Ceremonial Ten Count: A Requiem for HBO Boxing

HBOBOX

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”

Baptism by Fire: Lucas Matthysse MD12 Ruslan Provodnikov

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Of all the televised sports, boxing is arguably the most visceral, the most capable of transmitting the action on screen directly into the brain and gut of its viewer with straight line speed and deadly accuracy. Most everyone, after all, can appreciate and wonder at the artistry of a transcendent basketball player like LeBron James soaring some four feet off the ground and covering an eight-foot distance on his way to a ferocious slam dunk, though very few could imagine ourselves in the same position, except maybe as comic relief. Every American kid dreams growing up of throwing the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, or catching it, but the event itself, and the giant men who take the field for it, still seem otherworldly to us as adults. But almost every weekend, a cross-section of American sports fans sit on their couches, attentions fixed on in-ring competition between skilled and supremely willful combatants, men who are paid to punch each other until the other can take no more, and, once immersed, it takes a certain amount of will in itself to not react to particularly hard, clean, or thudding connects with a wince, an involuntary, spasm-like affirmation, or an audible indication of appreciation for the aggressor, or sympathy for the assaulted, or both. Continue reading “Baptism by Fire: Lucas Matthysse MD12 Ruslan Provodnikov”

Turtle Meets Shredder: Gennady Golovkin KO2 Marco Antonio Rubio

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The warriors’ rugged features tell what is already a fairly intriguing story, however incomplete. Neither is any sort of pretty boy, a De La Hoya, say, or a Leonard, or a Mayweather. Both have the air of having cleared countless hurdles over the course of their hardscrabble existences, and an entrenched look of hunger that money and fame might mitigate but possibly never cure. Ring institution Michael Buffer handles the preliminary introductions before his trademarked “thousands in attendance” (in this case, an overflow sellout crowd of 9,300), who in turn thrum with anticipation as HBO’s cameras inspect the two combatants. One bounces with nervous energy while the other radiates quiet confidence, but their eyes are both lively. Continue reading “Turtle Meets Shredder: Gennady Golovkin KO2 Marco Antonio Rubio”

The Fly-Swatter Swatter: Manny Pacquiao UD12 Timothy Bradley, Jr. II

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As the bell rang for the twelfth and final round of the anticipated rematch between WBO Welterweight Titlist Timothy Bradley, Jr. and Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, HBO’s blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley set the scene succinctly. “Their first fight was very good,” he said. “This one…has been even better.” And the view from my table in a raucous, surprisingly standing room only Columbus, OH bar and grill bore that thinking out, though an unsettling caveat stuck in my mind: Yes, Pacquiao-Bradley II had been a good fight, to my eyes, a good deal better than the original – which you may remember Bradley won via a stunning, many would say dumbfounding, majority decision that redefined boxing controversy for the latter half of 2012 (and bled into what was an, ahem, eventful new year for both combatants). Continue reading “The Fly-Swatter Swatter: Manny Pacquiao UD12 Timothy Bradley, Jr. II”