Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Killing Time

Last Saturday Vitali Klitschko defended his heavyweight belt with an absurd first round stoppage of Odlanier Solis. It was ridiculous, a simultaneous punch and knee injury saw Solis toppling over like some stricken beast of the plains. A great or notable event? Of course not, but normally I would have taken some cruel enjoyment from the spectacle.

Two Saturdays ago Sergio Martinez stopped Sergei Dzinziruk and managed to retain his middleweight title. It was a stunning and beautiful performance. The defining punch – a short and sneaky straight left– was set up by a lowered hands/clowning moment. It was a machismo display of physical superiority and personal disdain that is my athletic ideal. It was lovely.

But I was left empty.

I’ve been trying to understand why. I watch all the fights, always. I am aware and I watch, but still, it’s somehow, so… preamble. I feel like it’s all preliminary.

That’s the thing about boxing, it’s not really supposed to be like that. Every fight is important, each moment a potential answer. It doesn’t require the highest levels as long as the participants are game and the deeply personal is there. The fighter’s insides are visible when it’s great, and a body doesn’t always need to be elite to be capable of communicating meaning and courage.

But something has been missing to me, that feeling of presence and life and importance in the ring. I think I know what it is.

I’m tired of it, too, but hear me out.

Have you ever had a thing so big in your life that nothing feels (and here I mean that engrossing fullness of a life in the present) without the resolution of that thing? I’m sure you have. Perhaps it was the fate of a loved one, the birth of a child, or the tangled pain of a relationship at loose ends; but you must know what I’m talking about?

I’m speaking of that huge mewling hole in the heart that makes every other relationship/event/activity that happens seem unimportant and pale in comparison to the big thing.

She is/was meant for me, you understand? It’s something one knows or feels and all the rest is distraction or palaver and filler in between the moment when I will realize my final destiny of being with or not being with her. A resolution is needed whether it be through actual physical flame and irrevocable end or final and complete commingling. But it’s that in-between that’s so deadly perilous.

Because everything else is less bright in the present. Every kiss is replacement, every joy a distraction from the real thing, the ultimate irreconcilable which casts a pall over a man’s life.

A soldier waiting to be recalled to war, an ill man seeking doctor's verdict, or a lover separated but not unfettered from his true belief. During that period even beauty and grace and joy itself are rendered tasteless and unfulfilling. Every meal a man might have is turned to dust and ash because the mouth is awaiting that one taste alone.

Entire religions and philosophies have been built around overcoming this irreconcilable, but I’ve never had the gift of distance. It gets to me, like an infection, and it’s a cruel thief of life.

And I’m afraid that’s what Mayweather/Pacquiao has become. That ultimate must happen/must resolve that renders everything else shadow and play.

Manny will fight Shane Mosley, and he will probably win. Perhaps after that he will fight Andre Berto, or Juan Manuel Marquez. These will be great battles, potentially rich victories, but they won’t be answers.

Sergio Martinez will continue his remarkable ascent. Amir Khan and Timothy Bradley will fight for a real title at junior welterweight.

But I’m afraid Mayweather/Pacquiao will always be there in the background, a presence and haunting that says to me, “Why yes, she is a very attractive and commendable lady you are kissing at the moment, she even smells of loveliness, but we all know that the great SHE is still out there. This - though pleasant - is just killing time.”

So unfair, so unhealthy, but even if you try to argue with the voices in your head they have the advantage of always having the last word. Floyd Mayweather’s refusal to fight, their inability to fight each other is inflecting everything else with a feeling of not the real.

And it’s one thing if we know it will never happen. The Klitschko brothers' fantasy meeting differs not only because they aren’t as compelling, but because we know the score and can look and move on.

But the great Mayweather/Pacquiao has no such qualifiers, all we have to keep it from us is politics, money, and the impossibility of compromise.

I’m going to try to be better and enjoy the meals and the kisses and all the intervening activities which are life, or in this case, is boxing as a sport. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to quiet that part of my head that will know that the big unresolved still exists, the biggest unanswerable from which I must have resolution but don’t. It’s why cruelty and honesty are often blessings.

Because truth or blame isn’t the thing. Does anyone anymore really care about whether the excuse is money, steroids, or just a willful indifference to a cultural need? I don’t. Pacquiao is not fighting Mayweather – right now – and it throws everything else out of balance.

Because we’re waiting for not just a fight, but an answer, something to tell us where what we are watching fits on the big lists. It’s the one that needs to happen and doesn’t, and it’s turning everything else to gray.

