Jay Caspian Kang: It’s only early March and the big fights of the fall haven’t been lined up yet, but should we go ahead and proclaim Saturday’s brutal 12-round welterweight battle the Fight of the Year? For those rightfully rolling their eyes right now, let me clarify the question. Given the ongoing feud between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, the age of some of the top fighters in the sport (Sergio Martinez, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and Juan Manuel Marquez are all at least 34 years old), and the general putridity we’ve seen so far in 2013, are there any potential matchups that could possibly match the skill, power, and heart we saw on display Saturday night in Carson, California? Great fights often come out of nowhere, with Bradley vs. Provodnikov being the most recent example of that truth. But given the protection of some of the top young contenders via their promoters’ matchmaking, will we really see a fight where a top-flight fighter like Bradley gets seriously tested by a guy who has absolutely nothing to lose? What would that fight even be?
The smart money lies with Canelo Alvarez’s upcoming bout against Austin Trout in San Antonio. I suppose there’s a chance that Trout’s speed and the sheer volume of his punches slows down the unstoppable Canelo machine, but count me as maybe the only boxing writer out there who doesn’t really buy all the talk that has circulated about Canelo taking the fight against the wishes of his handlers and Golden Boy Promotions. Someone sees a real weakness in Trout that the rest of us who watched him beat Miguel Cotto do not. If Trout’s as dangerous as he seems, there’s no way Golden Boy would risk their big golden Canelo baby at the tender age of 22.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Floyd Mayweather’s ascent to his position as king of the boxing box office is that he’s done it without being an exciting fighter. Rather, he convinces fans to pay for his fights by distracting them from what will actually happen in the ring. He’s a master manipulator, the likes of which boxing hasn’t seen since Muhammad Ali. And with the official announcement on Tuesday of his next fight, Mayweather has done it again. He’s whipped the boxing world into a frenzy despite choosing the modest-profile opponent we assumed all along he was going to choose.
On May 4, Mayweather will take on Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero. What makes the announcement worthy of talking-head analysis 10 weeks before the fight is that he’ll face Guerrero on Showtime pay-per-view. After a 15-year relationship with HBO, the network that aired 25 of his last 26 bouts, Mayweather, the biggest draw in boxing, has signed a six-fight deal with the top contender to HBO’s throne. His defection forces us to ask: Is HBO now the top contender to Showtime’s throne?
Rarely does the mere announcement of a fight pack as many angles and sub-angles as this one, but damn you, Floyd Mayweather, you’ve manipulated us into breaking down five questions worth exploring in the run-up to Cinco de Mayweather weekend, 2013:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
The Redskins rallied to beat the Ravens, 31-28, in overtime, and dodged a bullet when Robert Griffin III's knee injury was diagnosed a sprain, and not an ACL tear. They dodged another bullet when they discovered it wasn't a sprained knee at all, just a swollen fat face, and dodged a final bullet when they realized they were actually looking at a large photo of team owner Dan Snyder.
1. Does anyone actually know which boxers are good, which are great, and which are fake?
I’m not sure. The sport is so balkanized that there just doesn’t seem to be a reliable way of determining who the best fighters really are. If you tried to make a flow chart of all the competing promoters, managers, advisers, television networks, state athletic commissions, and the fighters themselves, I imagine it would resemble the knot of greasy hair that accumulates in your bathtub drain. On top of that, there’s the very tired but very true old saw that styles make fights — a boxer can look horrible against certain opponents and transcendent against others.
This helps explain what we witnessed Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, when 154-pound champion Austin Trout won a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto — one of boxing’s real superstars — in front of a mostly deflated Puerto Rican crowd that came to cheer Cotto. After the fact, it’s easy to see how Trout defeated Cotto — he was bigger and faster, with more crisp boxing skills. He fought busier than Cotto, and he proved capable of handling Cotto’s pressure and power. Was it possible to predict this before the fight? Sure, but that prediction would have been mostly guesswork. Just as easily as you could look at Trout’s age, size, and speed advantages, you could point to Cotto’s edges in experience, acknowledged punching power, and demonstrated willpower. And with Cotto, at least, you can feel confident in knowing what he would bring into the ring, since he’d demonstrated it against the best fighters of his generation — Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Shane Mosley, the list goes on. All the skills Trout demonstrated in his 25 professional fights before facing Cotto might not mean anything, since he’d been showcasing them against opponents worse than almost every fighter Cotto has faced in the past six or seven years.
It’s been a rough couple of years for athletes nicknamed “Macho.” In May 2011, pro wrestling legend Randy “Macho Man” Savage suffered a heart attack while driving, crashed his Jeep Wrangler, and died at age 58. Last week, 50-year-old ex-boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho was shot while sitting in a parked car, declared brain dead, and taken off life support four days later.
But for both Camacho and Savage, the “Macho” nickname came with some irony. Savage was a star in a fake combat sport, and in his heyday, his heel gimmick included putting his female manager in harm’s way to spare himself. Camacho squeezed out a 30-year career in boxing by developing perhaps the least macho in-ring style among high-profile fighters of his era.
It’s all relative, of course. In boxing, the bar for “macho” is set unreasonably high. And it’s set there because of fighters like Miguel Cotto. Seven days after Camacho’s death, his Puerto Rican countryman Cotto will step into the ring at Madison Square Garden (the Spanish-Harlem-raised Camacho fought there 15 times). Cotto is as earnestly macho as they come. Even Camacho himself wouldn’t deny that he was a showman first and a rare talent who left a sizable slice of that talent untapped, unlike the hard-earned, authentic “macho” of Cotto.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Ross Detwiler pitched six strong innings and Ryan Zimmerman slammed a key RBI double as the Nationals clinched the first playoff berth in franchise history with a 4-1 win over the Dodgers. Wait a second is ESPN.com down? Weird. OK, just be cool. This is no big deal. It's just sports. It'll probably be back up soon. Maybe read the New York Times or something. Maybe see what's happening in the world since you last checked. Hmmm life expectancy is shrinking for less-educated whites in America. Am I less educated? I'm definitely white. I went to college, so maybe I'm OK. But I don't have a Master's degree. Oh God, I'm screwed, I'm going to die. I don't want to read this. Come back, ESPN. Just please come back.
