So it looks like our long national nightmare is over. Manny and Money are finally going to get it on. Since the announcement last week, the internet has been ablaze with huzzahs and hosannas. The ship finally came in, boys! But not to everyone. If you peek around the edges, you will find a small vocal minority that questions not only the timing of the fight, but its very relevance. By and large, these complaints come not from the casual sports fan who quite likely can’t name another fighter outside of the aforementioned two, but rather from hardcore types like me.
I agree to a point on the timing. It would have been far better to catch these two five years ago when both were in peak form. Both have shown signs of age and vulnerability in the last half decade and it’s unlikely it will be the fight we all hoped for. That remains to be seen of course, but it’s a reasonable belief.
That being said, would these cranky sorts be happier if the fight never happened? If the two greatest champions of their era, well matched by weight and skill never faced off? Look, I know bitterness can be its own reward, but that seems excessive.
Furthermore, it’s not always about us. And by us, I mean those of us so fully devoted to the sport that we can rattle off the details, scorecards, and rounds of great and even not so great fights from years gone by. Boxing has been in trouble for a long time, folks. Outside of the mismanagement at the top, the credibility killing decisions made by “judges”, and just the general lack of access to the sport for the casual fan, widespread interest in the fight game is at a near all-time low. I don’t know about you, but when people find out I love boxing, they often look at me like I’m in a cult. I’d swear some were not even aware the sport still existed.
Well, that’s about to change. And right soon.
Why? Because people actually care about this. Not just you and me who suffer through bad fights on ESPN and come way out of pocket for pay cable and PPV just to get our fix, but folks who would otherwise not go out of their way to watch a match if it were taking place in their own backyard. Boxing once again has buzz. And man, does it need it.
This is a thing to be grateful for, not to raise a stink eye at.
Some of the criticisms I’ve heard from boxing lifers are curious, but worth mentioning. One social mediate claimed the fight was irrelevant because Marquez flattened Manny in August of 2012. Logic does not meet its match here. I wonder if anyone would make the same argument about Joe Frazier after he got crushed by George Foreman. If so, then the “Thrilla in Manilla” would have never happened just two years later. Oh sure, Ali-Frazier 3 had the benefit of the other two parts of the trilogy, but the setting is similar–two slow fading giants going head to head, despite wear on the tires. If we all remember correctly, that was one hell of a fight. Regardless of what Frazier and Ali were short of when they entered the ring on that fabled eve.
I’ve also heard that the fight is not likely to be a good one not only because of length of the tooth, but because of the way Floyd fights. Again, this may end up being true. However, that does not mean it will be short on drama. Consider the Hagler-Leonard fight. Take away the names of those two fighters and ask yourself, “Was that a great fight?” You had Hagler practically begging Sugar Ray to actually fight and you had Leonard running around the ring for 2 ½ minutes and then stealing rounds by slapping Marvin furiously on the shoulders for the final 30 seconds. Still, the names made that fight. People watched because of who was in the ring. Because they didn’t know they would ever see those two face off. The same is true here.
People want to know who is better. Besides, the will they/won’t they nature of the last several years has created its own sex appeal. It’s like we finally caught that girl we’ve been chasing all those years. Maybe neither of us are as good looking as we were when the hunt began, but we aren’t sorry to be where we are now. Or at least we shouldn’t be.
I even read one person on Facebook argue the fight wasn’t relevant “just because people want to see it.” Which I found fascinating. I suppose you can argue that overwhelming interest in an event doesn’t equal relevance, but that seems a high hill to climb. On the other hand, extreme levels of indifference most certainly equal irrelevance. Just consider the alternatives to this bout. Manny or Money taking on Amir Khan? Mayweather/Cotto 2? Hell, I can’t get excited about any of those options, I have no idea how anyone outside the inner sanctum of boxing could.
So yes, this fight is relevant because large numbers of people want to see it. Not only that, but it is the absolute best thing for boxing. A sport that has deeply waning appeal to the casual fan will for at least one night be the biggest thing going. That’s good because, you know, that’s how you grow things. Having stuff that interests people. Manny and Money interest people. This is hardly a small thing. Boxing needs event fights. This surely qualifies.
Quick. Name me the big event fight from 2014 that stirred the masses, that led off SportsCenter, that made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Ready? Go.
Yeah, crickets. Just like I thought.
Once again, I agree the fight may not have all the juice it would have back when Floyd was still inescapable and Manny was the whirling dervish leaping weight classes and busting up bigger opponents like he was on a mission (he kinda was, wasn’t he?). We have a little over two months before this fight happens. And yes, I know there is many a slip betwixt a cup and Floyd’s lip. This could still go south over god only knows what. Should it not though, imagine what this leap into spring is going to be like? As the fight grows closer, what will people be talking about? They will be talking about boxing. I repeat, BOXING.
You can be cynical about this match up if you choose to. That’s not hard to do. It may make you feel superior on some level, I suppose. As for me, I know a gift when I receive one. I also know it would be bad manners to return it.
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