Raskin vs The Envelope=More entertaining main event than Pacquiao vs Mosley. (Chris Farina)
This past Saturday night brought another major boxing pay-per-view event, and you know what means: more bitching from Raskin about how late these things end and how early his son wakes up in the morning. It’s completely illogical that, as a guy who needs a gallon of coffee to keep his eyes open after 9 p.m. and who hates cold weather, I haven’t moved to the west coast yet. But alas, I haven’t, so that means an evening at The Ring Managing Editor Joe Santoliquito’s house in suburban Philadelphia, a running diary column, and four hours of struggling to keep my head from hitting my keyboard.
The crowd was a little different for Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley; instead of the usual collection of boxing writers, this gathering featured just two fight scribes (me and Joe) and a half dozen of Joe’s friends who can be categorized as casual boxing fans. Given how Bob Arum insisted from the moment this fight was signed that it was all about those mainstream fans, you could say it’s appropriate that our little group wasn’t a hardcore fight crowd. Unfortunately, the casual/hardcore imbalance adversely impacts the running diary, as most of Joe’s friends—nice guys, to be sure—spent more time asking questions than contributing meaningful observations. Which means I had to do most of the work myself this time. (Damn you, Nigel Collins, for having conflicting plans and watching the fights later at night on DVR, and damn you, Bill Dettloff, for being afraid to show your face in public while trailing in the Ring Theory “Quick Picks” competition.)
Anyway, if I have to put in a little extra work, so be it. And speaking of doing work, how about how hard the folks at Top Rank and Showtime worked in the weeks leading up to “the fight of the year” (their words, not mine) to confiscate all footage of Mosley’s last two fights, a one-sided loss to Floyd Mayweather and an ugly draw against Sergio Mora? It was a combination of intelligent marketing and dishonest advertising (which I suppose most intelligent marketing is), and the guess here is that it served to sell plenty of PPVs. However, once the PPV began, I figured the selling would stop and the honesty would begin.
Not so much.
But you can always count on the running diary for honesty, so let’s pick it up with the Pacquiao-Mosley PPV extravaganza just underway …
9:04 p.m.: James Brown calls this “the signature boxing event of 2011 so far.” Joe notes that it’s an accurate statement—and remarks on how sad that is. And it’s only going to get sadder over the next four hours, Joe. (For the record, I’d done nothing but criticize the matching of Pacquiao and Mosley from the moment it was first discussed, noting that if the fight stunk as bad as I anticipated it would stink, Arum would be doing boxing a disservice by getting casual fans—and hardcore fans, for that matter—to pay upward of $60 for a disappointing show. Some writers waffled, some gave Mosley a puncher’s chance, some defended the event as good business. Not this writer. And I’m telling you this not to stroke my own ego, but rather to … ah, what the hell. I’m telling you this to stroke my own ego.)
9:08: J.B. looks and sounds legitimately excited to be there. Nothing against HBO at all, but there’s a little extra energy in the Showtime broadcast team because it’s been so long since they’ve done something like this. I don’t like it when announcers shill for the fight, but I’m in favor of broadcasters emitting positive vibes until something happens to force negativity.
9:09: You’ll never guess what Ray Narh’s nickname is: “Sugar.” I like the way those words “Sugar” and “Ray” sound together; more fighters should try that. (For the record, I believe Ray Austin is the only fighting Ray of the last 70 years not to attach the “Sugar” prefix. And can you blame him? Someone decided to give him a nickname referencing an autistic, middle-aged, diminutive movie character, and that really can’t be topped when it comes to coolness and intimidation.)
9:15: Round One of the Narh-Mike Alvarado fight has been brought to you by O’Reilly Auto Parts. Sorry, but you’re wasting your time trying to sell me on those. I get all my auto parts from Ray Zalinsky. He makes auto parts for the American working man, because that’s who he is. Top that, O’Reilly, whoever you are.
