Those of us who follow the sport closely are fully aware of the “cold war” between managers and promotional companies. We’ve suffered through the facade of trash talk between fighters who know their managers will protect them from any real danger of losing their “0” and all big paydays they are promised will follow.
I blame this partly on Floyd Mayweather. I say this because he has promoted and cherished his “0”. The difference is Floyd has EARNED his zero. All debating aside, all hatred for the “man” aside, all arguments that “the fight” was made five years too late aside; the man has beaten everyone who has stepped in to the ring with him. Now fighters want to be like him. They want to live like him. They want the payday from the numbers he brings in. The problem with that? They aren’t as good as him. They aren’t drawing legions of fans (for the right reasons) like him. Floyd is a technical master. The best way to describe him is the word “Sprezzatura” which Baldassare Castiglione defines as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”. That is Floyd in a nut shell although his work in the gym is legendary. He makes things look easy in the ring, period.
Now to further push the point of this article, allow me to address the Pacman. Manny has lost. Not much, but he has lost. He also lost brutally to Juan Manuel Marquez. But has he lost any fans or followers? Not a single one. When Manny loses, his fans want revenge. They accept the loss as a part of the sport; a part of life. But instead of verbally beating him and condemning him, they hope to hear their boxing hero ask, even beg for a rematch. This is due to the story of Manny which has grown in to the legend of Manny. A legendary struggle early in life, a dedication which led to a legendary conquering of eight weight divisions and above all, a legendary love shown for those who continue to struggle as he once did.
No two fighters may ever come along and make this much of an impact again; and simultaneously no less. I am not in any way being cynical; however there is a valid reason for such a claim. The reason is they fought and beat the best, time and time again. And at this point, they each only have one more man to beat. May 2nd they get their respective chances at that man. For fans of Manny and Floyd, boxing is very much alive.
Now for the rest of the field…
Can we first agree that no other sport (besides MMA) provides the biggest test of a man’s mettle? His moxie? The size of his stones? The erectness of his spine? Can we agree that few tasks are as daunting as standing across a ring from a man with every intention of punishing you, embarrassing you, and ultimately beating you; all the while desiring to look great doing it?
No, there is none.
In every other sport the best WANT the best. The players want the opportunity to dethrone the “King”, and they ask for it. Tom Thibodeau never asked to meet LeBron. Thibodeau never “hoped” LeBron would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Joakim Noah did.
Noah wanted to avenge the losses he and his Bulls suffered at the hands of LeBron James. He wanted it for himself, for his teammates, for his legacy, for the whole city of Chicago. And I love him for that. In the final minutes of any NBA game, in the playoffs, and on the biggest stage in the finals; the best guard the best. Chris Paul has met LeBron at the top of the key. Kobe has met Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant has met Chris Paul.
And that is the only way they would have it.
In the NFL, the best running backs look forward to meeting the best defenses every Sunday in hopes of being the first back of the season to rush for a hundred yards against that defense. Richard Sherman, love him or hate him, lines up against your team’s best receiver every Sunday.
Not so much in our beloved sport of boxing.
Men, fighters, vacate (unnecessary) belts and forgo multi-million dollar paydays under the guidance of their babysitters (managers). Is the fighter scared? Or does the manager not have the level of faith in their cash cow they really should (Quillin vs. Korobov)? And why call out a fighter in a lower division in hopes of raising your own plummeting stock i.e. Lara vs. Thurman?
This is why we get behind fighters such as “One Time” Thurman, Bud Crawford, Canelo, and (love him or hate him) Adrien “The Problem” Broner. They beg for the biggest fights. They beg for the biggest stage. Broner jumped two weight classes to fight Maidana. Lara called down a weight class to fight Thurman even though he (Lara) fights in one of the most competitive divisions in boxing.
Again, we are talking about guys who FIGHT for a living.
So although boxing may not be dead (Thank you PBC, Sergey Kovalev, and Jean Pascal), the babysitters and possibly the fighters are allowing their mouths to write checks their fists refuse to attempt to cash. And the only ones suffering are the fans.
So as always, lets the debates begin and please, keep it above the belt!