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You Mean Boxing Isn't A Dying Sport?

BY Raymond Markarian ON May 04, 2009
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Just about the time Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao hit the scales for the weigh-in for their much anticipated bout on Saturday,  May 2nd, my plane descending to Las Vegas. Unfortunately for me, the weigh-in started at 3pm on Friday and I landed at 3:30. So, the frenzied image of Ricky Hattonites screaming and hollering their catchy-like-the-flu songs was only in my head. No, I did not witness the weigh-in but I had a very clear view of the destruction Pacquiao laid on Hatton on Saturday.

At about 10pm Friday night, I received an email from Monica Sears, the Public Relations Coordinator for Golden Boy Promotions, regarding a 12pm press conference to announce Floyd Mayweather’s return to the ring against Juan Manuel Marquez. I woke up the next morning juiced about the entire day. There were rumors swirling for months about a Mayweather return. It is no secret that he has been regularly training once again. But to hear it officially from the man himself makes it that much better.

Near the front entrance of the Hollywood Theater at the MGM Grand, where the announcement was being made, I bumped into Virgil Hunter, Andre Ward’s trainer. Hunter has been working with Ward in Las Vegas in preparation for Ward’s fight against Edison Miranda on May 16th. The trainer and I differed on our predictions for Hatton/Pacquiao, he chose Hatton, and I liked Pacquiao. But most of our conversation was about the Mayweather return.

“He was never retired. It was a business decision to stay away,” Hunter said about Mayweather. “This is not pride fighting, it is prize fighting.” Hunter believes that Mayweather took the time off to create big money fights with Cotto, and the new pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao. His logic holds truths, there were not many fighters that could have created the financial clout to fight Floyd back in 2007, at least not a mainstream fighter anyway, so now, with the time off, new stars have come into landscape.

The press conference started with a brunch at 11am--which is always nice… can’t beat Vegas food--then the formalities began at 12. Richard Schaefer, the President of Golden Boy Promotions, spoke first, followed by Oscar De la Hoya, who said that “we can no longer believe in the bigger man defeating the smaller man.” Especially after Mayweather and Pacquiao defeated the Golden Boy in 2007 and 2008, right? Marquez sounded pleased about the fight. And Floyd Mayweather was his usual brash self, teasing Oscar De la Hoya with every opportunity.

After the announcements were made it was time for the roughly 100 media members to do their grunt work. Staying true to my profession, I made my rounds with the fighters and promoters to get some one-on-one information.  Marquez and Mayweather were instantly bombarded by the horde. But De la Hoya looked approachable and ready to answer questions. He was in the process of informing a few media members the catch weight of the bout; 143 pounds was what he said originally, but it seems unofficial.

When I asked De la Hoya to give an opinion on the best way to defeat the undefeated Floyd Mayweather, De la Hoya said, “The jab. Jab, jab, jab, that is the best way to beat Mayweather, keeping throwing the jab. That is what we are advising Marquez to do. Mayweather does not like the jab. It bothers him. Floyd Sr. told me that. It was working for me against him, but I stopped throwing it.”

I thanked the future Hall of Famer then walked towards the star attraction. Mayweather’s charisma is clearly evident. No matter how one feels about “Money May,” most have to be pleased about his return to the ring.

As one could expect, Mayweather was gloating about his lifestyle, his fighting skills, and his money to crowd of media members that surrounded him. At one point, Mayweather also went as far to say that there should be two Pound for Pound lists, a P4P list for all the best fighters in the world besides himself, and a “Mayweather list.” When asked who else is included on the Mayweather list, the Pretty Boy said “No one. I shouldn’t even be on a list. I am that good.”

When it was my turn to question the returning champ, I brought up the comments spoken a few moments before by Oscar De la Hoya. Did he agree defending the jab is his greatest weakness? I wanted to hear it from the “Money Man” himself.

“How is Oscar going to tell you how to beat me, when I already beat his (expletive),” Mayweather said, annoyed. “He tried to do the same thing with Ricky Hatton. You saw that, but what happened? I put another checkmark in my book. I should go over there and beat his (expletive) right now,” Mayweather finished, with more mirth. Mayweather made his resentment clear about De la Hoya. And he guaranteed a Golden Boy comeback fight in the near future.

There was an ecstatic energy on fight night. Ricky Hatton’s entrance into the ring made me feel like I was in the middle of Mother Russia, witnessing the entrance of Ivan Drago at the end of Rocky IV. The crowd went nuts when Hatton was being introduced. But the sound of English unity drowned in the deafening roar of Manny Pacquiao fans after the impressive second round KO. Waves of English fans left the arena quickly after Ricky Hatton lights went out, others, impressively dutiful or perhaps execessively intoxicated, continued chanting his name.

The post fight press conference did not tell us much more than we already know. Bob Arum stated that he will wait until the June 13th fight between Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto to decide Pacquiao’s next opponent. Cotto seems like the logical choice. But he also wants to keep Pacquiao busy. So a Pacquiao fight in November 2009 is in the plans regardless.

During the post fight, Shane Mosley sat at the far end of the podium. It is no secret that the Southern California native has been pursuing a big money fight since defeating Antonio Margarito four months ago. As Pacquiao was finishing up his comments, Mosley lightly tapped on the microphone in front of his chair and asked Pacquiao for a fight. But Pacquiao didn’t hear a word Mosley said to him.

It was a strange scene. Mosley, the greatly respected competitor in and out of the ring, did not want to disrupt Manny Pacquiao’s special night. So instead of rudely interrupting Pacquiao (a la Antonio Tarver when he challenged Roy Jones Jr. after the John Ruiz fight in 2003) Mosley did not press the issue. He nobly sat back and allowed the man of the hour to relish his victory.

In Mosley’s defense Bob Arum mentioned his name as a possible opponent for Manny Pacquiao during the post fight press conference. Arum, caught up in the moment, also compared Pacquiao to a young Muhammad Ali. It was a heady time, with a shocking decimation to savor, along with the re-entry of the controversial icon Mayweather to the sport. Arum could be forgiven...

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