9:19: Alvarado lands literally the loudest jab I’ve ever heard, which either means it was a hell of a jab or Showtime has the ring miked really well tonight. Moments later, Alvarado lands an excellent counter right, which blow-by-blow man Gus Johnson calls “a fluky right hand.” What exactly was fluky about it, Gus? Was it supposed to hit the ref and it accidentally caught Narh instead? Did Alvarado experience a freak muscle spasm at that moment, leading his right arm to stretch forward against his will? Call me crazy, but it looked like Alvarado timed his opponent and drilled him in the face quite intentionally.
9:26: Referee Robert Byrd asks Narh in his corner after the third round of a one-sided but not overly punishing bout, “Do you want to fight or do you not want to fight?” Narh seems to indicate he doesn’t want to fight, so Byrd confirms with trainer Kofi Jantuah, “He doesn’t want to fight?” Jantuah says no, and that’s that. Color analyst Antonio Tarver immediately asserts that the commission should withhold Narh’s purse, and this is why it’s good to have a fighter on your broadcast team (assuming he’s well spoken and intelligent, as Tarver is): because he can say something like that and not have to deal with “You’ve never been in the ring” blowback.
9:28: Gus offers up a delicious slice of empty-platitude pie, in reference to Mosley: “I tell you what: He is in shape.” Yup, we’re 28 minutes into the PPV, everybody who’s watching already clicked the “Buy” button, but the salesmanship continues. The coast is clear, guys; it’s safe to admit Mosley’s a huge underdog who just might be a shot fighter—even if he’s “in shape.” (Yes, I’m being hard on Gus, and to be honest, he hasn’t been bad at all to this point—I’m just nitpicking the couple of annoying moments he’s had. If he can merely continue to be non-awful, Tarver and Al Bernstein are so good that the trio will get a strong grade overall.)
9:31: J.B. interviews the Super Six semifinalists, and, manly man that I am, I find myself focused on the sartorial: First, Andre Ward is tragically underdressed in his flannel shirt, while the other three all have suits on; and second, Glen Johnson is so effing cool that he can not only get away with wearing an ascot, but he can make you wish you were wearing an ascot too. (Side note: J.B. acknowledges that Arthur Abraham lost his last two Super Six fights. So we got that disclosure before we heard an admission that Mosley is 0-1-1 in his last two.)
9:35: The Twitterverse begins filling with reports that Narh was experiencing diarrhea the day before the fight. I liked it better when I didn’t know what his excuse for quitting was.
9:39: We get our first good look at Kelly Pavlik’s assortment of new, mostly hideous tattoos. Is it unreasonable for me to connect the dots and suggest he was sauced up when he got most of them? (Yeah, yeah, that’s an insensitive thing to say about a guy with an alcohol problem, I know. But if Dettloff had been at our PPV party, he would have made that comment, so I’m really just channeling his insensitivity, as opposed to being insensitive myself.)
9:42: Tarver observes in the opening round that Alfonso Lopez is a bad style choice for Pavlik’s first fight back, that he moves too much and that Pavlik, after more than a year off, could have used someone who stands right in front of him. Indeed, it’s been a close first round and I’m already feeling good about my official prediction that Lopez will last the distance.
9:45: We get a long look at a round-card girl who has unusually muscular arms and lats and whose armpits look a tad stubbly. Next time they show her, I’m looking for an Adam’s apple.
9:55: Pavlik picks up a dangerous looking cut on the right eyelid in round four, ruled to be from a headbutt. In a living room somewhere in Ohio, Sid Brumback begins sweating uncontrollably.
10:07: Tarver amends his earlier statement somewhat, calling Lopez “the perfect matchup for Pavlik” in that “The Ghost” is getting some work in and getting something out of the experience besides just a “W.” Even when he flip-flops, I like Tarver and what he has to say. I’m forgiving of him in equal proportion to how unforgiving I am of Gus Johnson.
