A weekend with Oscar, Floyd and Roger
May. 7, 2007 | feedback
When we're shelling out $64.95 for an HD boxing pay-per-view, our ultimate hope is that the telecast won't end with everyone saying, "Crap, that wasn't worth it." Well, nobody was saying that Saturday night. We had the chance to watch two legends lift themselves to a higher place, a ferocious battle that left everyone drained and exhausted for days. We can only hope and pray for a rematch. And I'm not going to rest until both champions are signed.
Just to be clear, I'm not referring to the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight. I'm talking about Larry Merchant's interview of Floyd Mayweather's father, which could have been boxing's greatest eight minutes since the Hagler-Hearns fight. Merchant has been a perennial Unintentional Comedy All-Star since the scale was invented in 2000, but since he glided into his mid-70s, he has taken his "tipsy uncle trapping two nieces during a wedding reception and telling them a 35-minute story" routine to a whole new level. It would be unfair to call Merchant "incoherent" because there is a coherence about him. He's not talking gibberish. There's an appealing eloquence to the way he speaks, almost as if he's reading us a bedtime story with every monologue. It's just impossible to follow what he's saying. The important thing to remember is that Merchant understands what he's saying, and maybe that's all that matters.
Spurs-Suns: Game 1 confirmed that Phoenix can't win the series; the Suns can't control the boards and they can't handle Duncan or Parker. Spurs in 6, possibly 5. At the very least, let's hope the rest of the series lives up to the near-impeccable quality of Game 1.
Pistons-Bulls: Impossible matchup for Chicago because the Bulls can't play Gordon and Hinrich at the same time against Billups/Hamilton for defensive reasons and Prince negates their best player (Deng). You can hurt Detroit with energy and one good low-post player; the Bulls have one but not the other. Pistons in 5.
Cavs-Nets: Two roller-coaster teams who aren't that good in gambling parlance, it's the proverbial stay away. At gunpoint, I'd go with the Cavs in 7 only because LeBron will get every superstar call in a Game 7.
Jazz-Warriors: A worst-case scenario for GSW. The Warriors would have crushed Houston; now they have nobody to defend Carlos Boozer (an emerging superstar), the Williams-Davis matchup is a wash and their home-court advantage has been nullified because Utah can win anywhere (as it proved in Game 7 of the Houston series). As much as it kills me Jazz in 5.
As for Floyd Sr., he looks like a cross between Otis Nixon and the Predator. We might as well start there. If Roger Mayweather is the Flavor Flav of boxing, then Floyd is like Flavor Flav after about eight drinks. He contradicts himself with every other sentence, only there's an eerie confidence about him as he's contradicting himself, almost as though his long-term memory lasts for only two seconds at a time. If you made Floyd a cup of coffee, he might say to you, "Wow, this is some great coffee, it's really good, it's delicious I can't drink this coffee, it's too strong." Before the fight, Larry asked Floyd Sr. whether it bothered him that his son picked his uncle to train him (and not Floyd Sr.). Here was Floyd's answer:
"If Oscar if it just so happens that Oscar don't do what he's supposed to do he still should have picked the father anyway and then again, you know, a lotta people would say, ohhhhhhh, if Li'l Floyd will be beating Oscar all the way through this fight and Oscar somehow finds the range or the distance to get his left hook off, a lotta people gonna say it was luck Oscar got lucky there's no such thing as luck in a fight "
This went on for another 20 seconds. It was like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, only the exact opposite. After the fight, when Larry pressed Floyd Sr. for his verdict, Floyd vacillated between his son and Oscar, with Larry trying to interpret what Floyd was saying, then Floyd babbling about the point system, then Larry finally cutting him off, leading to this exchange:
Floyd: "If you look at the point system, man
who's judging who the most
Larry (frustrated): "Oscar or Floyd, who won?"
Floyd (thinking): "Hey man if you had to go by point system you've gotta give it to Oscar."
