McCline-Peter More Interesting Than Pacquiao-Barrera

10.10.07 - By Scotty Crouse: This past Saturday night boxing fans witnessed a rarity in the sport, something that occurs about as infrequently as a Paulie Malignaggi knockout. No, it wasn’t that HBO and Showtime both had competing televised fights forcing boxing fans to choose which one to watch live and which one to record for later, a decision for hardcore fans akin to a woman deciding which pair of shoes to buy with her Nordstrom gift certificate..

Rather, on this particular night the decision seemed like a relatively easy one. One fight featured two of boxing’s most exciting fighters. Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera are warriors who have given boxing fans more value for their entertainment dollar than just about any others over the years. The plotline seemed destined to make this fight one that would immediately make an overnight trip from Las Vegas to the vault at ESPN Classic. Barrera wanted to avenge his most one-sided loss before ending his illustrious career and Pacquiao was continuing his quest to establish himself as Floyd Mayweather’s equal in the pound-for-pound category. It had the makings of a classic slugfest.

The other fight featured two heavyweights, which in and of itself should’ve made the decision a no-brainer. Sam Peter, who’s been jerked around more by the WBC than a five-year-old taking a Rottweiler for a walk was considered the best of the heavyweights, second only to Vladimir Klitschko, the only man to defeat him in thirty fights.

Probably the hardest and purest puncher in the division, a fight with WBC titlist Oleg Maskaev was believed to be a decent battle for as long as it lasted. When Maskaev pulled out of the fight due to what Don King called “Russian back disease,” the WBC decided the heavyweight division needed another title to go along with the twenty or so already in existence so they awarded Peter with a meaningless and mystifying title called the “interim” title.

The opponent for Peter, replacing Maskaev, was three-time title challenger and three-time title loser, Jameel “Big Time” McCline. Not a terrible choice by any means, but a fighter who had never come close to demonstrating the fire of a world champion--which probably has something to do with why he’s never been one. A worthy or not opponent, it would be pugilistic heresy to whisper his name in the same breath as that of Barrera or Pacquiao.

So the choice was between two proven warriors with dozens of title fights between them fighting for “all-time great” and “pound-for-pound” status and two heavyweights who had more question marks surrounding them than the final episode of the Sopranos and fighting for an empty and utterly insignificant title. Sure, one was on “free” TV (ie., non-ppv) and the other cost fifty smackers, but this only added about ten more seconds to the decision process.

Pacquiao/Barrera was a guaranteed barnburner and the fight that all your boxing friends and favorite internet websights would be talking about while Peter/McCline was like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates--you just didn’t know what you were going to get.

For me the choice was a simple one. Living in Maryland, a trip to New York was far easier and cheaper than one to Las Vegas. After having watched the Peter/McCline fight live at Madison Square Garden and the Pacquiao/Barrera fight the next day I believe the impossible actually occurred--the battle between the heavyweights was the better fight!

After you’ve read that last statement two, or three, or thirty times and have stopped pinching yourself to see whether you’re really conscious, consider this: Peter and McCline had more action, drama, excitement, suspense and surprises than Pacquiao and Barrera. You saw Peter, the favorite to win the fight, dropped not just once, but three times and barely survive. Throughout the remainder of the fight you knew the possibility existed that he could get caught again and the fight end quite dramatically.

Pacquiao/Barrera never delivered any of the above. Most of it was a cautiously and tentatively fought boxing match with neither fighter taking many risks. The favorite--Pacquiao--won by a considerably wide margin and the outcome never appeared to be in doubt. There were no knockdowns, no surprises, and very little toe-to-toe action. Pacquiao never mounted the type of assaults we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him, certainly nothing like his first fight with Barrera or any of his fights with Morales.

This is not to proclaim Peter/McCline a ring classic or FOY material. It was a very good fight, not a great fight, but was good enough this night to outshine two hall-of-famers who were supposed to vie for FOY honors themselves.

So does this indicate an overnight resurgence in the heavyweight division? Does it mean Manny Pacquiao is overrated and nothing but a prima donna who fights about as well as he sings? Is it evidence that the boxing gods have a warped and twisted sense of humor? Is it a sign that the Apocalypse is actually upon us and we should all be wearing “end of the world“ signs and standing on street corners?

Actually, it doesn’t mean any of those things. It simply means that on this particular night the heavyweights weren’t the laughing stock of the sport and actually did boxing proud. No future hall-of-fame fighters were in the ring Saturday night at Madison Square Garden (unless you count Roy Jones and Felix Trinidad during pre-fight introductions) but the audience got to enjoy the kind of fight between two heavyweights that excites and entertains. That’s all we can ask as boxing fans. And to think, I almost booked those plane tickets to Vegas…

Article posted on 11.10.2007

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