10:15: The moment you’ve been waiting for: Bernstein mentions Mosley’s fights against Mayweather and Mora! I tweet something about this, and I’m informed by @voodooviking425 that Fight Camp 360 actually spent one sentence acknowledging the two fights at some point. Maybe so, but I’m not going to let a little thing like the truth stand in the way of the agenda I’m pushing. (EDITOR NOTE: You're not priming us for an exit, to go work for a certain political party whose methods you just described to an R...I mean, a T, are you?)
10:20: Pavlik lands some bombs as he tries to finish Lopez in the 10th round of what had, through the first eight rounds, been a really close fight. We get our first dose of full-blast Gus, but it’s warranted here. I don’t really mind his excessive-volume approach at all, provided the situation actually calls for it. In any case, Lopez survives and lasts the distance, and the scores range from 99-91 to 95-95 as Pavlik takes a majority decision.
10:26: J.B. is interviewing LL Cool J, who (a) apparently doesn’t age and (b) looks a bit like what Gus Johnson would look like if he packed on 40 pounds of muscle and traded in his specs for aviator shades.
10:30: The casual fans in the room ask where Pacquiao gets his power, and Joe explains that Manny’s calves resemble Popeye’s forearms. On a related note, Floyd Mayweather is petitioning the Nevada commission to begin testing for spinach.
10:31: Jim Gray asks Mosley what advantages he has over Pacquiao. “Well, I don’t know if I have any advantages,” Mosley answers. And the floodgates of truth have opened. Hey, mainstream sports fans, you feeling good about the way those 84 different clips you saw on Fight Camp 360 from Mosley’s win over Antonio Margarito convinced you to spend money on this pay-per-view?
10:36: It’s time for the final undercard bout, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. vs. Jorge Arce, and the ref is Joe “The ‘T’ In TKO Stands For Teabag” Cortez. Wonderful. Word is Cortez has been practicing his high-cross bodyblocks for when it comes time to stop this fight.
10:41: You know, looking at Vazquez’s body just a few minutes after the Pavlik fight ended, it occurs to me that laser tattoo removal will probably be the world’s most thriving industry in about 10 or 20 years. Time for me to look into that in case this whole sports writing thing doesn’t pan out. (ED. NOTE: Too late..Goldman Sachs has already cornered the market, sir.)
10:44: Arce is landing his share of bombs in the second round, and this fight is already more competitive than I expected. It’s hard to believe Arce is only 31. Which means I’ve been writing him off since he was about 23.
10:54: Arce had been doing so well, then he gets dropped by a left hook at the end of the fourth. It’s a stunning, drama-filled moment. And Gus under-reacts. Go figure. (That said, Johnson mostly continues to do just fine, and Cortez hasn’t slipped up at all yet. It truly is the Year of the Upset.)
11:11: Hey, Paris Hilton is in the house! It’s one thing to become a superstar celebrity with no discernable talent. It’s another thing to remain a superstar celebrity for nearly a decade with no discernable talent. It’s infuriating and strangely impressive all at the same time.
11:15: I note that the fatal flaw preventing Vazquez from pulling away in this fight (and probably from ever reaching the true boxing elite) is that his straight right hand pops off with no speed whatsoever. If Arce can see a punch coming almost every time and move his ginormous noggin out of the way of it, that’s a bad sign.
11:18: Hey, Phil Ivey is in the house! We’ve been shown two celebs in the crowd so far, and both of them have made millions of dollars plying their trade on the internet. Sadly, Ivey now has to leave the country to continue earning money online. I wonder if, during the national anthem tonight, they’ll cut that “land of the free” bit.
11:21: The action is turning tremendous in the 11th, and Arce is really taking it to an exhausted Vazquez, who gets shoved to the canvas for the third time in three rounds. This could be a 10-8 round without a knockdown. Here I was, thinking it was phenomenal that Arce was merely being competitive. Now it looks like he’s actually going to pull off the upset.
