Monday, March 24, 2008

The Fights

I was going to just throw this back in last year's revisions, but it's fucking good, so you're all going to read it.

“Tell Me" is pounding through the speakers in the heaving, sweating bar, and the floor rumbles accordingly. The announcers on TV howl over the din as Mayweather puts on his sombrero and saunters to the ring, 50 Cent rapping next to him: “When I’m out in NY boys blunts and phillies, when I’m out in LA boys wraps and swishes.” The noise in the bar increases ten fold; being overwhelmingly close to Paterson, it’s mostly blacks and Hispanics at this joint.

This crowd is evenly split between Mayweather and De La Hoya, and it's predominantly along racial lines; blacks with dreadlocks and oversized white t-shirts rooting for Floyd, and Hispanics with their chinstrap beards and curvy girlfriends pulling for Oscar. I'm with the Spanish guys, hoping Oscar will pull off the upset.

From the opening bell, though, the fight goes as I thought it would. Mayweather bobs and weaves, going from his flat footed, taunting, open stance to sudden jabs and straight rights, immediately angling out, moving with a grace rarely seen in a boxing ring. De La Hoya tries to cut off the ring and corner him, sometimes successfully. He flurries body shots that appear to land but really don’t, all blocked by Floyd’s elbows. De la Hoya doesn't have enough power to put him down, and although he’s certainly the busier fighter, he’s not hurting Floyd at all. Looks just like every fight I’ve watched Mayweather fight.

Like a switch, Floyd turns it on around the fifth. Oscar’s not catching him on the ropes as much, and the fighters are circling far more in the center of the ring. This is Floyd’s game, and Oscar should know that. Floyd catches him with a straight right with fifteen seconds left in the round that shows Oscar that he’s going to be in for a long night.

It progresses like this, and Mayweather is taking control more and more in this kinetic chess match. Floyd is landing more 1-2’s, fighting his fight and outscoring De la Hoya consistently. The winner is decided in my mind in the tenth, when Mayweather lands another hard straight right that seriously hurts Oscar, knocking him straight back. It might look like just another right to someone else, but I see that Floyd, after the punch lands, immediately pulls it straight back to his chin and is looking for another shot. It’s the tenth round, and he’s not dropping any of his technically flawless punches… and it doesn’t even look like he’s breathing heavy. Oscar doesn’t have a chance in hell.

For the next two rounds, Floyd counters and parries, always throwing punches that land as he’s backing up. It is like he is made of liquid, disappearing and reforming somewhere else. The only other man I have seen move like this is Barry Sanders, another that seemed like all of his body parts could move completely independent of each other, but were somehow not only connected, but in sync. In the end, the judges see it my way, and when they announce the winner I’m hardly surprised.

There are only two things in this world that can stop a fighter with such spectacular hand speed and defensive ability like Floyd Mayweather. The first is a taller fighter with an incredible jab and similarly stunning hand speed. Zab Judah, with his quick hands, hurt May weather a couple of times, more seriously than I’ve seen anyone else be able to. And on May 5th, the only times that Oscar remotely hurt Mayweather was when he began to work his jab (of course, he miraculously holstered it somewhere around the ninth when he decided that he didn’t actually want to win).

Yes, Castillo, the phenomenal body puncher, also gave Mayweather difficulty, but it is that combination of hand speed and strong, hard jab and quick follow ups that may beat Mayweather some day. Ironically enough, Floyd might only lose to someone exactly like him.

The second thing? Well, you know. It’s the boxer’s greatest fight… the one they always lose. One day, Floyd will be a half-second slower, and those hard straight rights that he once dodged with ease will connect. One day, those elbows won’t come down so quickly, and the hard shovel hooks thrown by the Castillos and Hattons of the world will land, and destroy his liver. One day, he will get knocked down, and out. My only hope is that he has enough sense to get out of the game before that happens, before he becomes a shell of his formerly fantastic self, another Joe Louis getting knocked out by a young, hungry Marciano, or another Roy Jones Jr. getting taken out by a mediocre Antonio Tarver.

Like all fighters, though, he will refuse to admit defeat, and will continue until the game has taken more from him than he has taken from it. It is the saddest part of our brutal, beloved sport: the inevitable wearing down of the body by Father Time, and the horrific realization that we are, indeed, mere mortals…even the inimitable Pretty boy Floyd. Maybe I’m wrong, and he’ll retire a champ, giving us the image of this fierce, young killer to hold in our heads until we’re gone….but I don’t think so.

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