Ceremonial Ten Count: A Requiem for HBO Boxing

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The other day, while discussing boxing in detail with a knowledgeable co-worker – and there’s a opening I never would’ve thought I’d possibly write five years ago – I casually reminded him that Saturday night’s Boxing After Dark card would technically be the final telecast of HBO Boxing after 45 years of standard-bearing quality and omnipresent, sport-influencing significance. He professed mild disappointment when hearing that the best card the network could apparently assemble as its swan song was a triple-header featuring two matches from the nascent and still relatively obscure realm of women’s boxing. I found myself neither particularly surprised by his knee jerk response nor my general agreement with it. Boxing fans are always hungry, after all, rarely satisfied, and can be exceedingly hard to impress. Continue reading “Ceremonial Ten Count: A Requiem for HBO Boxing”

The Harder They Fall: Anthony Joshua KO11 Wladimir Klitschko

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The first thing you notice is that the size difference is fairly breathtaking. That, by the way, is just the two combatants as compared to the mere mortals surrounding them, who, it is impossible to ignore or discount, are in particularly conspicuous supply for this, the biggest Heavyweight boxing match in recent memory. But the size disparity is striking. These are two behemoths – 6’6” tall and 250 pounds apiece – not Joe Frazier heavyweights or Mike Tyson heavyweights. The calling card of those two long-ago all-time greats was savage ferocity. For Anthony Joshua, current alphabet titlist and the sport’s latest anointed savior, and Wladimir Klitschko, the long-time division kingpin turned 41-year-old comeback kid, it is sheer size, or at least that is the primary draw among many. Continue reading “The Harder They Fall: Anthony Joshua KO11 Wladimir Klitschko”

Pure Mexican Vintage: Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido

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Boxing is a sport at perpetual cross-purposes with itself. We, as fans, watch intently, fascinated and occasionally breathless, but also with a palpable, underlying unease. These are impossibly courageous athletes, destroying one another and themselves for our entertainment. We intellectually want the best lives possible for them and their families, now and going forward. We also want war. Intellectually, we can train ourselves to appreciate the all-world tactics and superhuman reflexes of a quick-hitting escape artist like prime Floyd Mayweather, or the thrilling dominance of an overpowering dynamo like prime Manny Pacquiao. Neither man approaches his prime now, of course, and both, by certain accounts, are busy off enjoying their hard-won and well-deserved retirements. Thus scoured of its two biggest names, boxing, as it must, scrambles to manufacture new ones, but also, if it is smart – a fair and open question, if ever one was spoken – works overtime to provide the less starry-eyed among its fan base with the visceral, unadorned combat that is, was, and ever shall be the sport’s lifeblood. Continue reading “Pure Mexican Vintage: Francisco Vargas D12 Orlando Salido”

Surgical Steel: Andre Ward UD12 Sullivan Barrera

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At the highest level, as well at various other points along the curve, there is an obvious line of demarcation separating the sports observer from the sports participant. Most everyone enjoys athletic endeavors in one way or other, but if big time sports – any or all of them – were particularly easy, most everyone would give them their very best effort, and such effort would often be sufficient to win through. Instead of watching the NCAA Elite Eight or World Championship Boxing on an action-packed Saturday night in late March, broadcast bandwidth would be choked with an endless procession of club teams and pug fighters in rote or at least never especially scintillating matchups, far removed from the presence of legitimate excellence, not to mention any effort to define it. A motivated and/or especially ignorant cynic could easily assert that that is what boxing has become anyway, or, perhaps, has always been. Continue reading “Surgical Steel: Andre Ward UD12 Sullivan Barrera”

Beauty before age: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez UD12 Miguel Cotto

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Once imagined as an answered prayer, the long-awaited showdown between the two greatest fighters of this generation, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, was instead a fairly epic failure, widely purchased and even more widely reviled, and, months later, lingers as a topic of uncomfortable conversation and a general pox on the house of boxing. Gun-shy consumers still smarting in the aftermath of May’s grand non-event voted with their shuttered wallets when offered the opportunity earlier this fall to anoint a new pay-per-view star, Kazakh destroyer Gennady Golovkin. Even from the perspective of someone who did not buy that fight card live, or particularly feel it PPV-worthy, it was still a disappointing result, despite solid in ring efforts at the top from Golovkin and direct support Roman Gonzalez, the post-Floyd world’s current #1 pound for pound entrant. Continue reading “Beauty before age: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez UD12 Miguel Cotto”

Drop the hammer, Hammer the nail: Gennady Golovkin TKO8 David Lemieux

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For a taste of the degree to which boxing was both predominant within and invaluable to the twentieth century sporting landscape, one needs look no further than its numerous, enduring idiomatic contributions to the greater sports lexicon. Most are so subtle and ingrained that we don’t even realize the origin as we say them. “On the ropes,” “down for the count,” “below the belt,” “roll with the punches,” “cornered,” “laying the leather,” “going the distance,” “delivering the knockout blow,” “sucker punch,” “ringside seat,” “throw in the towel,” and so on, to infinity and beyond. It will take generations yet of studied, institutional indifference to effectively work boxing metaphor and terminology completely out of the play-by-play calls of all your other favorite sporting events, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays, and even then only if boxing cooperates by finally succumbing to the all-encompassing “death” that so many observers, whether casual or, more often, anything but, have prescribed and pronounced for it over the past 25 years or so. Continue reading “Drop the hammer, Hammer the nail: Gennady Golovkin TKO8 David Lemieux”

“Money’s” Worth: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Manny Pacquiao

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Excessive time spent in the game has weathered me, and, consequently, I’m not nearly the boxing evangelist I was even a year ago, let alone five. Used to be, I was insufferable in addition to being long-winded, but now I’ve bumped up against the walls and limits of indifference (and that weird species of unsolicited antagonism that fans of other sports sometimes offer up to boxing) so much that I’m generally content to live, let live, and keep the majority of my opinions to myself. I can show you an entire parade of boxing matches that might curl your toes and make your hair turn white, not that it particularly matters. I am forced to admit that the sport will probably never again have a transcendent moment in the national sun of the likes that happened so regularly in the ‘70s, ‘80s and before. It’s just a different world. Continue reading ““Money’s” Worth: Floyd Mayweather UD12 Manny Pacquiao”