11:24: As Arce unloads bombs to open the 12th, I have to give Cortez credit, he’s looking in but, quite correctly, not stopping the fight. Then Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. throws in the towel, which I think is the correct move. It was a peculiar situation in that the ref was right not to stop the fight, but a corner stoppage was warranted. Vazquez Jr. isn’t happy with his dad, but the reality is that he couldn’t win the fight on the cards just by lasting the distance, so I like the compassionate surrender.
11:25: You have to feel great for Arce, who turned back the clock just like his longtime stablemate Erik Morales did a few weeks earlier in nearly upsetting Marcos Maidana. There must be something in the water in Mexico. Sadly, Ray Narh seems to have had a glass of the wrong kind of Mexican water.
11:26: I tweet, “Jorge Arce: shades of Michael Carbajal against … Jorge Arce.” Is there anything more egomaniacal than quoting your own tweets in your article? Yes, there is. And besides, when you’re the world’s most brilliant tweeter, you feel obliged to quote yourself. (See, told you there was something more egomaniacal.)
11:34: With the main event just around the corner (after only another half-hour or so of BS-ing), Johnson claims Pacquiao and Mosley “have always sought the biggest and most significant challenges available.” Well, you know, except for Pacquiao choosing to fight Mosley.
11:35: Tarver, having just completed Lennox Lewis’ advanced cliché course, tells everyone to go get the popcorn early because they’re not going to want to miss a minute of this. Come on, Antonio. You’re better than that.
11:43: After a shoutout to the troops and a decent enough rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by Fast Five star Tyrese Gibson, Jamie Foxx pours every ounce of his unparalleled self-adoration into God Bless America. Who knew you could get this much canned patriotism on a boxing show not promoted by Don King? A frequent PPV-party guest who’s absent tonight, boxing writer Don Stewart, makes a virtual appearance with an enjoyable tweet: “Are they going to bring Bin Laden’s body into the ring? Enough already!”
11:45: The anthems are over … and it’s time for a prefight video package. God forbid the opening bell rings before midnight on the east coast.
11:49: Tarver: “It’s going to be a locomotive and an unmovable object meeting.” Oh no. Really, Antonio? Am I going to have to take back all the nice things I’ve said about you?
11:50: LL Cool J raps “Mama Said Knock You Out” live as Mosley makes his way to the ring. Cool entrance. It’s amazing: Even when I know the outcome of the fight in advance, a well hyped event involving the biggest star in the sport can still get my butterflies going a little.
11:52: Mosley had LL; Pacquiao has Jimi Jamison, lead singer of the band Survivor, singing “Eye Of The Tiger” live. (Random factoid: Jamison was not yet in the band when “Eye Of The Tiger” was recorded, but became the lead singer in time for “Burning Heart.”) When Jim Gray asked Shane earlier what advantages he has and Mosley said none, that includes the ability to repackage an overdone ring entrance song. Pacquiao is a step ahead again.
12:03 a.m.: The opening bell rings! Look what time it is. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.
12:05: Mosley lands a good right hand with about 30 seconds left in a mostly cautious opening round. It was a close round, but I think I’ll give it to Mosley. Enjoy those words, because you won’t see them typed again anywhere in this running diary.
12:13: Pacquiao has more or less taken control but hasn’t landed anything spectacular—until a straight left scores with a minute to go in the third round, sending Mosley down for the first time since 2002. Clearly, this is going to be an a**-whipping; the question is whether it will be a brief a**-whipping or a prolonged a**-whipping. In other words, Pacquiao-Hatton or Pacquiao-Cotto?
12:21: Mosley has survived the danger and gradually completed the transition into “happy to be here” mode. The fighters enjoy a friendly glove touch for no good reason in the middle of round five. Joe’s reaction: “Oh, stop with that s---.” I agree. Touching gloves is fine before the fight and at the start of the final round. Otherwise, save that lovey-dovey stuff for Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas.
12:23: Monotony is setting in during the sixth round, as Pacquiao has no fear of incoming fire and is dominating without getting anything spectacular done.
