Earlier this month, trainer and de facto spokesperson for eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao,
Freddie Roach, dismissed Chris Algieri as a “boxer who has a good jab, but is nothing special. Pacquiao is
going to have to press him a bit and will probably knock him out.”
If the pre-fight hype follows form, you can expect Roach to beat the kayo drum louder and louder in
the coming weeks as the fight draws near. Equal parts coach and boxing holy man, Roach preaches
knockouts to Pacquiao’s flock of fists.
But the sheep have gone astray.
The ref had disqualified his opponent and ended the fight, but Brandon Rios still wasn’t happy. He charged into Diego Chaves’ corner intent on shouting the Argentine down with words direct and vulgar enough to survive any translation. The confusion in the ring that occurred at the hands of an overwhelmed referee when the fight was called almost erupted into an unsanctioned extra inning of boxing that most of the fans would have liked to see.
But I had already seen enough. There is no joy in watching a case of dementia pugilistica being cultivated before your eyes. I take no joy in saying that if Rios isn’t already officially a “shot” fighter, he should consider becoming one.
Last night I was asking a friend about Bob Arum’s unpopular plan for his biggest star in Manny Pacquiao to fight an unheralded nobody this November and he summed it up by saying, “Boxing is stupid, it’s awful.” I pressed him, “But why? Why is this fight being made?” And like all boxing fans not related to the opponent Chris Algieri, he shrugged before repeating, “Boxing is stupid.”
While the business of boxing might be stupid, but Bob Arum is not, so what gives? If nothing else, this decision is a clear message to boxing fans that Arum isn’t concerned about pleasing loyal boxing fans, he figures you’ll follow anyway. He’s looking for new fans, whether they’re residents of Algieri’s Long Island bedroom suburb or of a Chinese factory town.
Instead of the epic battle we had been promised by the two fighters’ resums, Puerto Rican Day revelers in NYC’s Madison Square Garden were treated to a one-sided onslaught doled out by their native son, Miguel Cotto, to the lineal middleweight champion last Saturday. Sergio Martinez, the best middleweight of an era without elite competition at 160 pounds, especially since Paul Williams’ injury-induced retirement, never looked like he had a chance.
The theater of the ring is established by moments like Saturday’s. An all-out war between two of the best performers of their generation would have been a thriller, instead we were given a tragedy: the career death of a great fighter. Whether Martinez demeans himself to fight again on half a leg or not, the 39-year-old’s mind has succumbed to his body and the damage looks permanent.
Like no other sport, boxing holds onto the narrative of this country itself, serving more as mirror than window upon which to view the changing belly and art of our culture, and it still holds on for dear life.
Back when the country had the money and appetite for unimaginably extensive public works projects like the interstate highway system, the cities and towns of the Northeast that the Thruway spines connected were full of boxers; most being either newly immigrated from Europe or black and looking for a way to earn in one fight what they would otherwise earn in a much longer period of time in a factory or onion field.
Last Saturday afternoon a crowd of about 15 people gathered on the east side of Niagara Square’s traffic circle and did the same thing they’ve been doing in that space for a year now: holding a General Assembly for Occupy Buffalo. Once the meeting was called and the chatter of the various conversations subsided, a paper bag stuffed full of ginger-molasses cookies was passed around the circle and the members began planning their one-year anniversary, coming this weekend.
When Occupy Buffalo was evicted from Niagara Square in an early morning roundup on February 2, the Buffalo Police followed the “shock and awe” mold of action made popular by the same war the occupiers were motivated to protest, storming the square with dozens of squad cars and SWAT vehicles. By morning all that was left was a geodesic dome on loan from a supporter, which Occupy Buffalo successfully lobbied police to save from the payloaders and dumptrucks that followed the police cars.