Mayweather-Pacquiao can't save boxing

Boxing is experiencing a revival of sorts in America.  No one knows exactly why or for how long.  In the past year it has crept back on to network TV, broadening its exposure.  But greed rules this game, and the more popular boxing becomes, the more likely public access will be limited by pay per view.  That's proved deadly for the sport the past forty years.  More ominously for boxing, history has turned against it.  Too violent, too damaging.  So it might seem a little surprising that the sport is about to have its biggest payday ever.

Mayweather-Pacquiao is undeniably the fight of the century, though it’s occurring in the wrong decade.  These men are old athletes now (38 and 36), both past their primes.  A writer said about undefeated Floyd Mayweather, who once floated effortlessly around the ring, that today he’s almost stationary, and “when he moves, he does so with the delicate deliberation of a dog hunting for the right spot to pee.”  Yet pee he can still do, and many expect Mayweather to win in an endurance fight.

To the sport itself this match is virtually meaningless, little more than a grandiose afterthought.  Both men are at the end of their careers.  If the fight is entertaining, expect a rematch, one more obscene payout, though no one envisions either man continuing as an integral part of the fight game much after that. 

Despite the diminished talents, the fight has become an international media event and may generate close to a half-billion dollars in revenue. That’s partly because of the decade-long anticipation.  It also pits one the sport’s most popular fighters, Pacquiao, against one of its most despised.  Mayweather is not just arrogant and vulgar.  ESPN’s own holier-than-thou a-hole, Keith Olbermann, urged a boycott of the fight because of Mayweather’s five domestic abuse convictions.  That's right: five.  (ESPN is trying desperately to keep its PC cred viable at the same time it rakes in tons of money off this fight.  If an NFL player had even two domestic abuse charges against him, let alone convictions, ESPN’s resident holies would be screaming like steroidal feminists for a lifetime ban.)

That aside, neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao should be taking blows to the head at this point in their lives.  The fight raises the painful specter of another Las Vegas bout, the Ali-Holmes debacle 35 years ago.  The great Ali, already showing signs of the Parkinson’s that would consume him, should never have been allowed in the ring.  His former cornerman Dr. Ferdie Pacheco said after the bout: “All the people involved in this fight should have been arrested.”  After battering his idol for 10 ugly rounds, Holmes retired to his locker room and wept.  Ali was 38 years old.

Pacquiao has seemingly taken more head trauma than Mayweather, but the latter has a real-life example to contemplate: his father, former fighter Floyd Mayweather, Sr.  Watch this recent interview with the man and decide for yourself.  What’s a $180-million payday really worth if you’re left brain-damaged or incapacitated with Parkinson's for the last 50 years of your life?

Boxing’s probably about finished as a sport no matter what happens Saturday night.  It can’t win for losing.  The more popular it becomes, the more active its greed merchants and opponents become.  In an age when even the undisputed heavyweight champion of them all, football, is facing a problematic future, what kind of life expectancy can a sport have that specifically targets the head?  Not much of one.

But we watch, and it lives on.  Look at the popularity of ultimate fighting.  How's that even legal?  Inexplicably, I’ve found myself drawn back to televised boxing the past couple years, first on HBO and then ESPN.  I hadn't watched a fight in 30 years.  It must be primal.  Who can turn away from a fistfight?  And so I’ll be watching this upcoming bout, rooting for Pacquiao in some bar Saturday, though I’d be even happier if mankind pulled the plug on the entire sport on Friday.   

Boxing is experiencing a revival of sorts in America.  No one knows exactly why or for how long.  In the past year it has crept back on to network TV, broadening its exposure.  But greed rules this game, and the more popular boxing becomes, the more likely public access will be limited by pay per view.  That's proved deadly for the sport the past forty years.  More ominously for boxing, history has turned against it.  Too violent, too damaging.  So it might seem a little surprising that the sport is about to have its biggest payday ever.

Mayweather-Pacquiao is undeniably the fight of the century, though it’s occurring in the wrong decade.  These men are old athletes now (38 and 36), both past their primes.  A writer said about undefeated Floyd Mayweather, who once floated effortlessly around the ring, that today he’s almost stationary, and “when he moves, he does so with the delicate deliberation of a dog hunting for the right spot to pee.”  Yet pee he can still do, and many expect Mayweather to win in an endurance fight.

To the sport itself this match is virtually meaningless, little more than a grandiose afterthought.  Both men are at the end of their careers.  If the fight is entertaining, expect a rematch, one more obscene payout, though no one envisions either man continuing as an integral part of the fight game much after that. 

Despite the diminished talents, the fight has become an international media event and may generate close to a half-billion dollars in revenue. That’s partly because of the decade-long anticipation.  It also pits one the sport’s most popular fighters, Pacquiao, against one of its most despised.  Mayweather is not just arrogant and vulgar.  ESPN’s own holier-than-thou a-hole, Keith Olbermann, urged a boycott of the fight because of Mayweather’s five domestic abuse convictions.  That's right: five.  (ESPN is trying desperately to keep its PC cred viable at the same time it rakes in tons of money off this fight.  If an NFL player had even two domestic abuse charges against him, let alone convictions, ESPN’s resident holies would be screaming like steroidal feminists for a lifetime ban.)

That aside, neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao should be taking blows to the head at this point in their lives.  The fight raises the painful specter of another Las Vegas bout, the Ali-Holmes debacle 35 years ago.  The great Ali, already showing signs of the Parkinson’s that would consume him, should never have been allowed in the ring.  His former cornerman Dr. Ferdie Pacheco said after the bout: “All the people involved in this fight should have been arrested.”  After battering his idol for 10 ugly rounds, Holmes retired to his locker room and wept.  Ali was 38 years old.

Pacquiao has seemingly taken more head trauma than Mayweather, but the latter has a real-life example to contemplate: his father, former fighter Floyd Mayweather, Sr.  Watch this recent interview with the man and decide for yourself.  What’s a $180-million payday really worth if you’re left brain-damaged or incapacitated with Parkinson's for the last 50 years of your life?

Boxing’s probably about finished as a sport no matter what happens Saturday night.  It can’t win for losing.  The more popular it becomes, the more active its greed merchants and opponents become.  In an age when even the undisputed heavyweight champion of them all, football, is facing a problematic future, what kind of life expectancy can a sport have that specifically targets the head?  Not much of one.

But we watch, and it lives on.  Look at the popularity of ultimate fighting.  How's that even legal?  Inexplicably, I’ve found myself drawn back to televised boxing the past couple years, first on HBO and then ESPN.  I hadn't watched a fight in 30 years.  It must be primal.  Who can turn away from a fistfight?  And so I’ll be watching this upcoming bout, rooting for Pacquiao in some bar Saturday, though I’d be even happier if mankind pulled the plug on the entire sport on Friday.