To the sport I’ve been watching and writing about the last three Saturday nights, I ask this question: Who are you, and what have you done with boxing?
You superficially resemble boxing, with the four-sided rings and the dudes wearing gloves all punching each other and spitting into buckets and whatnot. But where are the two steps back for every step forward? Where is the sound of gunshots as you shoot yourself in the feet taking those backward and forward steps? Where are the horrid scorecards that beget conspiracy theories, the body slams resulting in no-contests, the impassioned press conference trash talk that precedes 12 rounds of passionless mauling?
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The University of Connecticut announced that legendary men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun will announce his retirement today. They were going to let Calhoun himself break the news at the press conference, but then realized they should prep everyone since his mumbling, near-unintelligible speeches have previously been misinterpreted as everything from presidential endorsements to sexual advice to, in one case, a recipe for something called "fried Krzyzewski."
If you’re incautious enough to spend any period of time looking at online gambling forums, two things will probably occur. Firstly, your faith in humanity will quickly disappear, and secondly, you’ll be amazed by how gullible people can be. Any online claim of extraordinary betting prowess will immediately be met with the challenge “pics or it didn’t happen,” but if you add a photo of a betting slip, the natural skepticism of the Internet’s gamblers will disappear immediately. Have these people never heard of Photoshop? However, there’s one gambler who never needs to be prompted to post a photo of his winning bets, and his bankroll is so huge that there’s no reason to suspect foul play: I refer, of course, to boxing’s undefeated quintuple world champion, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather is famous for his enormous bets, largely because he’s been tirelessly promoting himself on Twitter as boxing’s answer to Nick the Greek. By my count, between August 2010 (when he began tweeting his slips) and February 2012, Mayweather tweeted photographs of 46 betting slips, totaling $3,890,833 worth of bets, and every single one of them was a winner, netting the fighter a cool $3,938,722 (and 87 cents) in winnings on those bets. Losing betting slips have been conspicuous by their absence. When asked about his losing slips, Floyd responded, “Why would I ever show a losing ticket when I’m 41-0.”
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The L.A. Kings are Stanley Cup champions. For the first time in franchise history, they're taking home the title after a 6-1 rout of the New Jersey Devils in Game 6. With the end of the NHL season, Canadians allowed themselves a night of celebration before migrating to their caves this morning to begin a long hibernation. But be warned — just because they're inactive for a few months doesn't mean you can disturb them without consequence. Canadians have been known to react violently when woken from a hibernation slumber. They can rise quickly to defend themselves if they think an attack is imminent — a necessary skill, since they can't burrow underground for protection.
Timothy Bradley first entered the boxing consciousness about five years ago with a handful of impressive victories on Showtime’s why-are-you-still-awake-at-this-hour boxing series, ShoBox. Back then, the ring announcers referred to him by his full name, Timothy Ray Bradley. Upon realizing they were attempting to advance the career of a boxer and not a serial killer or political assassin, Bradley’s promotional team wisely dropped the “Ray” a short while later. Now we’re left with Timothy Bradley: boring name. Dangerous fighter. Potential super-fight killer and payday assassin.
You know what theoretical nine-figure super fight we’re talking about — Mayweather-Pacquiao. It’s the only fight anyone who doesn’t follow boxing on a day-to-day basis ever talks about. And even though Floyd Mayweather’s temporary residence in the Clark County Detention Center has limited talk of said super fight this week, it will again be the only boxing topic anyone is talking about come late Saturday night if Manny Pacquiao defeats Bradley.
But until and unless Bradley makes this a reality instead, let’s explore what Pacquiao-Bradley is rather than lamenting what it isn’t. Here are five intriguing topics surrounding Saturday’s fight:
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said he's taking things day by day after suffering a high ankle sprain, and is no longer wearing his walking boot. "Now I'm wearing a fun-time groovy sock-hop boot," he said, reading from a script typed out on Bill Belichick's personal stationery. "Just for kicks, Daddy-O. Dig it: I'm a I'm a hubcap? No, it's hep cat. I'm a hep cat."
Peyton Manning told ESPN that he "feels good" and expects to play next season. In the same interview, he also asked Andrew Luck to stop mailing him copies of Shakespeare's King Lear and stacks of Metamucil coupons.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday
Flu-like symptoms didn't stop LeBron James from scoring 31 points and leading the Heat to a 98-87 win over the Lakers. "It was just like Jordan in Game 5 of the '97 Finals!" yelled a sweaty, 6'8" reporter wearing a fake mustache and beard, as everyone in the press area waited for LeBron to come out.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal both advanced to the round of 16 in straight sets at the Australian Open, where they're on a collision course to meet in the semifinals. The last time they met in Australia, Rafa made Roger cry by beating him in the finals. This time, Roger vowed to stew moodily in the background, flick wisps of hair off his forehead, and daydream about fire-bombing the whole island of Mallorca.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Aaron Rodgers threw three four touchdown passes and the Green Bay Packers improved to 9-0 with a 45-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. I'm trying to suppress a decade's worth of media influence here God help me I'm not strong enough BRETTFAVREBRETTFAVREBRETTFAVRE.