The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Dead Wrong

“The Fight’s Dead”

I have great respect for Dan Rafael as a reporter, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that, despite Arum as the source, this is essentially an accurate report.

There are times when even after 15+ years as a fan of boxing and having done my share of reading up on its mobbed-up and racist past in the works of AJ Liebling and elsewhere, that even I’m astonished by how incredibly screwed-up this sport is. I could (and others certainly will) spend a great deal of time carefully portioning out blame for this fiasco, but the reality is that everyone involved with it looks worse than they did before negotiations began and for good reason. Floyd Mayweather has once again managed to find a way to avoid facing a top level opponent (one who, like all the others, he would be favored against), and with the rumors of Pauli Malignaggi and Matthew Hatton as potential fallback fights that looks unlikely to change. For a fighter calling himself “money”, he’s also managed to turn down what would have been far and away the largest payday he could secure right now, leaving a skeptical boxing world to resume speculating on the reasons for that. Manny Pacquiao has pissed away a gigantic payday and the chance to score the defining win of his career, and in the process his people have handled the PR end so ineptly that they’ve allowed, for the first time ever, drug allegations about him to enter into common mainstream discourse on his career. Mayweather and his people, in turn, have been so inept in their handling of that situation that instead of holding a bout agreement, they’ve walked away from these negotiations as defendants in a defamation suit. Golden Boy, Arum, HBO and every other industry big hitter involved with this fiasco collectively allowed negotiations to spiral so far out of control that instead of promoting the most lucrative fight of all time, they find themselves trying to convince the public to care about fall-back fights involving the likes of Yuri Foreman and his plastic trinket at 154.

It’s a goddamn disaster.

The biggest issue here is that this one isn’t coming back. They may still get their shit together and stage the fight later this year, or early next year, or two years from now…or, like Jones-Hopkins II maybe they won’t have the chance. The fact that Arum is trying to get Golden Boy’s share in Pacquiao’s contract voided and Pacquiao still has an outstanding lawsuit against Mayweather et al. doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. But whether they do or they don’t, the sense of the moment won’t be there. This fight was set up as the perfect culmination of a great story: boxing’s re-emergence into the mainstream sporting consciousness, the final collision of two all-time great fighters on parallel paths, a great villain against a great popular hero, a dynamic defensive fighter against the best offensive fighter of this generation, with both men still in their primes. Some of that will remain, but much won’t: the drug testing fracas has most likely hurt Pacquiao’s image, not securing the fight will hurt Mayweather’s, the timing of the fight if it ever happens will be something of an anti-climax after at least one and for all we know a series of meaningless fall-back fights, and worst of all the story is different now. It’s not about boxing’s re-emergence; whether it’s fair or not, whether it’s accurate or not, whether it’s true or not, the story is now that when the chips were down it was the same old bullshit in this sport. Same old boxing, where the best will sometimes fight the best… but more often find reasons not to. Where creepy, cranky old promoters sell bullshit fights for meaningless belts on PPV and allow hurt feelings to get in the way of promoting the best fights. Where you can’t trust that any of this is actually going anywhere, where what you see isn’t what you get. In a sport plagued by bad judging and bad decisions, this was the worst of them all. It’s been easy to focus on what’s made boxing great in the recent past- the huge fights like Mayweather-De La Hoya and Pacquiao-Cotto, the amazing quality of some of the best fighters, great ideas like the Super Six, etc. But boxing is never more than a step ahead of its demons and it’s not hard to see the darker side of recent boxing history: Antonio Margarito’s loaded gloves, bad decisions like Funeka-Guzman and Diaz-Malignaggi, and the questions now swirling around Pacquiao. It’s not hard to guess which of those two narratives the press is going to run with, and as a fight fan, I’m less inclined to argue with them than ever before.

The NFL is the most popular sport in America; soccer is the most popular sport worldwide. There’s a multitude of reasons why in each case, but here’s an under appreciated and basic one: they don’t fucking cancel the Super Bowl or the World Cup, unless there’s a world war on. Sometimes referees get something wrong, sometimes the result seems to be spoiled by something, sometimes the game or games just kinda suck; but one way or another, you can trust that they will at least happen. In boxing, well… I’d like to say that when the chips are down the right call always gets made, and the most lucrative fight (which is in the end often the most interesting to the public for obvious reasons) ends up happening, but I’d be lying if I said so right now. How can you defend a sport or try to sell it to other people when you can’t even honestly tell them that the biggest money fight in history is a lock to happen? It’s a wholly ridiculous state of affairs, and an indictment of everyone in a decision-making position of power. And frankly, if we fight fans allow this to happen without some response it’s an indictment of us. I don’t know if a boycott of their future fights is the answer, but I do know that I have never in my life had less interest in watching great fighters charge obscene prices to face mediocre opposition, especially not under these circumstances.

I’m not big on moralistic readings of these situations. I don’t think the fighters “owe” it to boxing, or to fans, or to history, or anyone or anything really to make the fight. But they are prize fighters, and I do expect them to behave as such. So when I see two prize fighters and their handlers and the promoters who employ them turn down a fight for the largest prize ever, and the reason has nothing to do with money and everything to do with personal BS, disagreements over drug testing, fear of competition and petty desire to “win” negotiations instead of putting together one of the best, largest and most important events in the history of one of the oldest and greatest of sports, I get angry. I get angry because the people in charge of this sport, who control its life and death, its present and future, its hopes for a rebirth and fears of a final slip into irrelevance, are too goddamn stupid to put together the easiest, most natural, most financially juicy fight they could ever be handed by fate and timing. I don’t expect favors as a fan from people in boxing, I’m not that naive; I do expect them to reach the baseline fog-a-mirror level of competence required to not fuck up the most important fight of my lifetime. And the fact that they can’t is as depressing as anything I’ve seen in boxing this side of the tragedy of in-ring deaths.

In short, this is complete bullshit. More on this later, no doubt.

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January 7, 2010 - Posted by | Boxing

2 Comments »

  1. I think that, ultimately, this is a good thing. This MASSIVE fight was being rushed along so that Pac could run for office (stupid). This will make the fight bigger. The mainstream media will essentially be reporting on this fight in to the fall, which is better than just giving up on the story after the fight in March.

    I have no doubt that this fight will get signed for the fall, and as such there will be a proper amount of time to sell the fight. It sucks that we have to wait, but in this case, I really think it’s worth it.

    Comment by Tony M | January 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. All I can say is I really, really hope you’re right because I agree with you completely that this was being rushed. I just have very little confidence in all the parties right now to get their shit together.

    Comment by theshipbesinking | January 7, 2010 | Reply


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