Fading Glory

Yesterday I watched the Max Kellerman Face-off episode featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez. Like many of the other editions of face-off, the two fighters straddled backwards chairs and stared each other down across a plain grey table while Max sat in between them, all of them surrounded by darkness. The dramatic appeal of Kellerman’s set is not lost on me. Actually, I think creating the show was a great idea for promoting fights and even tends to reveal some objective evidence to help fans anticipate the fight result. Viewers get some sense of the fighters’ personalities through all the smoke and mirrors, their confidence levels, and how they think of the sport itself. For example, the Mayweather-Cotto episode touched on the marketing angle that Cotto was an undefeated fighter. Mayweather made the case that Cotto had only lost to a man who had almost certainly cheated to win (Margarito) and a man who had manipulated the fight conditions to give himself a huge advantage in conditioning due to weight (Pacquiao). You could see that Cotto was aware of the magnitude of the opportunity and that Mayweather truly considered him an elite fighter, if still a safe opponent. Those two looked much more comfortable in the mini-melodrama arranged with Kellerman than Chavez and Martinez and expressed much more substantial consideration of the fight. Chavez and Martinez were basically one-dimensional in their responses, claiming that they would beat one another and that “he doesn’t know me and my history.” Kellerman seemed to be trying to lead Chavez to imply that Martinez had been threatening to hurt him so badly in the ring because he was more afraid of Chavez than he had been of previous opponents, because Martinez does not usually make threats. Chavez didn’t pick up on it, though, instead repeating his claims that Martinez didn’t know him or how great his father was. Martinez then repeated his own mantra that Chavez was a fake who was trying to be his father rather than make his own legacy. Fairly inconsequential information overall, but two comments stuck out to me as being more genuine, possibly even as real indicators of what we’ll see in the ring. In the midst of a circular discussion about whether Chavez was too strong or Martinez too fast, Maravilla insisted that he couldn’t be beaten if he couldn’t be hit, that it was “just logic.” Chavez asserted startlingly “there is no logic in boxing,” to which Martinez responded “there is for me.” Anyone who’s seen the two fighters at their best can see how these statements reflect their respective styles, but if you’re paying attention, you can also see how it fuels the controversy over whether Chavez is the “real thing” or just riding a legend’s coattails. For their concluding statements Martinez made a perfunctory gesture of good will with an ominous air, while Chavez finally had something meaningful to say. “I am the new Julio Cesar Chavez,” he said. Well, we’ll see.

Cotto recently announced that he would relinquish the opportunity for a rematch with Pacquiao. He will be fighting the undefeated Austin Trout who has never had such a high-profile opponent as Cotto. I am very pleased with the decision because it gives Cotto a legitimate chance to cement his legacy and retire on a good note. While his most recent performance against Mayweather was thrilling and admirable and epic, he was too disappointed in the scoring to even participate in the post-fight interview. Not long before that, he was completely disassembled by Pacquiao, looking even more beaten up than he had in his first fight against the retired cheater Margarito (if that’s possible). Taking a rematch with either one would mean lots of zeros in his bank account, but probably just as many zeros where his brain cells used to be. I want to see Cotto go out with the respect and admiration he deserves. He can accomplish that by taking on a young fighter on his way up as long as he performs well enough. Let’s hope this is one last showcase of Cotto’s impressive abilities.

In response to Cotto’s statement, Pacquiao has begun negotiations with his second choice opponents, who just happen to be the much more dangerous fighters for him to challenge. Both are rematches, and his clashes with both have been controversial. At this point, most people are willing to accept that he lost to Tim Bradley Jr. and even that he beat Juan Manuel Marquez. Whatever they believe, Tim Bradley has the belts now and Marquez hasn’t had good luck against Pacquiao in the past. The more interesting fight is probably the Bradley rematch, but the fight styles of Pacquiao and Marquez create fireworks much more successfully. The end result of either fight, however, will be a reduction in the two athletes’ relevance to the sport. It seems unlikely that the much anticipated Mayweather-Pacquiao superfight will ever happen, and unless Pacquiao can somehow knock Marquez or Bradley out, he probably won’t ever reacquire his previous stature. Fans may have to settle for following young guns for a while until the elite can be convinced to fight each other again.

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