Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pacquiao For Progress


Apologies for my extended absence and I hope to do better in the future but I couldn’t let this one go by without a word.

Anyone who has ever read my work will know where my sympathies extend regarding Pacquaio and Margarito. The two are basically the avatars – polarities – of my boxing worldview so I won’t pretend to offer much nuance or reasoned insight.

I want Pacquiao to give Marg’s a royal beating. Not in some moralistic sense, “the jolly Filipino damaging the cheating and surly Mexican,” though I won’t pretend there’s not some of that here.

No, Pacquiao to me has always represented physical inspiration – man as body-electric, that thin-wild-mercury.

I’ve perhaps been a little eager to overlook his obvious intelligence and refinement of craft; partially due to language issues and his outsized friendliness and good-nature but I make no apologies for that. He’s compelling to me because he’s so physical, joyous, and righteous in his movements. The loveliness and freedom and excitement that comes from seeing a human body so perfectly suited to its task.

In the same way it’s transfixing to watch a nature show featuring a bird of prey in descent, a leopard giving chase, or more apt in this context, a regal steed at the races – Secratariat powering down the tracks while onlookers weep in the stands; that’s what Pacquiao is to me. A human body honed and suited to its purpose. I can’t remark enough on what a rare and perfect thing that is, a true joy for us muddlers and tumblers lurching about in the muck; those of us for whom moments of completeness are so rare and profound in our own lives they are often only spoken of in a religious or drug-filtered context.


Pacquiao represents a fullness of being that is rare and special, which I call inspiration. A gift from the void that only the select have and is a blessing and joy to watch.

And Margarito? Well, he’s something of the opposite. I’ve always found him unwatchable and unsympathetic, a rebuke to the way I try to justify and enjoy and filter the callous blood lust of this sport. For people like me it’s important to build narrative filters and deeper subtexts to the sport so that it goes beyond blood and bone and moves into history and manhood and craft and the unstoppable forward march of progress.

And Margarito brings all of that into question. A crude slugger, slow, impenetrable. He lacks class not in the sense that he’s a poor kid from Mexico, (Erik Morales, another poor kid from the same streets Margarito emerged from is also one of my talisman of regal overcoming,) but in the sense that he is a move away from boxing as sweet science and towards the crudity of sheer force and muscle. He’s a step away from progress and refinement.

I’ve used the quote many times before, but A.J. Liebling’s take always seems apt to me when speaking of Margarito, “If the animal could beat even a fair fighter, it meant that two hundred and fifty years of painfully acquired experience had been lost to the human race; science was a washout and art a vanity.”

Science a washout and art a vanity. That’s what’s on the line here. Some see it as a moral contest between the loathsome Margarito and the virtuous Pacquiao, but something far deeper is at stake; the narrative history of the sport and progress. The sanctity of class and worth.

True, Margarito will be a full 15-20 lbs larger, but Pacquiao has now taken over the mantle of genius, the surpassing quality of incandescent ability over and above the utility of force. Margarito is trying to queer the game, to turn it around and backwards; Pacquiao is the clever defender of the library facing the torch-wielders.

Of course the moral overlay is heavy and I won’t ignore it. Margarito is a cheater and just generally unlikable and slimy. The vicious pleasure of his loss will be undeniable.

But it’s secondary. Though I greatly admire Evander Holyfield, his worldview wherein the right-cross of the righteous is superior to that of the wicked is deeply flawed.

My own – deeply flawed – worldview can perhaps be framed by the Obama/King Jr/ Parker quote that, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” (The disappointing midterm elections being – of course – a reminder of the cutbacks in the bend)


Only in my world, and in boxing, it bends towards class and beauty. Do you get it? Do you see what’s on the line. It’s much the same thing I felt when Manny fought Ricky Hatton, only with Margarito’s deeper textures of degradation and Pacquiao’s now inflated importance.

So, with the stakes being defined, am I nervous? Yes, a little. The customary pre-fight antics with a supposedly inferior Pacquiao training camp are unmoving to me, but the size difference is daunting. I can envision Pacquiao trapped against the ropes and damaged by a body shot, unable to appropriately respond and it fills me with dismay.

But I just can’t move beyond my respect for speed and skill. I mean, we’re talking about no less than the co-equal fastest fighter of his day against the slowest elite-level fighter in recent memory. That’s got to tell doesn’t it?

And more importantly I just keep feeling that bend towards justice, that bend towards the big happening. It doesn’t work the way it should, but Pacquiao is clearly meant for bigger things than to fall to a crude villain. Isn’t he? We need more answers than this will provide. Its important to boxing’s ragged march.

Of course that’s a construct, but it’s how I’m taking this one. I won’t hide that my lack of writing on boxing of late has been partially due to the fact that we’ve had a few dour months here. I haven’t liked it a bit and in lieu of real analysis sometimes I just think it’s important to filter ones hopes and pleasures as they come.

