NIGHT OF THE LIVING PACTARDS
by Johnny Walker
The boxing business, at least such as it is in the United States, no doubt woke up with a case of the cold sweats, loose bowels and depression today, as it begins to wean itself from its serious addiction to the phenomenon called Pacmania that has engulfed it for the last few years.
It was as plain as the ashen look on shaken promoter Bob Arum’s face after Manny “Pac Man” Pacquaio was blasted into unconsciousness by Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night that something had finally changed, that the paradigm had shifted, and that something new was now going to have to fill the void where Pacmania once resided.
When it comes to a sport being short-sighted and constantly shooting itself in the foot, of course, there is nothing quite like boxing. The sport’s addiction to the crack-like high of Pacmania for the last decade has come at the expense of its long-term health. In the Pacquiao era, boxing has put all of its eggs into one basket like never before.
It’s dangerous to depend on one man to float all boats in a given sport. What happens when his talent finally springs a leak? The powers that be in American boxing circles decided they’d cross that canal when they came to it. Why bother promoting deserving fighters like, for example, Carl Froch–a blood and guts warrior who takes on all comers–when it’s just so much easier to just feed the “Pactards?”
Ahhh yes, the Pactards. Anyone who works in the online boxing media knows that this infamous group will madly click on anything Pacquiao-related, like crackheads who constantly need to hit the pipe to maintain their high. Pacquiao’s fan base has become like no other in boxing history, aided and abetted by the technology of the age which allows them to roam in cyber-packs, attacking anyone and everything not dedicated to the worship of their boxing deity. No other fighter’s online fan base–not Floyd Mayweather’s, not the Klitschko brothers’–can rival the Pactards for sheer obnoxiousness. Criticize any aspect of their hero and you’ll instantly be accused of being a Mayweather stooge, such is the binary thinking of this group.
Those of us in the boxing media not members of the Pacman fan club could only sit and grimace these past few years as SEO [search engine optimization]-obsessed publishers and editors, working compliantly, hand-in-hand with the Bob Arums of the boxing world, commissioned story after story [called “Pac-Porn” in the trade] with the words “Manny Pacquiao” in the headline: what the actual content of these pieces was mattered little.
What Manny Pacquiao Ate For Breakfast.
Manny’s Pacquiao’s Favorite Colors.
Writers found that they could just publish a story, any old story, really, with those “magic words” in the title and then watch those Facebook “likes” shoot skyward. The Pactards hungrily devour scraps of anything Manny-related like the zombies on TV’s The Walking Dead feast on living humans.
It’s easy to get hooked on that kind of reaction if you’re a certain kind of writer. More Pac-Porn, sir? No problem!
A particular set of circumstances actually gave birth to Pacmania, along with its resultant ills, here in the US.
Boxing in America had always meant the heavyweight division first and foremost, and almost always meant an American heavyweight champion. But when the Klitschko brothers–already behind the eight ball from the start due to the xenophobic stereotypes straight out of Rocky IV hurled at them by boxing “historian” Bert Sugar and his ilk–made it clear they weren’t going to kiss butts to become huge in America, that they had it just fine in Europe, thanks … a void suddenly opened up that needed to be filled.
Now, if Manny Pacquiao had been a heavyweight, would he have been as big in America as he ultimately became? Personally, I doubt it. Part of his appeal in the US seems to be based on his being “that cute li’l’ Asian feller who sings goofy songs on the TV.” A kind of patronizing view of Pacman as a childlike innocent, a view that borders on racial stereotyping.
But Pacman as a big, hulking heavyweight? Nah. Then he’d have just been seen as a threat to that which America had always owned, just like cultural interlopers the Klitschkos and to a lesser extent Lennox Lewis were. Pacman, however, was small enough to seem kind of cuddly, and the welterweight division wasn’t necessarily American territory.
To some extent, the Pacman brand in the USA — Manny as the “good guy” to Floyd Mayweather’s cartoon gangsta villain — has always been built on lies.
Somehow the media that lionized Pacman here (Jim Lampley of HBO seems to worship him as a deity) has been able to overlook and/or rationalize the kind of behavior that, if it were being done by Mayweather, would have gotten him pilloried in the press: womanizing, drinking, homophobia, gambling, and worst of all, cock-fighting. Hardly “good guy” behavior. But with the help of his American media sycophants–the most kooky of whom went so far as to portray Pacman vs Floyd as a literal battle between good and evil—and his own “what, me worry?” demeanor, Pacquiao was able to float above the roiling moral waters below and keep his brand viable.
Juan Manuel Marquez finally and definitively punctured that brand last Saturday night: the image of Pacquiao out cold, face first on the canvas will haunt the boxing biz here for a long time to come. Pathetically, Bob Arum began an immediate campaign for an utterly unnecessary FIFTH meeting between Pacman and Marquez, unnecessary because Marquez has won the last two meetings handily, regardless of the official verdict rendered after fight number three.
Yes, Marquez could surely make a lot more money in the next fight, but really, how much can one person spend? To retire now writes a perfect ending to his career.
As we’ve witnessed, however, Bob Arum is a upper-level pusher of “Pac-Porn” who got high on his own supply and then got himself hooked. Arum’s desperate jonesing for Pacman vs Marquez 5 is utterly predictable, because in his short-sightedness he’s made “Manny Pacquiao” virtually synonymous with “boxing” … at the expense of many other worthy names who could have benefited from some of the exposure instead granted to the Pacman.
And “boxing” ended up flat on its face and out cold in a Las Vegas ring last weekend.