When Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fought on May 2nd of this year there appeared to be a lot at stake. Not just for the two participants, but for the entire sport itself. So when the “Fight of the Century” turned out to be anything but, the whinging voices who continually spoke of boxing’s demise had a field day excoriating—not all that unfairly—the match upon which the sport’s future hinged.
Let’s be fair, many of us die-hards were pretty depressed too. We had been waiting over five years for this bout and what we got was a one-sided mismatch that could have been almost any other Floyd Mayweather victory we’ve seen in the past. After that, abandon hope all ye who enter here, right?
Sure, it would have been great if the Manny-Money scrap had matched the spectacle. It still stings a little that it didn’t. However, it did happen, and for one night boxing was the hottest sports ticket on earth. Which means that’s still possible. Do I think we won many converts that night? Probably not. Maybe that’s okay though. Not preferable, but okay. Sometimes surviving the disappointment of a particular event proves the foundation upon which said event existed is greater than that of a single entity.
Such is the case with boxing.
Right now, boxing is everywhere. Not just on PPV, HBO, Showtime and ESPN, but on NBC, CBS, Spike, and several other cable sports networks. My DVR is working overtime right now just to keep up with all the fights available to me. And here’s the funny thing, a lot of the fights haven’t been all that great. Al Haymon’s one man takeover of the boxing airwaves hasn’t produced much in the way of stellar fights. What it has done though, is create access. A fundamental attribute that has been sorely missing for what feels like decades.
Yes, we still need better fights, but the first step in getting anyone’s attention is being available to be seen. Which we are now. Let’s face it, if a boxer falls in the ring and no one is there to notice, does it make a sound? Now we have sound.
And here’s the greater point. Maybe the PBC on NBC, CBS, ESPN, and as more alphabet networks than there are alphabet title holders will be short-lived. Maybe it will all dry up and be sent back to us fringe dwellers who put up with the strange metaphors of Teddy Atlas, the Svengali nature of Al Haymon, the bad judging, bad refereeing, and the general state of corruption and disorganization that has plagued the sport for years. Maybe boxing gets overtaken by MMA to such a degree that the only thing that keeps boxing from being thought of as a fringe sport of a fringe sport is the fact that it came first.
All of that may happen. And when/if it does, we will still be here. We cranky, disgruntled few will do what we’ve always done. We will pick up our take out, crack our beer, and light up the torch known as television and find a fight on a lonely Saturday night somewhere/anywhere.
We will be out there because we have seen boxing survive itself. A miracle if there ever was one. We will be there because we love it. All of it. From the many nights when the fights are complete dross to those hallowed evenings when two combatants enter the ring and ask everything from each other and more. We’ll swim through a river of excrement for that moment.
Light the match. Keep the flame. It’s what we do.