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Textual Chocolate: The Real Loser



It’s been, as of this writing, five hours since Pacquiao vs. Mayweather wrapped up.

The Philippines is relatively quiet. We lost. We lost the match of the century. Some, like myself, are accepting. There was a chance, everyone knew, that this wouldn’t go our way. Some were just more open to it than others. Some are indifferent. A lot are angry, in denial. This heel of an American boxer—known to be abrasive, known to have won once by what was pretty much a sucker punch, known to have battered his wife, among other things—shouldn’t be this good. Pacquiao ended up taking the bait, playing Mayweather’s game; throwing out punches but never getting too creative, or never finding the space to be creative enough.

What happened was a cat-and-mouse game in Las Vegas. It just so happened that Mayweather was the cat and Pacquiao ended up being the mouse. But that’s the way the cat plays. Anyone who’s just seen one Mayweather fight has seen them all, and it’s a shame that Pacquiao never got around to doing anything different.

This is not, however, a boxing column. I’m not going to pretend to know everything about the Sweet Science and try to probe deeper into its nuances. I can’t do that. And even if I wanted to, this is (obviously) a wrestling column, and I must find a connection to our beloved “sport.” 

Well, hey, guess what—I found one, and it didn’t even have to wait until the fight was over.

A lot of the local reactions I’ve seen surrounding the fight were to the tune of it being a letdown, and how the opponent never seemed to be as good as he says he is: Floyd hugged clinched too much whenever Manny would find an inch that he could turn into a yard. Floyd ducked too much. Floyd ran too much. Floyd put up his hands too much, blocked too much. Floyd didn’t do enough, Floyd didn’t fight enough. And he’s champ? While Manny kept going out on a limb? Well shit, boxing is dead.



This is actually the kind of amateur, utterly uninformed casual commentary I keep hearing whenever Pacquiao faces someone who fights cautiously—which is pretty much a lot of his opponents, considering they all know that if they leave themselves open for just a tad bit too long, Manny’s going to take advantage of it and kick the door open. (Just ask Ricky Hatton.) To Manny’s fans, and to a lot of casual fight fans (the overlap of which is pretty huge), a real fight consists of a slobberknocker. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thus, the narrative becomes whoever initiates and stays in the slugfest is a brave man. A hero. The true fighter. Whoever avoids it is a coward; to fight a cowardly fight makes him the villain. Black and white. Boxing is a battle, of course. People and their bloodlust constantly look for the warfare. 

But it just so happened that Pacquiao and Mayweather had their own different tactics, each with their own nuances, one maybe more nuanced than the other, but definitely intelligent. It just wasn’t warfare. Mayweather didn’t just come to Vegas today (or to any of his fights) and decide he was going to do nothing. What looked like doing nothing was still a gameplan, just as much as what looked like doing something was also a gameplan. To reduce his strategy of cherrypicking good shots to simply “running and hugging,” as many people are doing, isn’t really clever; it’s betraying a lack of understanding.

People refused, refuse, and will refuse to see this, because whatever they do not completely understand will fail to excite them. People project their expectations of a battle between gladiators too much, and overreact when it doesn’t happen. Without the warfare, apparently—and people love saying this—boxing is dead.

Everyone, including myself, wants the easy narrative. Two guys trading punches to the face is the easiest narrative of them all in not just boxing, but any sort of fighting. And the easiest narrative draws best. What’s an easier narrative than a battle between good and evil?

Unfortunately, boxing—and a lot of real sports—is really not that cut and dry.

The thing people either are forgetting or plain do not know about real, unscripted sports is that it has no obligation to be a spectacle to its viewers. It owes you nothing. While sports is entertainment, it does not owe you entertainment. Its myriad players do not owe you entertainment; they fight to win. This ties in with the same gripe that pundits have against guys in the current WWE machine, like Dolph Ziggler, who put so much stock in entertaining the audience that they undermine whatever fictional stakes they’re made to fight for. 

But real sports have the opposite problem: when they don’t entertain fans, they also lose.

This is why allegations of scripting exist, and hell, this is why wrestling “turned pro” in the first place. What better way to rake in all the cash than to heighten the drama? This is why personal lives matter now, this is why narratives are built up now more than ever across all sports, this is why pure sport is boring and pedantic. It’s a problem boxing, at least, must try to address without corrupting itself further. Quite the paradox, really: how do you repair your image without going to the same lengths that ruined it? It is, however, a question others are better suited to answer.

But fans, especially casual viewers, can’t have their cake and eat it too. They can’t tune in to watch real sports, whether it be boxing or MMA or basketball or what else have you (and possibly deride pro wrestling in the process), without accepting the dull nights. If they want to watch a fight that’s (almost) always entertaining because it’s (almost) always a spectacle, go watch pro wrestling. Or if you don’t want to debase yourself, go watch a movie. 

Of course, you can’t claim the status of legitimacy should you choose to do so. But here’s the thing—you shouldn’t care what other people think. Aren’t you here to be entertained? Aren’t you here to be happy?

Meanwhile, the two fighters who fought their way to a foregone conclusion are happy. They’ve earned their money. Mayweather is tired but relieved, we guess. Pacquiao has gotten through, but at the end of the day seems aloof to the ideas and notions of glory and being the best boxer in the world. Maybe he just wants to go home, maybe he just wants to rest; after all, no longer is he fighting to survive. He hasn’t been for a long time.

But he didn’t lose. Not really. The world did—it keeps thinking it’s owed something.


*****



Romeo Moran is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.

Comments

  1. Beautifully written. This is why I watch wrestling.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There's nothing more I can agree here. Real sports and general entertainment are two different worlds. The problem, however, is that when a league enters a covenant for media coverage, the audience perceived it as more of an entertaining program than understanding its real essence—which is to showcase what the sport is all about.

    One exception though: pro wrestling. (which is obviously, sports entertainment)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Casuals start watching to be entertained, not to appreciate a sport for what it is. Unfortunately, they think all boxing fights are slobberknockers.

      Delete

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