Friday, September 16, 2011

The Lonesome And Quarrelsome Hero

I’ll speak about the fight proper in a moment – frankly, I think most know the score on that bit – but first, a little about atmosphere.

Floyd is the best on 24/7. He rightly crows about inventing the show. He gives the people what they want, just the right amount of braggadocio and easily digestible hate nuggets; those moments of self-reverence that our moral side abhors.

I like it, usually. I love seeing the boasts and the sillyness, and for the most part it’s all in fun.

Something strange happened this time, though, for me at least; genuine sadness kicked in. I can’t watch the grim reality shows, the ones like Intervention. It’s too sad and raw and voyeuristic and troubling. Floyd wasn’t like that on this episode of 24/7. His persona is too strong. There’s no way to really break through.

But even more frightening, this was the first time it felt to me that there wasn’t anything beneath the persona; there is only this desperate artifice. Like an actor playing a part for so long that he begins to lose his own character.

Or like every man who ever tried to sally forth inviolate from his father’s shadow, and inevitably - and by his own will to separate - became that same figure.

Of course, the most dramatic moment was the confrontation with Floyd Sr. Even for those of us with complicated relationships with our own parents it was a little troubling. The way they look so similar, their personality so similar. The haunting screeching voice of Sr, almost inhuman, as he lost face before the more powerful man. So cruel and raw. Floyd Sr. isn’t the most estimable person, not really deserving of all that much sympathy, but still, to see the fractures and fragility in a proud man’s construct is hurtful.

Almost sadder, though, was the rote poetry of consumerism. The cash phone, the new car, and the celebrity friends. In the earlier incarnations of the show it almost felt performative, the self-aware stylings of a music video, but now, it seems that is the only language Floyd is capable of speaking.

It just seems so terrible lonesome to me; so deeply sad. The man who got everything he ever wanted but lays down to sleep each night dissatisfied, and not even knowing why.

I’m not making a moral judgment here. To be young, rich, and spectacularly famous is an impossible situation. I don’t know how any of these people don’t turn into Martians. What a strange existence to be surrounded by people on your payroll. I don’t know how relationships are possible at that point.

People are always shocked to find how far from reality a dictator is, but really, aren’t they the only logical product of their reality.

Maybe that’s how it has to be, for the truly gifted, the ones loosed from tethers by talent. I’m not fit to judge him, nor are you.

But strangely, this time, and for the first time, I found my complicated feelings for Floyd had moved beyond admiration, amusement, and contempt. This time, what I felt, really, was pity.

* * *

If this were the picture business Floyd would lose against the young and hungry Ortiz. The lost soul that is Mayweather would learn humility, and the painful lessons of the human condition. He would be humbled, and from that experience, would grow.

But this is the hurt business. This is the sweet science. The only judgment here is that of blood and bone.

It’s about quality. Floyd may be an empty vessel, but he’s got quality.

And really that’s all that needs to be said. Ortiz is strong, young, and a lefty, but we’re talking about levels here. With fighters on the same level some analysis is needed, some thought and imagination, Mayweather and Ortiz don’t overlap.

In Ortiz’ three biggest fights he is 1-1-1. Maidana, Berto, and Peterson are all good fighters, probably top-five in their division. Ortiz, I think, is a guy who goes 1-1-1 against that level of opponent. As context, if this were a few years ago and Ortiz had fought say… Collazo, Clottey, and Cotto, I’d expect him to post similar results.

That’s pretty good, in fact, that’s excellent. I expect Ortiz to be a title contender for quite a few years. He’ll win several belts, defend them a few times, and lose. A really good fighter.

But Mayweather, he has quality. Mayweather wins all those fights, he wins them without much drama. Ortiz has a lot of things going for him, he’s got some real strengths; Mayweather, he has talent, he has ability, he is quality.

A great fighter beats a good fighter. This isn’t about morality, it’s about justice; it’s the better man What Wins in this sport. And that, to me, is the only form of righteous I’ve ever seen.

I expect there to be some excitement early, exacerbated by the HBO team who are desperate for Floyd to be challenged. I see Ortiz as a slightly slower - but more compact version of - Ricky Hatton, and I expect the fight to progress in that way. Ortiz landing a few and causing excitement with forward motion; all while Floyd is doing the quality work.

Lampley will scream, “He’s making Floyd fight his fight!” but that’s not really what will be happening. The man whose gloves touch the other man’s flesh is fighting his fight; and Floyd always fights his fight.

I see Ortiz winning a round or two early, but once he slows a bit and gets tagged a few times I expect Floyd to give him a scientific and fine whipping. I think it’ll be lovely, I think you will see real quality, the gulf in class.

I hear some belittling Floyd’s wins over Marquez, Mosley, and Hatton, (and there were some mitigating factors) but those were great fighters. Ortiz is younger, in his prime, but he’s not a great fighter. Floyd eats those guys alive, could beat one a month for a decade. Floyd’s gonna chop him up, nice and proper.

I’m not quite sure if we’ll see a stoppage. I envision Ortiz’ corner, or the ref, pulling him out late, but that’ll largely depend on Floyd’s mood.

It’s cruel to say, but I’m looking forward to this one. I don’t feel the anxiety of a big event, more the anticipation of a long awaited performance.

Quality made flesh. Maybe there’s nothing else there, but the quality, that’s enough.

Floyd Mayweather UD 12 119-107 Victor Ortiz.


Sean_Mills_Hospital said...

Great post.

I don't think we can fully judge what it means until after the fight, but if you saw the weigh-in it seemed interesting that Floyd was grabbing Victor's face.

It's kind of weird how, when his opponent doesn't bite on his aggression Floyd just ends up looking crazy.

Chris said...

I was hoping this fight would prompt a post or two. Personally, I found this past 24/7 much less compelling than previous incarnations. Floyd's persona on these shows is pretty much set. I can't say I found Ortiz particularly interesting either. I suppose it reflects poorly on me that I don't really care much to hear about his boyhood struggles. Obviously, the situation he came from was pretty bleak to say the least but I can't help feel he is a bit of a phony. Something about how he comes across feels scripted. He plays oh-gee-shucks routine a little too much for me. Floyd plays a caricature of himself on 24/7 (or so I hope for him) but there is some grain of truth to it. With Ortiz I am not sure what to make of him; what is real what is just calculation.

Mike said...

As always, I enjoyed the writing and position of this post no small amount. It does seem strange to me, however, that it should only be now that the sad, concave core of the man catches you. All the talk, all the braggadocio, all the "money" (despite money problems), all the careful cultivation of near childish opulence (i.e. Disney's "Blank Check") and all the nearly scripted-for-the-bad-guy-destined-for-a-fall talk has been exhausting to watch for some time now. It must be at least as exhausting to have to constantly drum up this persona.