Friday, May 20, 2011

Sing, Rage

Just a quick word on Pascal-Hopkins, which takes place tomorrow. I feel a deep and abiding guilt for not writing a piece deserving of the event.

Because every time Bernard Hopkins fights now it is an event. The Last Angry Man. And he’ll tell you as much.

It’s not just that Hopkins is 46. It’s who he is, with the righteous indignation of the abused and ill treated. Is part of his self-construct fiction? Likely, but I’ve never met a man who does not build a life of lies. Leave me my false definitions and watch me carry on.

Bernard has built a career on rage and will and discipline. We all know his criminal past and a life of triumph and redemption, but just look at the man’s career.

He took it by force, one fight at a time. Without flash, but refinement and a seriousness of purpose. “Upon this rock I will stand. And no man shall move me!”

Defiance. A sacred vow.

And Bernard has held distant the very forces of time, by sheer orneriness and guile. They’ve tried to bury him but he won’t have it.

Most don’t find him fun to watch, but to me he’s moving in his desires. Because though the body fails the spirit never wavers. You always know it’s serious with Bernard, he wants it, and if there’s the capacity in that body and mind he’ll give it to you.

He took it by force last December. Despite being knocked down twice, his first legitimate ones in decades he stood up and took it from Pascal. It showed a deeper virtue beyond blood and bone.

“Mine is a will to overcoming, and you’re not the man to take it from me,” said Bernard, as he trudged stiffly forward and pushed through.

They stole it from him, of course. I wasn’t in the least surprised. An elderly black man getting his pocket picked under the bright lights is a matter of course.

But still, it hurt. Bernard Hopkins is a great fighter, one of the greatest who has ever lived, and they never gave him one break. I’m talking about a man who has been in exactly six close (and some not-so-close) fights in his legendary career.

The judges gave him four losses and two draws. Can you recall a great fighter who never got a break. Fight after fight, year after year? And the guy isn’t even from Africa!

He’ll lose soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next fight. He has never been beat up, but he will be. These things rarely end well.

But I do hope it’s not tomorrow. I hope it’s not to Pascal, a forgettable champion who doesn’t deserve to be the one to take a pick to a monument. He’s not the man for the job.

A snaggle-toothed statue will get into the ring on Saturday night, he’s creaky, but he’s bone tough. Melt down that Rocky atrocity they have in Philadelphia and mint a new one.

And then...

Sing to me O Goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus,

The man of twists and turns

Driven time and again off course,

Which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,

Hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feastings of dog and birds!

Bernard Hopkins UD 114-110 Jean Pascal

War X!

PS. Sorry all the comments on the previous post were lost. Hope it won’t happen again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Never Was That Type Of Man

The thing about a man is that you just never really know, do you? Or even if you do know about a man it’s only at a certain moment in time, a certain period of his life. Because people aren’t fixed, they’re not comic book characters, even if we’d like them to be.

Shane Mosley punked out Saturday night, but I’d never call him a punk. At one time the bastard would have cast the world in flames to get the win but that was long gone on Saturday night. It wasn’t just that he turtled and cringed, it was that he didn’t throw a punch in anger; that was the genuine disappointment. I could have dealt with the backpeddle and the cloying hand touches if I felt like there was at least an element of hope and guile behind it.

To throw yourself at Manny was perhaps too much to ask -he clearly didn’t want the deeper hurt – but I still could have been contented if I saw him throw a few in anger. Just one a round, even, and it would have changed the tenor. Because even an outmatched hero needs only a fist/chin connection in time/space to reach inspiration.

Even a blind man might’ve had more of a chance, because a fist in space CAN find it’s mark purely by accident. It can, if it’s thrown with purpose. You don't have to be a romantic or deranged to know that much is true.

But Shane wouldn’t do it. Refused to. I don’t even know that I’d say he was in it before the knockdown, but after the third round it was done. I know his legs were gone and he was tired and there wasn’t much left, but even old lions have teeth, and there’s always enough hunger to close your jaws if you were once king of the jungle, isn’t there?

Not in Shane’s case. It doesn’t fill me with special contempt, or cause me to reevaluate his career. Mosley’s honest to a fault, and that’s what we saw on Saturday night. Perhaps it is a deeper courage to know one’s limits and behave as such, but that’s not what moves us. It is, perhaps, why although Shane was a great champion he was never a particular popular or inspiring one.

I’ve argued before that fighters can be either religious – like Evander Holyfield’s madness – or secular – like Floyd and Bernard Hopkin’s scientific perfection – but I don’t think Mosley was ever quite either. You either have to tell yourself that your body and limits are a lie or you have to have someone from above tell you. When you’re honest is when you’re lost.

And Shane’s lost. I wish him well, that fine fighting champion.

