As a six year old in 1964, and seeing Cassius Clay on TV for the first time (right before he challenged Sonny Liston for the undisputed heavyweight title), I’ve been obsessed with the sport of amateur and professional boxing.
I’ve spent countless hours thinking about it, watching it, training, sparring and fighting and then back to observing it both near and from afar.
And after all that, one of the things that amazes me the most is how often and easily fighters and their fans lie to themselves.
I remember as a 12-year old trying to convince anyone who would listen that Muhammad Ali was robbed of the decision the first time he fought “Smokin” Joe Frazier on March 8th, 1971. I reasoned that the boxing establishment was out to get Ali because of his opposition to the Vietnam war. Even going as far as to say that Judge Bill Recht, who scored the fight 11-4 in favor of Frazier, must’ve had a son who was drafted and that’s why he was so biased in how he saw the fight in favor of Frazier so decidedly.
Well, around 1972 I was re-watching the Super 8MM version of the fight with my friend across the street who loved Frazier as much as I loved Ali. While we were watching the fight for the umpteenth time, I was going through my theatrics every time Muhammad landed a punch trying to illustrate how Ali really won the bout. However, I noticed my buddy fell asleep and it was a waste of time trying to convince him that my guy won. So I sat down and continued watching the fight. As the rounds went by I asked myself if I just landed on earth from Mars and didn’t know the name of either guy, who would I think was getting the better of it; the short guy wearing the green trunks or the tall guy wearing the red trunks? And for the first time I was honest and said if I didn’t know who was who, I’d say the short guy in green trunks was winning….as we all know Ali was the taller guy sporting the red trunks and tassels on his boxing shoes. From that moment on I promised myself that I’d never lie to myself regarding whether or not my fighter or team won or lost. At that moment I realized that my manhood or self-worth had nothing to do regarding whether or not my guy won or lost.
Today, when I re-watch Frazier-Ali I, I realize Bill Recht’s score of 11-4 wasn’t that far off. I usually score the fight 9-6 Frazier with 10-5 being very plausible. I was at the fight that night watching it live from the rafters of Madison Square Garden and had no doubt Joe won convincingly seeing it live and in the moment. A few years later Ali even admitted that he lost the first Frazier fight. He came back and beat Joe in their two subsequent bouts to win their trilogy and historically Ali deservedly ranks above Frazier.
When Floyd Mayweather won a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao earlier this year, many Mayweather haters and Pacquiao fans cried over the decision and tried to convince anyone who would listen that Pacquiao really won the fight, which is flat out wrong. They reasoned that Floyd ran and Manny was the aggressor. This actually borders on being insane. Mayweather didn’t run, he used his feet and boxed Pacquiao as it was stated in this space he would numerous times since 2009. He took advantage of Pacquiao’s ineptness at cutting off the ring and his tendency to fight in spurts instead of applying bell-to-bell aggression. In fact, Pacquiao wasn’t close to being an effective aggressor and wasn’t even Floyd’s toughest fight, something that had a lot to do with their natural fighting styles and Mayweather’s advantages in size and reach.
This past week Chris Chase of the USA today wrote, “Think back to this past May, if you will. It was a Saturday night. You gathered with your friends, either at their place or yours, then you collectively sat around, put $100 into the toilet and flushed, just waving goodbye to that substantial amount of cash. Remember that? The night of the dud of the century bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the one Mayweather controlled from the outset while tediously jabbing his way to victory, all while your $99.95 went up in smoke, like the hundred-dollar bills Floyd probably uses to light cigars? Remember that? Well, it’s been three-and-a-half months and Manny Pacquiao still somehow thinks he won that fight.”
Pacquiao thinks he won the fight? Really. Just look at his disposition during the bout after the fifth round and tell me that’s a fighter who really believes in his heart that he’s winning. Manny looked confused and bewildered because he was.
No, Mayweather didn’t beat him up and yes Pacquiao had an injured shoulder, but come on, Mayweather, with the exception of the fourth round, basically controlled the entire bout. He fought when he wanted to. He pot-shotted and boxed when he wanted to and even backed Pacquiao up when he sensed Manny was confused and searching for an answer on how to attack him with even a modicum of success. Something that never really transpired over the course of 12-rounds or 36 minutes of fighting/boxing.
It’s nearly four months out from the fight and Pacquiao is healing from shoulder surgery. There’s no doubt that he’s not done fighting and I expect that he’ll try and get a rematch with Mayweather. If I were him, I certainly would. I’d justify it by reasoning even with one arm I didn’t really get beat up and managed to win a few rounds. And if I’m Mayweather, I’d announce my retirement after I beat Andre Berto and then UN-retire and come back to fight Pacquiao for my 50th career win. And my justification for that would be the money for the fight, though not as good as the first time, will still be off the chart. In addition to that, Pacquiao wasn’t my toughest fight and there’s nothing he can do differently if we fight again.
And therein lays the problem for Manny if he gets another shot at Floyd. Firstly, he better come to reality and accept that he lost to Mayweather and really never even gave him one good scare during the entire fight when they last met. If he accepts the truth, which isn’t a given, somehow he and trainer Freddie Roach better come up with a plan that enables Manny to get inside and force the fight, thus making it impossible for Mayweather not to engage with him. This means Pacquiao will have to reinvent himself stylistically, and those odds aren’t too good, especially if he thinks just bringing more of what didn’t work the last time will work. This is the real world and reinventing himself from a stylistic vantage point won’t be easy. This is the real world and not Rocky III.
Sadly, before Manny even has a chance to try and reconstruct his style, he must break from the mold in which most elite fighters can’t admit they lost unless they were knocked out or punched all over the ring. Based on his thoughts suggesting that he won and Mayweather ran, it doesn’t look good. Lastly, it’s really not all that difficult to accept if you’re a big Pacquiao fan that Mayweather won their fight because he really did. And believe it or not it doesn’t make you less of a person or fan because your guy lost. It’s life and everybody suffers setbacks and defeats, no one is spared from that and hopefully we learn and grow from it.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com