Normally it is better to attend any event in person, rather than suffering the misimpressions, disconnection (and commercials) dictated by television. I remember for example how much the people who saw on television my favorite fight, Sugar Ray Leonard beating up Marvelous Marvin Hagler under the Vegas stars in 1987, missed about that evening: the buzz, the distractions, the intensity, the globs of sweat from the ring reaching to the third row of patrons, and the truly superior talent of Leonard; TV viewers thought the fight was a close one, which it was not.
But on this past Saturday night, if you were foolish or bored enough to shell out $69.95, you learned that sometimes what happens on television focuses an event, even shapes it. If you payed your money, you were connected by Pay Per View to Las Vegas,Nevada to witness the hyped boxing match between Flloyd “Money” Mayweather (an undefeated super-welterweight of undeniable skills) and a guy named Victor (Vicious) Ortiz, yet another tough Mexican kid fighter of the type that fills boxing venues from Staples Center to Madison Square with Hispanic fans who have transferred their personal dreams of glory onto the shoulders of a countryman.
And so you find yourself in Las Vegas, a city so cheesy that it has become, gladly, the mecca of US boxing. After suffering through three truly boring preliminary bouts, with all six boxers of Mexican descent (what happened to those nights when places like the Eastern Parkway Arena were filled with Jewish, black, Irish clubfighters who dominated the sport during various eras, is it true that our poor lower classes that fuel boxing are now almost fully occupied by Mexican kids?), we are introduced to the main combatants, a 34 year old Mayweather who carefully selects opponents he is certain to defeat and a 22 year old smiling orphan who, the announcer reminds us, grew up on some streets somewhere and has fought his way to respectability (or at least to the side of the incredibly stunning young woman who walks nearly into the ring with him).
The fight doesn’t matter until the end, which comes quickly in the fourth round. Ortiz head-butts Mayweather (who bleeds slightly from his teeth on cue), the referee temporarily halts the fight to announce he has deducted a scoring point from Ortiz as a penalty, and as the fighters re-engage at center ring and the polite Ortiz leans forward to express apologies, Mr. Mayweather sucker-punches him with a left and a right and the kid is down for the count.
What is really great, however, is the post-fight interview with the winner. The TV commentator, a venerable old dude with wavy white hair, sticks his mike into Mayweather’s face and asks, in essence, how it feels to win a fight against a kid with a sucker punch while the kid is trying to apologize. Mayweather starts by thanking God for His grace in allowing him to win the fight (and presumably to get a chance to sucker punch a kid), and then says that he was head-butted and then threw a left and a right and knocked his man out. Yes, the commentator pursues, but what happened at the end when you sucker punched him? Well, explains a patient Mayweather, I threw first a left and then a right and the kid fell down and didn’t get up which means I win! Trying one last time, the commentator asks if it were not true that said kid was trying to apolgize and that when the first blow landed did the kid not turn to the referee for an explanation of whether the official time out had expired? “You never give me a fair break. Never!” shouts Mayweather, losing his calm exterior and (likely) driven to say it by the very same deity who granted him his sucker punch; Mayweather puts his face right into that of the commentator and screams, “Never a fair break. You’re shit!” Nonplussed (I guess being a commentator for boxing matches inures you to a great degree), the commentator replies, ” I wish I were 50 years younger, I’d kick your ass.”
You don’t get that kind of drama watching the fight while sitting live in your seat at the MGM Grand. No siree.
But let us turn to the defeated challenger, sitting on his stool in his corner of the ring, a magnanimous concussion-induced grin across his open and unmarked face. The mike enters the frame and the commentator’s voice is heard to inquire as to how if feels to have your clock cleaned by a sucker punch. But the kid is from central casting, he knows the mantra, he knows the game he is in, and he wants his rematch, that’s for sure. “You know,” he observes sagely as if invoking a philosophical truth handed down to us by the Greeks, “ya gotta protect yourself at all times….”
That’s TV! Those are the money shots. I go to sleep pleased with how I have spent my $69.95.