Our New Scion of Sportage Has Entered the Manse
In a Scant 24 Hours, Winter Vandebeer’s Already Turned our Weekly Squash Matches into All Out Brawls
Last Saturday, boxer Timothy Bradley sat down in his corner after going 12 rounds with welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao. He was injured – a broken left foot and swollen right ankle –and while he’d battled all night, he’d been thoroughly out-boxed by the supremely talented champ. The fight was over, and all that was left was the judges’ decision.
Boxing promoter Bob Arum, who represents both fighters, walked over to Bradley and leaned in to speak. “You did very well,” he said to his client. It was a condolence of sorts.
Bradley, tired, defeated, and seeing the writing on the wall, looked up and responded. “I tried hard, but I couldn’t beat the guy.”
Then the judges read their scores. Two of three scored the fight in favor of Bradley. He had won.
Yes, in one of the most mind-boggling split decisions in many years, the much-heralded Manny Pacquiao lost his welterweight title after looking dominant most of the night. The soft-spoken Filipino handled the loss with class and natural bewilderment, while Bradley did his best to act like he knew it was coming. In truth, he didn’t, and neither did anyone on earth other than the two judges that scored the match in his favor. For those who watched the fight, it was clear one of two things happened: the judges had made a terrible mistake, or the match was fixed.
I, for one, am hoping it was the latter.
Let’s remember, we’re talking about boxing here. A sport that – in terms of mainstream athletics – hasn’t been relevant in 15 years. It is less popular than NASCAR, mixed martial arts (which, in some ways, was bred from boxing), and (ugh) ice hockey. The classic mano-a-mano competition was once the paramount test of individual strength, speed, and skill, but now the sports world has turned its collective eye elsewhere. This is due in large part to access issues: any meaningful fight costs roughly $55 on pay-per-view, thus freezing out any casual fans. Can you imagine if the NBA charged $55 per game? The 2011 lockout might’ve gone unnoticed. But regardless of the reason, we need boxing’s relevance restored.
Why do we need it? Because boxing is cool. It’s simple – two men enter a ring, one man wins. There’s no need to explain the rules to your wife or girlfriend. It’s classy – most attendants of primetime fights are dressed up in some fashion, often to the nines. When is the last time you put on a tie to go to a football game? And boxing is timeless and American – the exploits of fighters like Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali are interwoven in our national fabric. When did we become too good for America? Are you too good for your home?
Currently, most young men would rather watch the meatheads of the UFC than a heavyweight boxing card. This is bullshit. It’s true that the compelling characters in boxing have dwindled over the years; where we once had names like Tyson, Sugar Ray, Foreman and Holyfield, now reside Marquez, Cotto, Ward and Bradley. (Undefeated convict Floyd Mayweather is interesting and charismatic, but is also a total douchebag, so we aren’t counting him). Even so, I’d gladly take boxing over mixed martial arts. I want the class and suave of the old-times, not this barbaric bloodfest of the UFC. I want cigars, fedoras, and cognac, not Tapout shirts and flat-brimmed hats. I want jabs over chokeholds. I want Bert Sugar – may God rest his wisecracking soul – over Dana White.
Boxing simply must regain its status as the top hand-to-hand combat sport, and a good old-fashioned fix would be the perfect way to do this. What grabs the nation’s attention more than a scandal? From Watergate to steroids to nipple slips, they capture our hearts like none else. The publicity is ridiculous! Hell, barely anyone even knew who Bill Clinton was before he bagged some intern. Now? Huge celebrity. (That was his first claim to fame, right?) And if we were to find out that a fight many of us paid good money to see, one that netted the boxers a combined $30 million, the promoters probably nearly as much, and gambling bookies everywhere some astronomical amount…well, if we were to find out that fight was rigged? It could be just what the doctor ordered. Heads would roll. People would be fired, sued, prosecuted, and blackballed. Witnesses would come forward, and others would be paid to keep quiet. Someone might even die. It would be like mob rule for sports, and the media would be there to tell us all about it. The Roger Clemens trial is nearing an end, after all, and thus ESPN will need another scandal to beat to death.
A public announcement of a fixed fight is just what we need to fix boxing. Yes, the general public would lose all respect for the sport, but that wouldn’t matter because they don’t have any as it is. The image would be tarnished, but at least people would be talking about it. LeBron James became the most talked-about figure in sports for a while by playing the villain and signing with Miami. Boxing could be the villain sport: every fight from here on out would have its validity questioned, which would only add to the intrigue. We would talk for weeks about big matches – not only about the results in the ring, but about who was getting paid off, how many brown paper bags full of cash were being exchanged, and how many total fingers would be broken by bookies as a result. (Personally, I’d always picture Robert DeNiro as a central character in each of these conversations. But that’s just me.) Maybe we could even get Vince McMahon involved; I haven’t worked out all the details.
The hit to boxing’s credibility would be enormous. I don’t care. It beats being overshadowed by a bunch of Affliction-wearing tools in an octagon.
Boxing, let’s say those magic words: “The fix is in.”
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