By Ivan G. Goldman
Boxing takes a bit of a break for the holidays, which makes it an ideal time for fools to make news by saying foolish things.
Justin Bieber, an uneducated pencil neck, pokes fun at Manny Pacquiao. And seven Filipino lawmakers file a resolution demanding an apology “lest he be declared persona non grata” in the Philippines. Bieber is a teen-ager with 30 million Twitter followers. We can expect him to make mistakes. As for the seven lawmakers, apparently they failed to notice the thousands of Filipino families who survive by picking through garbage and that the daily income for 45% of the population remains less than $2.
Maybe these grandstanding legislators could spend more time tackling real problems and pay less attention to the blatherings of a Canadian pop singer. Meanwhile, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been arrested and charged with diverting millions of dollars to her and her handlers that were supposed to be earmarked for charity (If she’s guilty, the arrest is actually good news, showing that the new government is trying to stem the nation’s endemic corruption).
Anyway, Pacquiao does spend plenty of time trying to improve the lives of everyday Filipinos and you don’t need me to tell you he’s been one of the brightest stars in boxing for years, employing an aggressive style that aims to please. But if a kid pokes fun at him it’s not the end of the world.
Shane Mosley, who managed to stain his fine legacy by shooting himself in the gut with anabolic steroids purchased from the infamous BALCO lab, has exactly zero wins in his last four fights. Against Pacquiao he seemed more interested in touching gloves than in generating offense. Yet he says he still has plenty in the tank at age 41 and is apparently taking on Paulie Malignaggi next year. And some folks are foolish enough to care.
Mosley is a lot like the Mountain McClintock character in Rod Serling’s play/film Requiem for a Heavyweight, who wipes his feet on his past boxing accomplishments by ultimately competing in the wrestling ring. Except McClintock needed the money, and Mosley doesn’t.
Then we come to four-hundred-year-old Larry Holmes. He doesn’t think much of the Klitschko brothers and says he could kick their butts right now. Holmes, who did a good job of hanging on to his money, has done a much poorer job at hanging on to his good sense. The Klitschkos take on all comers and their combined records of 104-5 (91 KOs) ain’t just another scoop of chopped liver. Promoters Top Rank and Golden make fights only within the boundaries of their little principalities and in their recent pronouncements act like the other company and its fighters don’t even exist. They are egged on by Showtime and HBO, whose own feud mimics the Hatfields and McCoys. The rivalry between the two networks reminds me more of the Harvard-Yale game. HBO and Showtime are rife with spoiled Ivy Leaguers who as undergraduates spent one day a year yelling at each other from across a football field and then went home to schmooze their daddies’ friends for jobs and opportunities.
And the UFC’s Dana White, who trumpets a “sport” that involves one guy sitting on another guy’s chest while smashing his face with elbows, says Arum is irresponsible. Hmm.
Well you know what? Despite all the problems in boxing (PEDs, Balkanization, idiotic pay-per-view practices, incompetent and corrupt officials are just a few) and all the foolish pronouncements, the sport is moving back toward the mainstream, with big, exciting contests televised regularly on premium and lately traditional networks. In fact, Tomasz Adamek takes on Steve Cunningham in a heavyweight fight Saturday on NBC that commands attention.
We’ve got great champions and prospects like Andre Ward, Nonito Donaire, Keith Thurman, Canelo Alvarez, Adrien Broner, and lots more you could name. We have plenty of good people in the sport, including amateur coaches who for no money work like dogs to help kids. So we might hear a lot of foolish boxing stuff, but this sport is not the province of fools. It’s just that fools tend to make a lot of noise.
Ivan G. Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter was nominated as a 2009 Notable Book by the American Library Association. Information HERE