Question from the Editor: The Aftermath of my Unbelievable Rightness

S arah watched the fight I’m happy to say, and she sent me a thought this morning that sums up what many, many people were thinking.


Subject: Re:
Date: Mon, 4 May 2015 08:49:43 -0400
Hey Ben,
I ended up at a friend’s house watching the fight. I’m not too knowledgeable, but I thought it was kind of boring!
Mad Dogz Sports Radio summed it up well this morning: The boxing fans were excited because they got the match they wanted, but the sports fans were disappointed because they were looking for a fight.
Maybe I missed something?
Dayton City Paper
An absolutely fair question, particularly when $100 is on the line.  Also, I cannot seem to get the paragraphs to format with spaces, soooooo…

Subject: RE:
Date: Mon, 4 May 2015 10:33:59 -0400

I think they’re pretty well on point with that assessment. Boxing is a strange sport in that there is a huge disparity between the insider and the outsider when they watch the average match. The person who is involved with boxing all the time knows why a fight becomes what it becomes, whereas the casual observer tends to have the mindset that fighters are under-performing if they aren’t destroying one another.  In many ways there’s something to be said for that, except that it’s usually the failing of one fighter or the other that’s producing the result, not both. I don’t know of another non-combat sport that has multiple dimensions of enjoyment and boredom in that way.
As an example, I’ve heard a lot of people say that Mayweather’s style is boring because he’s always boxing. I’ll take a moment to let the irony of that sink in, but nevertheless, in my mind there’s only one reason why a pure boxer would produce a low-action fight: the inability of his opponent to force the action.
You probably noticed in Mayweather/Pacquiao that Mayweather backed into the ropes or the corner – particularly in the middle rounds – and then either countered and moved away or just slipped along the ropes. Everything you need to know about why the fight appeared the way it did has to do with how and why that was happening.
Mayweather wasn’t being forced to the ropes. He went there intentionally to bait Pacquiao to step in and hit him so he could counter him. He did this magnificently, and there were a few times where Pacquiao was so befuddled that he ended up injuring millions of innocent air molecules and the top two ring ropes with his punches. Boxing is scored in several ways, and ring generalship is one of them. You can actually win a round if, all things being equal, you’re the one who is dictating the pace and location in the ring in which the fight is taking place. It shows a level of superiority over your opponent.
What would have made the fight far more viscerally exciting would have been if Mayweather was being forced to the ropes by Pacquiao’s relentless pressure when he didn’t want to be there. Then Pacquiao would have been able to put Mayweather on the defensive and likely pounded away on him. This would have resulted in Mayweather having to take more risks to win rounds, taking more risks results in getting hit more, and, at the risk of sounding like Yoda, getting hit more leads to suffering:) Which spectators love.
The quintessential example of this dynamic playing out to the highest degree is the other “Fight of the Century”: Ali/Frazier I. In that fight, you not only had two guys who had legitimate stakes to the (only) heavyweight championship of the world, but two styles that had the potential to generate a violent confrontation. It was the same mix that made people excited about Mayweather/Pacquiao in fact: a highly gifted boxer and a brawler who can trap a boxer and pound them into the ground.
The difference between the two fights is that Frazier was a good enough brawler that sometimes he was able to impose his will on Ali and force him to the ropes, and sometimes Ali was a good enough boxer that he could smack Frazier around on the way in. Both men were so good in fact, that they had to take gigantic risks to win the fight, and as a result they produced a ridiculously high-action collision that culminated in Ali getting knocked down in the 15th round by a shot that probably would have killed you or me.
More importantly, Frazier had enough courage and commitment to winning the fight that he was willing to do whatever it took to get inside where he needed to be to be effective. Pacquiao could have done the same, but instead, well, you saw it. I thought it was pretty cowardly, myself.
What the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight revealed was two things: first, Mayweather is an even better fighter than we had any idea he might be, and second, Pacquiao is no Jack Kennedy. Not only did he not press the action like everyone expected him to and force Mayweather to stand and fight for his life, but on the three occasions he actually tried to do so, he jumped in headfirst like a particularly stupid rhinoceros trying to bash its head through its cage door while simultaneously having a seizure, which allowed Mayweather to casually cave his face in with a right hand and move away. It was actually quite sad, and I have to say that I’ve seen quite a few other boxers make far more spirited efforts, De La Hoya and Hatton being two examples that produced particularly exciting results. Hatton ended up getting knocked out, but at least he had the courage to try to do what was necessary to win.
In other words, the reason it wasn’t anywhere near as good as was hoped had nothing to do with Mayweather’s style and everything to do with Pacquiao’s Salieri-esque grasp of the sport. And yet, Mayweather gets all the blame because he refused to entertain us by reducing his skill level to the point that Pacquiao could beat the shit out of him. Seriously, has anyone ever asked the Patriots to put in their second string so we could see an exciting overtime game vs. the Lions? Oh wait, Tim Tebow. Oooh, that was embarrassing that I typed that just now.
You’ll notice Skip Bayless was kissing his butt too, by the way. If you ever want to know how to bet, watch First Take and put everything you have on the opposite of whatever Skip Bayless is saying.
Anyway, the fact that Pacquiao had the nerve to blame his rotator cuff for the result was pathetic. That embarrassment was going to happen even if he had three arms and a chainsaw, because he had no answers whatsoever to a man who walked into the ring and was essentially able to out-spar him all night. Floyd made $100,000,000 for breaking that sweat, by the way.
The only thing more sad was him acting like he thought he won the fight. First, he already knew he had lost before he stepped in the ring judging by the entire smiley, god-loving nonsense he was blubbering on about during the buildup to the fight. Second, which is it? Did you lose the fight because of your rotator cuff, or did you win despite it? I’d actually like an answer to that question, thanks, because there’s nothing worse than a guy who can’t just say he didn’t commit to winning the biggest fight in boxing enough that he might have risked getting knocked out.
In short, you’re not wrong that the fight was a bit boring. While I can appreciate the superiority of Mayweather, I was highly disappointed in Pacquiao’s effort. The massive hype certainly didn’t help the average viewer either, as there was almost no way for any event to live up to five years of tantric dangling of the carrot, so to speak. Worse, it was not assisted in any way by the idiotic analysts who were watching Pacquiao’s fights from five years ago that made it an interesting match-up in the first place, nor by the obvious lack of elephant testosterone being injected into his butt cheeks five times a day. For godsake, he employed three different people to massage a special $1800 bottle of mystery lotion into his gigantically swollen calves three times a day. That didn’t perk up any ears? What the hell is in a bottle of lotion that costs $1800, polar bear stem cells.
Anyway, my feeling is that the only reason Mayweather didn’t knock him out like I expected was because I far overestimated how committed Pacquiao was to trying to win. I certainly don’t think he had a chance of winning regardless, but if he would have continued to press as hard as he could the pace of what was happening would have sped up dramatically. Yes, he might have been KO’d, but it was literally his only chance to win if he had any desire to try.  Instead, he just stood there like a douchebag and racked up the lowest punch count in any fight he’s had since 2010. And he’ll make something like $90 million after all the back end money comes in.  Now who’s boring?
Best, and I hope you wanted a novel. I didn’t realize how long that got.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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