And so it is that I see my little Filipino muse standing victorious tonight, arms raised in joy at the surpassing pleasure of being a triumphant body, a genetic and evolutionary gift unsurpassed in his time and a step towards the inevitable victory of grace and science and art in the face of an otherwise directionless universe.

Pacquiao fighting!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dawson Sleeps

“I fought my fight.” It’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it? Often it means controlling space and the speed of the action. It’s what a fighter wants. Mastery.

It seemed somehow different on Saturday when Chad Dawson used the phrase after he “fought his fight,” to his first career loss. Jean Pascal is a good fighter and it’s normally an unhelpful modern boxing phenomenon to overeact to one loss, but wasn’t there something fundamentally revealing about Chad Dawson – pound-for-pound contender – on Saturday night?

I joked earlier about Dawson’s non-personality, and I sometimes call him the first comatose titlist in boxing history, but didn’t it feel like that? That’s your title, Chad, don’t give it away.

I had the fight 106-103 Pascal when it was stopped on that gruesome cut. Pascal is a good fighter, though a bit of a spazz. He's not particularly fun to watch and I don't think he'll hang on to that championship long. Bernard Hopkins uses a similar move and lunge technique and it has gotten him far, but I don't think Pascal has the same type of evil intellect to keep it going too long.


Dawson had Pascal dinged at the end, but did you really feel he was going to stop him? I’m thinking here of Chavez chasing down Taylor, Israel Vazquez hammering at Rafael Marquez, or hell, even Librado Andrade flattening Lucian Bute…

Dawson doesn’t have that, or at least didn’t on Saturday night. Which is not to say that he can’t one day become everything he’s capable of, a tremendous champion with a long string of defenses. But it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever be a moving champion, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever inspire passion. It's entirely explicable that he has zero fans.

Because he only wants to “fight his fight,” and sometimes you have to do more. You have to go where it’s uncomfortable and push. You think the other guy is head butting you? Fine, hit him low. You think the crowd is against you? Send a straight left right through the guys mandible and shut them up.

I say this not as a judgment of his character – because I know I have more Dawson in me than I do Erik Morales – I just think it’s the truth. It’s some of the same frustration I feel when watching Joshua Clottey fight. I feel a little frustrated, but more than that I just feel tired and uninspired.

Boxing is about pushing beyond the possible, Dawson hasn’t even pushed up against it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nostos, Or How I Came To Love The Blog

I’m back. And as I always say to the highway patrolman when he looks at me funny, “Get bent, honky!”

But really, you can check out my farewell post at The Rumble, here. The Sporting News is killing all of their blogging content and intends to become a waystation for discussions of RBIs and the dime defense. More power to them.

As for me, it’s time to get radical again. The Rumble was fun, but frankly I only get about one good idea a week, and most of them have to do with ways to bring down the mendacious system we live in. As L. Cohen always said, “They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom, for trying to change the system from within.” In some sense I consider this an early parole.

Inspired by some Freedarko friends I have some big ideas for the future; which I won’t expand on too much for fear of disappointing, given my family's somewhat loving nickname for me, “The laziest white boy in America. I’ve already talked with a couple outlets on doing some freelance stuff and you can also keep track of me on my newly acquired twitter. I’m so pithy I hurt my own brains.

But to start things off I thought I’d give a little preview of this weekend’s big fight, Chad Dawson-Jean Pascal. They made this sucker about six months ago, at which point I was incredibly excited, but I’m almost exhausted from the wait.
Almost, but not quite. I think it has some real potential. Dawson is an excellent fighter, well-deserving of his spot on the important lists, but let’s be real here… I might be “the laziest white boy in America,” but Chad Dawson is auditioning for the part of “the most boring black man on the continent.”

And I don’t mean only in the ring. He’s actually not a colossal stinker in there. Yeah, he’s a boxer first, but he’ll rumble when he has to. He simply has zero on the charisma meter, I’m talking nothing here… as in the first certifiably comatose champion in boxing history. So little interest he has garnered that he’s actually going on the road for this fight.

And that’s why he needs Pascal. Jean Pascal is just the sort of loose-limbed French speaking Montrealer (sic) that dreams are made of. He’s powerful and athletic, but reminds me of an MMA fighter, and I don’t mean that in a flattering way. He’s all flail and juke and lunge. The kind of guy who’s liable to head butt the referee by accident.

I have a feeling the styles will mix. I don’t see anyone at light heavyweight who can match Dawson’s science, so you need an opponent of a different sort. A martian using perhaps inferior - but nonetheless effective – technology is capable of disrupting a more mechanistically advanced society.
That’s Pascal’s shot. I think he’ll land some obnoxious wingers and Dawson will get hurt. Dawson has shown some fragility in the past, so he’ll be vulnerable, but… ultimately, I think he’ll make it to the end.

And if it goes the twelve I just can’t see Pascal winning. Dawson is too good. So despite some hairy moments I see Chad Dawson unifying the titles and becoming the Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion. He doesn’t have the personality to fill the prestigious role, but if you’re good enough, it makes up for all the rest.

Chad Dawson UD 116-111 Jean Pascal