by Dave Banuelos
I have loved Boxing longer than I’ve loved Baseball.
My early childhood was far more defined by Hagler-Leonard than the ’87 Mariners, and watching Mike Tyson destroy people was just a little more exciting than watching Jim Presley and Ken Phelps (even though those two combined for 51 HRs that year…who knew?). That eternally divisive decision (I still think Hagler won), and that Godzilla-like rampage through the heavyweight division occurred a generation ago when the sports world still converged upon a prizefight.
This Saturday, the fight in Vegas is—once again— all that matters. I know there’s a horserace, and some semi-dramatic early season baseball games, and some playoff basketball, and some playoff hockey. The fight is all that matters in sports on Saturday.
And this might be the last time that ever happens.
As a bordering-on-hardcore boxing fan in 2015, I can tell you that there are fighters out there who are way more exciting to watch than either of the two first-balloters who will finally face each other tomorrow. Gennady Golovkin is currently laying waste to the middleweight division in Tyson-like fashion. Sergey Kovalev is doing similar work at light-heavyweight. There are even more dazzling technical boxers (Guillermo Rigondeaux), and offensive machines (Leo Santa Cruz) out there than either of the guys fighting in the main event this weekend.
But Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao has the buildup, the compelling and sometimes sordid backstories (Floyd is a woman-beating sociopath, Manny probably took PEDs at some point) that have brought more attention from mainstream media on a boxing match than I’ve seen in over 20 years. Boxing has had its share of incredible moments in the last two decades, but it hasn’t produced a truly awesome sports moment since Foreman knocked out Moorer in 1994.
And I’m disheartened to inform you that Saturday is unlikely to produce a moment like that. Tune in early, and watch rising stars Vasyl Lomachenko, and Leo Santa Cruz do their respective things. Just don’t go in expecting the drama of Leonard-Hearns, or the Hollywood ending of Tyson-Douglas after Floyd and Manny receive their final instructions from referee Kenny Bayless.
I’m not saying it’s impossible. We would all love to see PacMan clip Money with a straight left, swarm him, and stop him. We’d all like Manny to do better than any rational fan could hope for, and eke out a Leonard-Hagler like decision. I’ve even fantasized about it being a questionable stoppage, or a garbage decision. The post-fight interview with Mayweather would be fucking amazing.
But Floyd is the Kobayashi Maru brought to life. He is the no-win scenario, the unbeatable computer simulation. He has made virtually everyone he has stepped in the ring with look helpless and befuddled at some point. The only way Manny beats him is to hit him so hard and clean that it reprograms the machine. I’m not sure I like his chances, but I have a fan’s hope that I am wrong.
And while I hope this isn’t the last time boxing own the sports spotlight in my lifetime, I plan to carry on watching it until—for whatever reason—I can’t anymore.