(Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp/Mayweather Promotions) Fortify your stomach and think back for a moment on what visceral terror you have seen in this our great and noble sport of boxing. I’m not talking about a sustained beating so much as I’m referencing those singularly weird, graphic manifestations of brutality that years later you can’t shake, even if the fight itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy in the long run.
I’m thinking of that soft-ball sized hematoma that Holyfield head-butted into existence on Hasim Rahman’s forehead back in 02. Or that pearly-white segment of Vitali Klitschko’s skull I swear I can see in photos of that canyon-deep cut he endured against Lewis.
Or the swollen, mutilated flesh around Margarito’s eyes after Pac Man and later a vengeful Cotto busted his orbital bones to a mushy pulp. That the aforementioned men and others endured such freakish injuries with relative stoicism is no doubt a testament to their toughness.
Last night, en route to a wide decision victory in his rematch with Marcos Maidana, Floyd “Money” Mayweather endured a moment of horror that will forever silence those who dare question the heart of TBE (The Best Ever). In the eighth round, as Maidana leaned in, Mayweather wrapped him up in a headlock, covered Maidana’s nose and mouth with his glove and effectively cut off Maidana’s breathing.
And that’s when it happened. Sort of. I think. I’m not sure.
Maidana bit Mayweather. On the glove. Or maybe he didn’t bite him. I don’t know. I’ve only replayed the footage a dozen times or so. Maidana’s mouth appeared to be opening as Mayweather released his smothering grip. Maybe Maidana was, you know, gasping for breath. Or maybe, in frustration, he did nom on Mayweather’s glove. A real easy-going nom, too. I’m talking a sidelined Johnny Manziel teething compulsively on his mouth-piece sort of nom. Definitely not a chomp. These are important distinctions.
So this nom (whether real or imagined by Mayweather) happened in the eighth and it appeared to hurt. A lot. How to even attempt to describe Money’s anguished facial expressions with words? That TBE was able to overcome this potentially career-ending gumming and ride his bicycle to victory cements his status as an all-time great performer of obnoxious-child-like facial expressions and generally unexciting, safety-first, defensive fighting. “My fingers was numb!” Floyd shouted in his post-fight interview (while somewhere, 50 Cent was presumably lecturing on subject-verb agreement).
Floyd will get tons of mileage out of this nom with the morning-after mainstream press, who will gleefully reference boxing’s other bite (the legit one) and possibly with the woman he pays to give him sponge baths in Instagram videos. As Shane Falco taught us in “The Replacements,” chicks dig scars! And maybe even phantom nom marks.
The real story of the rematch is that Floyd fought exactly as he should have in his first meeting with Maidana back in May. He was insanely accurate. He popped the job, countered brilliantly with his trademark right, and shut down any concerns that his legs were shot by moving fluidly, keeping the fight in the center of the ring and, for the most part, away from the ropes. His reflexes and his timing were as good as ever. Floyd was so brilliant, so unapologetically tactical this time around that the first Maidana bout seems like a distant memory, a fluke that perhaps never happened at all.
But it did. Maidana just can’t impose his will when Mayweather uses movement and employs his full range of defensive abilities, especially the reach-grab-hug, as we shall call it here. Sure, Maidana was coming in with his head down, no doubt looking to throw some of those crazy overhand rights. But Mayweather just reach-grab-hugged Maidana, nullifying nearly any hope of seeing Maidana launch the sustained attacks that we so fun to watch in the initial meeting. This reach-grab-hugging happened so early and so frequently that referee Kenny Bayless jumped in on a number of occasions to wave his hands and separate the fighters before they even tied up. And Bayless broke them plenty of times when Maidana clearly had one arm free and could bang away at Floyd’s body. Kenny Bayless – on the job and ever vigilant! Don’t you even think about reach-grab-hugging your opponent around Bayless. Word is he’s psychic.
That said, Bayless didn’t alter the outcome of this fight. Nor did Floyd’s choice of gloves for Maidana. Nor did Maidana’s recalibrated, lighter fight-day weight. Given the intelligent adjustments Floyd made, I cannot imagine a conceivable scenario in which Maidana could have won a decision last night. This is not a knock on Maidana, who has improved his fundamentals under Garcia and who will always be entertaining to watch. After his late-fight near-knockout of Khan and his exciting first meeting with Mayweather, I will never miss a Chino fight. He’s a warrior, a fan’s fighter, and he’ll be back after some well-deserved rest and time with his family. And the new house, truck, and horse he earned with his purse money from the first fight. Rock on, Chino.
What’s next for Mayweather? Or dare I ask, what’s next for the sport? Let me get all apocalyptic for a moment. Poor match-making, promoter cold wars, alphabet soup titles, near-blind judges, crappy undercards on over-priced PPVs, and a childish portion of our fan-base that spends most of its time hurling racial epithets on comment threads have gradually driven boxing out of the collective American consciousness and into an elitist gutter crowded with “purists” and nostalgic, apologetic saps like me who shell out nearly seventy bucks for a Mayweather track meet. Does anyone (especially those of us who saw the undercard) really think last night’s PPV was worth the exorbitant price tag? Anyone? Even Money Team disciples?
Does anyone other than Mayweather and those on his payroll actually think Floyd is TBE (The Best Ever)? Sure, Floyd’s boxing IQ is through the roof. He possesses superb, near-supernatural athletic abilities. He’s undefeated and will likely retire as such. He’s also a brilliant self-promoter, a genius at manufacturing and maintaining a villainous image that emotionally manipulates the public and wins over fight writers easily wooed by celebrity. And let’s not forget that Floyd has benefited deliberately from fighting in an era in which hype is more easily shaped and transmitted than ever – through exceptionally produced documentaries like 24/7, social networking sites and, really, the whole internet, which if we consider the history of boxing and humankind is a pretty recent hype-manufacturing opportunity.
