paying attention to the undercard, unlike MMA fans that watch every prelim fight with interest. I also heard the cries of many in the crowd echoing my very thoughts of, "man this is boring". I hate to admit it, but boxing is beating itself to the punch.

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