I still expect the fight to happen. It might take place too late and provide an unsatisfying conclusion, but I still expect the two to meet. Money almost always speaks.

It’s just this intervening time that’s the victim. All the other heroes out there shadowed by the big thing. Time will heal it, or perhaps another compelling champion will rise, but I’ll remember this time in boxing as the missing years. When Pacquiao and Mayweather not only sabotaged one another, but the rest of the sport as well.


rasheed said...

As usual, a great read.

Anthony Wilson said...

Great piece.

And the picture up top made me laugh.

Jeff said...

I concur, rasheed, this was, as expected, another great piece. Shoefly it's been a while, have you been writing anywhere else in the meantime? I've mostly been keeping up with people's thoughts on the sport by way of the Queensbury Rules blog, but those articles tend to lack the literary aesthetic that boxiana brings to the table.

Personally, I find that Sergio Martinez is fulfilling my needs in the sport at the moment. I understand the longing for Pacquiao-Mayweather, but I feel the same gripping attachment in Martinez fights as I do when I watch Pacquiao fight. Specifically, I felt a twinge of unease and sickness watching Dzinziruk start to turn the tide against Martinez in the round before he was KOd. I'd love to see Pac-May and I think the sport will be forever damaged if it doesn't happen, but for the moment I'm content in the emotional attachment I have to a select few current fighters.

Mike said...

Shoefly, as always, I admire this post greatly. It is full of warmth and beauty for a warm and beautiful sport that most people regard as cold and ugly. I have always found your humanistic pugilism pretty astounding. However I also fear for your increasingly Petrarchan yearning for this equally-inevitable-as-it-is-well-nigh-impossible Pacquiao/Mayweather fight. It is certainly understandable why this fight in particular holds such great weight in your (or any other boxing fan's) mind, but even Romeo thought that Rosaline was The One mere moments before meeting Juliet.

In this case, there is absolutely every reason to think that Pacquiao/Mayweather may be The One (pound-for-pound rankings, sheer herculean skill, near hypnotic personas in both boxers, etc.), but we cannot carry on life thinking that it definitely is The One, and there is no other, before it even Is, at all. You cannot let the color be sapped from life by something which may, ultimately, be nothing more than a color-sapper. I guess you can think of this as Pascal inverted, giving a weird wager: If you do not long for Pacquiao/Mayweather, what do you have to lose? If it doesn't come, you won't go through the pain of separation. And if it does, then you've got fucking Pacquiao/Mayweather!

The rise of Martinez since his first encounter with Paul Williams (one which, it seemed to me, he should have won on points) has been inspiring and unexpected and, frankly, extremely exciting. I, too, long for Pacquiao/Mayweather, but with the defeat of Dzinziruk recently (after the gloriously restatement of purpose against Williams, and the systematic destruction of Pavlik), I could not but help myself again finding the color in this beautiful sport, sapped as it has been by the specter of the Possible.

What I am saying is: Come back to the living, Shoefly! I worry that this one fight may become your Laura--beautiful for its unattainability.

shoefly said...

Thanks for the kind comments guys! Jeff, in answer to your question this is the first boxing piece I've done lately. Been doing some other writing, screenwriting, which is my nominal gig.

And I agree with both Jeff and Mike that Martinez is inspiring. I really oggled over the Dziniziruk performance.

And, following your advice, Mike, I'm trying to move on and find some color. I expect it just takes some time and distance and discipline. I know it's not a productive way of being, but I honestly think it's helpful to put it out there, helps me deal with it.


ricky roe said...

martinez looked awesome against dziniziruk....caught it live...foxwoods is about 15 minutes from my house....lou dibella seems like hes trying bring back good shows to the area...he has roots there...he was the president of the norwich navigators which was the yankees double a affiliate at the time...most recently the san fran giants(saw bumgarner and cain pitch there...double a parks are the way to go in terms of catching future stars...remember seeing a young vlad guerrero with the harrisburg senators as a teenager)....he put the martinez fight on and is following it right up with berto/ortiz at the mgm.........anyways....i hope most of you are inspired once again by manny pacquiao come may...hell be fighting "sugar" shane mosley...the guy who is 0-1-1 in his last two fights...a guy who he turned down after shane dismantled margarito...the guy who floyd shellacked...the guy who drew with sergio mora(gift draw for shane...mora since beaten by a b-/c fighter in bryan vera)...enjoy! im sure you will all be "moved"