Muhammad Ali remains a household name, a champion whose status as an American icon is non-negotiable. Can you imagine if in his prime Ali had his own “24/7” series readily viewable on YouTube? His own team of Tweeting publicists armed with smartphones and advanced degrees in public relations and so on?
But excuse me. I’m only talking about Muhammad Ali, who was, in his day, big enough to take on Liston, Frazier, Foreman, institutionalized racism and the Vietnam War. I’m not talking about TBE – Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. – who has made a well-deserved PPV mint pot-shotting game opponents who were never well past their primes (De La Hoya, Mosley), or too small (Hatton, Marquez), or too logically safe in terms of stylistic match-ups (Gatti, Guerrero, Alvarez, Maidana). Did Ray Robinson ever decision Carlos Baldomir? I think not! TBE! Hard work! Dedication! Domestic violence! Justin Bieber! Warren Buffet?
I digress. I hope Floyd’s fingers are okay. My thoughts are with him as he recovers.
Alfredo Angulo should retire. Even by stone-faced, come-forward tough guy standards, he ate way too many shots. I don’t want to see a respectable veteran like him serve as a showcase stepping stone for the De La Rosas of the game. That said, De La Rosa put on a showcase indeed, displaying beautiful combinations, a sharp jab, and surprising patience in spots. The showboating tongue in round nine was not cool, especially because had Angulo poured it on in those last rounds, he could have taken De La Rosa out. There’s an important lesson though. Don’t play and don’t let your hands down against guys like Angulo who remain dangerous even when shopworn.
In hindsight, Miguel Vazquez and Mickey Bey made Mayweather-Maidana II look like Balboa-Lang II. Vazquez, whose full-body portrait belongs next to the words “lanky” and “awkward” in the dictionary, dictated twelve rounds of frustrating stop-go action by (at times literally) jumping on Bey, throwing and occasionally landing a few clumsy shots, and forcing the ref to break. Robert Hoyle’s 119-109 card for Bey was a shocker. But who cares? I’m not going to jump (hardy-har) to Vazquez’s defense. He’s terrible to watch. In fact, I’d wager only two camps could really be engaged by a Miguel Vazquez fight: fellow fighters, who would watch and try to figure out how they’d deal with Vazquez’s “puzzle,” and also anyone contractually obligated to endure the fight (judges, Brian Kenny and company, and so on). For everyone else, Vazquez is an utter bore, which is a shame for a guy who arrives with such intense sideburns and a meticulously trimmed mustache-goatee combo. Whoever allowed Vazquez-Bey on a PPV card should take a long walk off a short pier. Truly the worst undercard bout I have ever seen. Ever.
That shot Santa Cruz took Manuel Roman out with was big and nasty. I didn’t like seeing that one bit. I give a major shout-out here to the soft-spoken Manuel Roman, who by all appearances just seems like a really nice guy who was humbled to fight on such a big stage. It’s true that, if Santa Cruz lost, everyone would say he lost to poor opposition. And if he won, as he did, he won a stay-busy fight, a televised sparring session. But Manuel Roman and the Manuel Romans of the world regularly do something that this writer and the vast majority of the human population will not ever do. They get in the ring.
RANDOM FIGHT-NIGHT MUSINGS
How fun is the expression on Jimmy Lennon Jr.’s face as he’s flanked on either side by those gorgeous, Amazonian ring girls? Can someone make a meme of this? I know that, if we’re talking gender equality and the objectification of women (as I’m sure most of the comment thread is!), ring girls as a concept are more antiquated than ever. And pimp jokes shouldn’t be funny. But damn it. Next time, I want to see Jimmy Lennon Jr. in a fedora and a leopard-skin jacket, holding a microphone mounted to a bejeweled cane and assuming his rightful role as the world’s most bashful pseudo-pimp.
The Showtime commentators are all-at-once professional, fun, lucid, and insightful. Brian Kenny, Mauro Ronallo, Al Bernstein, and Paulie Malignaggi. And let’s not forget Jim Gray down on the floor. Much respect to this team. No respect goes to Paulie’s barber. Paulie has had some crazy cuts (and colors and braids and so on) over the years and I know it’s really low to make fun of another guy’s haircut. But what the hell? Did Paulie pick a fight with a tractor blade?
During the time Monica held that “GLARE!” note on our national anthem, I fell asleep, woke up, got married, had kids, walked the length of the earth ten times, and retreated to the kitchen to grab another plate of wings and a Pepsi. The word “indulgent” does not do Monica’s version justice.
I have no smart-ass remarks when it comes to Keith “One Time” Thurman. I just think he’s a terrific fighter, not to mention a seemingly nice guy and student of the game. Yo. Powers that be. Let’s book him some big fights and promote the hell out of them, okay?
How scared did Bayless look when Mayweather started complaining about the “bite”? And rightfully so. Bayless didn’t see appear to see the alleged foul. But with Mayweather whining and cursing up a storm and the entirety of boxing fandom scrutinizing Bayless’s every move, you can bet the man was freaking out. He had to react. And he did. Mainly by quickly studying Mayweather’s glove and exuding a panicked look that screamed “WHAT THE HELL YOU GUYS?!” If you are able to rewatch the fight, pause that moment and caption Bayless’s eyeballs.
Preferably in stream-of-consciousness ALL CAPS. Major credit to the refs of the world for doing their jobs, even if we don’t always agree with their decisions in a given fight or game.