12:30: The crowd is booing as the seventh round comes to a close. Congratulations, Bob Arum; you found a way to make people boo a Pacquiao fight. I’ll never forget these words of wisdom from my high school cross-country coach: “You can’t polish a turd.” Pacquiao-Mosley is a turd of the highest order, as everyone who saw Mosley-Mora knew it would be. To be fair, there weren’t many options for Pacquiao that weren’t going to be mismatches. But it doesn’t ease the pain of knowing there are thousands of first-time pay-per-view customers out there who are also deciding right now to be last-time pay-per-view customers.
12:34: The cameras cut to Mosley’s girlfriend, Bella Gonzalez, after the eighth round. I can’t quite tell if her facial expressions denote anger at her boyfriend or concern for her boyfriend. Then we get a well-timed cut to Jinkee Pacquiao, with a sly little half smile on her face. It’s good to be the queen.
12:39: Tarver is asked who he’d pick in Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, he finds a creative way not to answer the question, and the whole broadcast booth erupts into an NFL-pregame-show-style excessive cackle-fest. Then again, who am I to criticize? I oversell every Dettloff joke on Ring Theory. (ED. NOTE: Does Detloff read these? Will he be irked if yes?)
12:41: Mosley pushes Pacquiao to the canvas in the 10th round, and Kenny Bayless calls it a knockdown! It’s an unimaginably bad call, and Pacquiao is pissed—which is bad news for Mosley. Pac-Man dominates the rest of the round, prompting me to score it 10-10 because the knockdown call was so obviously wrong and making the round even is the biggest reward I can in good conscience give Mosley.
12:42: The replays confirm just how awful the knockdown call was. I’ve long considered Bayless the best ref in the business, but he’s been slipping a bit the last couple of years, and I have to say, I think the refereeing pound-for-pound championship belt has been passed. I’m strapping it around Tony Weeks’ waist for now. That said, here’s how good Bayless is: His screwup actually made the fight better. It had gotten painfully dull prior to the incorrect call, and that ruling created at least a modicum of drama.
12:46: Gus at the start of round 12: “I’m reallllly disappointed in Shane Mosley.” Looks like someone prepped for this broadcasting gig by watching Fight Camp 360 and nothing else. Gus, watch Mosley’s 22 prior rounds of competition; this performance was a logical progression for a fighter pushing 40. And frankly, I’m in no position to give Mosley a hard time for not trying very hard to win. True story: I was licking a Mother’s Day envelope the day of the fight, got a paper cut on my face, and yelped and snapped my head back. Granted, nobody paid me $5-million plus pay-per-view upside to lick the envelope. But still.
12:52: The fight is over and we’re being shown “highlights,” including the third-round knockdown, where Mosley looks good and dazed as he hits the canvas. One of Joe’s friends peeks inside Mosley’s brain and offers, “Where am I? What are all these people doing in my bedroom?”
12:53: The decision is being read. I have it 119-109. The judges score it 119-108, 120-108, and 120-107. It takes a special kind of fighter to get knocked down and end up with 120 points. And don’t let this dull affair fool you; Manny is still plenty special.
12:57: Give Jim Gray credit, he asks Mosley a tough question about why he didn’t take enough risks and seemed not to be really trying to win.
12:58: Never mind, take credit away from Gray. He has a microphone in the face of a guy who fought both Pacquiao and Mayweather in the last 12 months, and he doesn’t bother to ask him who would win if the two best fighters in the world fought each other.
1:02: Hey, what do you know, Gus Johnson thinks it’s time for Pacquiao-Mayweather. Great idea, big guy. Why hasn’t anyone else thought of that? In all seriousness, I don’t know if Pacquiao-Mayweather would be any more thrilling than Pacquiao-Mosley was. But it’s a fight for which nobody can confidently foretell the outcome. And right about now, boxing could use a major event where that’s the case.
Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.