And now to Manny. I know the people are angry, but I just can’t get with it. He was fighting a friendly ghost in there, and he won every second. Was he his beautiful, electric self? Absolutely not, but Mosley wasn’t going to let him perform. There is pride, to the last, and even in the muck.

If Manny had some genuine venom toward Mosley I do believe he could have got the stoppage. But he’s been a merciful God of late and I won’t really blame him. It must be dreadful lonesome atop Olympus and it’s hard to conjure inspiration from discount heroes.

So, no, I’m not particularly angry with him, or with Bob Arum either. There is no good fight out there other than Floyd. You have to know that. Berto, Bradley, Judah… c’mon. We know what Manny would have done to them. I’m still intrigued by Marquez as an unfinished narrative, but the result there is clear.

Manny’s too good for the rest, but he’s a fighter, and so he fights.

I know people want to say he showed some vulnerability, I guess so. He’s not at his best against a retreating foe, but then again, who is? This fight reminded me most of his second bout with Barrera, where Manny looked similarly uninspired against another great but unwilling champion.

That fight didn’t tell us much about Manny, and neither did this one. If Manny loses it’ll be to a great fighter (you know who I’m talking about,) not a style, he’s beyond the level of styles make fights. It’s demeaning, just stop it.

So we wait, and that’s all we can do. Every last mother will be chopped down until we get to the big boss. I don’t know when that’ll happen, but I still have hope. Until then…

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Book Of Names

I haven’t given Pacquiao-Mosley all too much thought. Haven’t gone through my usual tradition of rewatching all the relevant video and playing it out in my mind. Not only because of my self-proclaimed crisis of faith, but because it seems even the rubes know the score this time, doesn’t it?

Manny’s just too good.

He’s a thing of fire right now and it’s going to take an S-class hero to slay that dragon. Shane Mosley is a hero, but his armor is dented and you’ve got to think that – even if he won’t admit it even to himself – there’s some Obi-Wan vs. Vader resignation floating around his undermind.

Because Shane is an honest fighter, too honest, really for this world of flesh-eaters and zealots we live in. Shane’s come up against it three times before – the insurmountable and unconquerable; Vernon Forrest, Winky Wright, and – most profoundly and humbling – Floyd Mayweather.

He has come up against it, that most cruel realization that though you are very fine and special and a thing glorious and well-trained there are certain bad-men out there whom you just can’t top. They’ve a certain type of venom and meanness you can’t push through.

That’s what Shane does, he pushes through and fights harder. People see the complexion and think he’s a boxer, but the guy is a Rumbler at heart, the type of man who kicks against the pricks just for a laugh, but when he’s stuck his only move is to rumble harder.

And he knows when he’s beat. You can see it in his face – frustration and limits – “If I was half-the-man-I used-to-be…”

He’s a great great, fighter, and an honest man, but it’s not enough against Manny Pacquiao. And you know, I don’t think it ever would have been. Not against this monster Manny we’ve been seeing.

I know all the smart kids want to tell you that Manny’s great, but also a star blessed by circumstances. Boxing’s version of “Being There’s” Chauncey Gardner, who lucked into his destiny. But I’ve become a true-believer and I don’t know that I can hold with that anymore.

I mean look at his list: Barrera, Morales, Marquez, Margarito, Hatton, De La Hoya, Cotto, we’re talking about half of the relevant fighters of the decade. When the book of names is written, Manny’s will be penned in gilt lettering.

And now, Shane Mosley join the names. True, Shane has looked ragged his last two fights, but he’s a proud man and he’ll be there. He’ll take it and I expect him to give a few back.

But it won’t be enough, not for Manny. I expect we’ll see the Mosley face make its first appearance around the fourth round. The look where he squinches up his cheeks, pronounced dimples becoming more pronounced, dark eyes pained with frustration, and just the faintest hint of a head-shake. The type of look a man might give after several futile attempts to tighten a just out of reach screw.

Because Manny’s at that level just out of reach, the water too high and rising.

Can he put Shane down and keep him there? I’m not sure. Mosley rose from an impossible uppercut against Vernon Forrest, the type of shot that if he didn’t have such a strong boxer’s neck might have ripped the very sinews of his throat and sent his head spinning into the expensive seats. Mosley stood up and he finished - though greatly diminished - ten more rounds.

Exhausted and outclassed against Mayweather he made it to the finish line. I think he’ll make it again, but perhaps in the way Margarito saw the final bell against Manny, as a kind of act of cruel kindness to an outmatched foe. Pacquiao is all master now, and his whims tend toward mercy these days.

I see it as a worthwhile end for the noble Shane Mosley, a guy who was never quite what we thought he was.

And for Manny, the book of names grows longer still.