Larry (relieved, throwing it back to Lampley): "Thank you! Jim?"
Unfortunately, the Merchant-Mayweather interviews overshadowed the fight itself. Nearly 36 hours have passed, and I find myself getting angrier and angrier about what happened -- not just that boxing screwed up its last chance to win back a mainstream audience but also the lack of do-or-die competitiveness displayed by both guys. We're conditioned to watching boxing movies where both fighters leave everything in the ring, where they're not thinking about tomorrow, where all they care about is beating up the guy in front of them. Oscar and Floyd treated their 12-round fight as if it was a glorified sparring session. The next boxing "purist" who calls this a great fight or a superb chess match needs to be punched in the face. This wasn't a fight; it was a business arrangement. These guys didn't want to do whatever it took to win the fight; they wanted to make it to the final bell without looking bad.
Hence, we watched them pick their spots for a solid hour. Once or twice per round, De La Hoya pressed the action and slapped together an awkward flurry of punches, with most of them either missing or getting blocked by Mayweather. Every so often, Floyd snapped a crisp jab or a straight right, but most of the time, he danced around the ring so Oscar couldn't pin him against the ropes. For all of Floyd's bravado on HBO's "24/7" show, he seemed perfectly content to do just enough to win seven or eight rounds, grab his new belt and go home. He certainly didn't have a pressing need to dominate Oscar or break his will, that's for sure.
Oscar made a big deal about how he "tried" to force the action, but come on anyone who watched Chavez or Hagler in their primes knows what it's like to watch an elite fighter chase down an opponent and physically beat him down. There was never any urgency from Oscar's side; he seemed perfectly content to head to the scorecards and let the potentially corrupt judges work their magic. When he lost the fight by a scant two points -- if the third judge had scored one round differently, it would have been a draw -- Oscar didn't even seem perturbed or bummed out. And that has been the defining theme of his career: After every loss, we've watched him graciously recap the fight in the ring with the happy-go-lucky demeanor of someone who just blew a $10 blackjack hand. Unlike overcompetitive killers like Hagler and Chavez -- street fighters who felt a fundamental need to destroy everyone in their path -- we'll remember Oscar as an exceedingly nice guy, a shrewd businessman who happened to box for a living. I'd rather be friends with Oscar, but I'd rather pay $64.95 to see fighters wired like Chavez and Hagler.
One thing's for sure: After Saturday's fight ended, both Mayweather and De La Hoya looked as though they could go another 10 rounds. You shouldn't feel that way after a big fight, right?
Here's what really bothered me
In the final 10 seconds of the fight, both guys let loose for the one and only time, trading hard punches even after the final bell, almost as if they were testing each other's chins for the rematch. Maybe I'm a cynical guy, but I thought this was the most telling moment of the night. Watch any great fight on ESPN Classic and the boxers always test each other well before the final round; they'll trade bombs just to see what happens, out of sheer competitiveness more than anything else. On Saturday night, this didn't happen until the very end, as though Floyd and Oscar decided beforehand that the fight would conclude that way to whet our appetite for a rematch.
Looking back, everything about this fight was a little contrived -- the HBO reality show, the "bad" blood, the scorecards at the end to make the fight seem closer than it was (how could anyone give seven rounds to Oscar when he missed 80 percent of his punches????), even 12 cautious rounds of calculated, danger-free action. It was like paying to watch Stallone and Tarver film the boxing scenes for "Rocky Balboa."
Come on, guys, make it look as authentic as possible!
Hey, I don't care if two guys wanted to fight for a super welterweight title without getting hurt, but I do care that I paid $64.95 for it. Fortunately, Larry Merchant and Floyd Mayweather Sr. saved the day. Next time, we might not be so lucky.
As for Clemens signing with the Yankees, I was surprised by my lack of emotion as I watched him pull a Jimmy Chitwood and address his forgiving lapdogs at Yankee Stadium (who seemed perfectly willing to forget that Clemens screwed them over a few years ago by fleeing to Houston). I didn't really care. I swear, I didn't care.
