Thursday, April 30, 2015

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

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I couldn't not say a word. The first part is about the feeling of the fight and the second my prediction.

Whenever I get a new piece of electronics I’m firmly convinced for a few brief moments that some glaring and heretofore unresolvable personal defect has been repaired and made whole. 

It hasn’t, of course. I still have to spend the rest of my life with myself. Filled with the same gaps, boredoms, doubts, and general incomplete space that we all do our best to push away by any means available to us.

Boxing is perhaps my favorite ways to push away; I’m the type of person that upon having difficulty sleeping will create intergenerational pound-for-pound lists and imagine intricately choreographed fantasy match-ups. And I guess that’s why after Mayweather/Pacquiao is finally here I’m not really sure how I feel. It’s all so much cleaner in my mind, the perfection of the imagined thing. 

Somehow the fact that reality is intruding on the perfect fantasy is a little unsettling. Part of it is that petty feeling we all have when a band or film or writer that we have a personal relationship with no longer belongs to us anymore and becomes property of popular culture. It’s gratifying but also debasing. This is what we boxing people have been waiting for, but now that it’s here and the spectacle belongs to everyone it seems somehow less special and even a little unseemly. 

If boxing is, even under the best of circumstances, half athletic competition and half commercial spectacle this event seems somehow even more tilted than usual. The event is THE EVENT. It’s big because of the revenue produced and because it’s THE FIGHT OF CENTURY. And that’ll surely fade when the bell rings and all that matters is the two men in the ring, but right now it feels like it’s not about that final resolution that we’ve been debating and foreseeing all this time, it feels like the answer one gets from the residue of a disaster site. The black box that we listen to that will give us the recording of the cataclysm.

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Because really there are no answers to the problem of GOATness, it’s all contingent. In the aftermath of history we forget some of the caveats - Ali won two Frazier only one - but when you’ve done as much as Mayweather and Pacquaio have, not even getting in the ring together is really definitive and perfect. 

They’re still amazing fighters but it’s clear they’re not quite what they were. I like to call the Mayweather and Pacquiao we saw from a few years ago S-class, Super class fighters. So good at what they do that it’s not really competition so much as performance. A level so outstanding that the only reasonable contests one can really offer are other S-class fighters, and even then only specific vintages. As in, “they would have had trouble with early 80’s Duran.” 

It’s a level of achievement rare and undeniable. The way even someone watching tennis for the first time could see that there was something different in the way Roger Federer used to move, or how even a complete novice recognizes Lionel Messi floating across the pitch. 

Neither Mayweather or Pacquiao are those fighters anymore. They are A-Class fighters now, still the best in the world, but capable of losing to a merely great fighter on a certain day. In a sense we’re getting an echo of the thing, a reflection of what it could have been at that perfect moment in that perfect imagined ring of my sleepless nights.

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Which is always the case, and would have been even if the fight would have happened when we wanted it to. Because there’s really no knowing, even when we finally do know. Boxing is the sweet science, but it’s a competition between people, decided by judges, and at the upper limits there are rarely ever any definitive answers, only satisfying fantasies. 

Which is why, now, thinking about it, perhaps Saturday’s fight does come at the perfect time. It’s fuel for new dreams and imagined certainties, that perfect bout that only I will get to see, that temporary feeling of a defect being repaired but without the danger of any definitive conclusions. 

I couldn’t ask for anything more.


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For five years I’ve thought Floyd Mayweather would beat Manny Pacquiao by a close but clear decision. I still kind of think he will. But watching Mayweather/Maidana I and II last year shook me. There was something about seeing Floyd a little desperate in that first fight and a little limited in that second one that gave me pause. In the fourth round of the first Maidana fight Floyd seemed like he had a moment where he had to decide if he still wanted to be a boxer. He was uncomfortable and it wasn’t fun in there. I imagined him considering his millions a moment before deciding that he indeed was willing to do what it took to win. He bit down and won in an admirable performance.

He won again in the second fight, and more clearly, but I was still a bit concerned. It was as if Floyd had determined that there was only one way to win and he would stick to it no matter what to get to his victory. It felt to me for the first time that Floyd wasn’t winning the way he chose to, but the only way he could. Floyd has always preferred to work in fourth gear, but we knew he had the capacity to reach fifth if necessary. Watching the Maidana fight, I don’t know that he still has that option.

And Manny Pacquiao, despite his own deterioration, still seems to me a fighter that you need that fifth gear to beat. You need to be able to bite down and take it and give a little more than you want in order to win. 

Pacquiao has a difficult task. Boxing has three zones; long distance, up-close, and the sweet spot, the punch zone. Floyd is better from distance where he will be able to keep Pacquiao honest with his jab and straight right. Floyd is also better from in close where he has great hooks and uppercuts. Pacquiao needs to get in that middle distance and stay there. He’ll have to vary his approaches because Floyd is great at timing guys coming in, but if he can get in and stay in that middle distance, the punch zone, a few times in every round I think he’ll win the fight. 

I think the Floyd of a few years ago had enough foot speed to keep those moments to a minimum, but I’m not so sure he still does. Pacquiao is terrific at using those twisting, strafing attacks to change angles and keep his opponent in the punch zone. His fights against Cotto, Margarito, and Clottey were masterworks in space creation and working angles. In recent fights those moments have been more rare, but he sill has the capacity and I think he’ll rise to the occasion. Manny may not land all that many, but if he throws a handful of shots each time he’s in the sweet spot I think enough will slip through.
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I see Pacquiao starting relatively quickly and winning the early rounds. He’ll eat some big counters, but I don’t know that Floyd will throw enough to win the rounds. I could see Floyd making a run in the middle rounds to even things up, but I suspect that Pacquiao just might have enough stamina to squeeze out a couple close ones in the end.

I don’t expect it to be definitive - Floyd will land most of the eye-catching punches - but I suspect Manny will keep up his activity enough to win some rounds which could go either way. I’ve always felt that Floyd has to pay a bit of a tax because he’s been so dominant. We’re so used to seeing him sweep rounds that when things are close and the margin is thin, the tendency is to give his opponent the benefit of the doubt. 

I think that’ll be the case on Saturday night. Pacquiao, despite eating some monstrous counters, just manages to pull it out through volume and a general feeling that the fight is taking place in the spaces he chooses.  

Manny Pacquiao 115-113 Floyd Mayweather Jr.

1 comment:

Jack Bratcher said...

Goin with PacMan huh? In my heart I would love to see PacMan win, but I think Mayweather's defense is just too good. It's amazing to watch. But here's to hoping we see a KO by PacMan. Great write up Av. Good stuff.