In fact, here are 10 reasons I'm happy the Rocket signed with the Yankees.
1. There's finally a villain on the 2007 Yankees. Just like the good old days. I was tired of talking myself into despising A-Rod and Posada.
2. Since he didn't sign with Boston, I wasn't put in the position of (A) having to boycott his starts and (B) feeling constantly sick because so many Red Sox fans would have been perfectly willing to forgive him if he came back. This would have been awful. I would not have handled it well. Now I get to look forward to the possibility of Clemens pitching in Fenway in three weeks while the entire crowd chants, "H-G-H! H-G-H! H-G-H! H-G-H!" Much better.
3. He burned his bridges with yet another city (Houston). Love when that happens.
4. Watching the inevitable "Brokeback Mountain" parody trailer on YouTube with Clemens and Andy Pettitte. It hasn't happened yet, but you know it's coming.
5. If he'd signed with Boston, between Dice-K Mania, Beckett's quest for 30 wins and the return of the greatest Red Sox pitcher ever, Curt Schilling might have snapped from a lack of attention -- we could have seen him break a baseball bat over a Japanese photographer's head just to grab the spotlight again. Glad we avoided this.
6. Honestly? I don't think Clemens will be that good for the Yanks. He turns 45 in August and has been pitching in an inferior hitting league for the past few years. Physically, it just doesn't add up. He's defying the career paths of every other pitcher in the the history of baseball I mean, even a freak of nature like Nolan Ryan started to break down in his mid-40s. How is Clemens still chugging along? How? I just feel as though the odds of Clemens either breaking down or becoming involved in a massive scandal seem to be much greater than the odds of him continuing to be an elite pitcher. And if he stinks it's going to be glorious. Just glorious.
7. The Yankees' clubhouse is already fragile enough now they're adding a guy who abides by his own sets of rules, flies back home after every start, drags his kids around with him like Michael Jackson, and comes and goes when he pleases? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? If he struggles out of the gate, the Yankees' fans will turn on him faster than the WWE fans turning on John Cena during a pay-per-view.
8. We're coming closer and closer to my dream of Clemens' Hall of Fame plaque featuring a cap with a dollar sign on it. I feel as if that's a genuine possibility at this point.
9. The Red Sox spitefully giving No. 21 to someone else this season, preferably the worst pitcher on the team. In fact, I vote that they bring Rich Garces back, feed him burritos until he passes the 400-pound mark, then squash him into a No. 21 jersey and hire him as the bullpen coach.
10. Looking forward to an entire season of e-mails like these
RC in Guatemala City: "So let me get this straight we're supposed to be scared of the Yankees hiring a 45-year-old fat dude with groin problems? Really?"
Jason T. in Maine: "I'm happy Roger is going to the Yankees. Trying to bring him back to Boston made me feel like Forrest Gump at the end of the movie. You know, when Jenny, the used-up coke fiend, came back to Forrest to die of AIDS after screwing half the continent. After the last two series, the amount of hate for the Yankees, at least in my heart, was in serious decline. Now I feel reinvigorated, full of hate for all things pinstriped."
Gary in Somerville, Mass.: "I thought you were nuts last year when you were openly hoping that Roger didn't come back to Boston. But after he dangled himself in front of the Yanks, Sox and Astros AGAIN this year I snapped out of it and realized that some things just aren't worth another championship. That grotesque display today IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME told me I made the right choice. Am I the only one that finds this Clemens/Pettitte thing more than a little odd? I can imagine that when Roger told his wife that he was going back to the Yankees she had the same look on her face that Michelle Williams did when Heath Ledger told her he was going 'fishing' with Jake Gyllenhaal."
John F. in Kansas: "This is historic who ever heard of a rat jumping ON a sinking ship?"