KO should end talk of fifth Pacquiao-Marquez fight
Published: Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.
You’ve got to love Bob Arum’s logic. Well, “love” might not be the right word. It’s hard to love something that is so outrageously self-serving. But you do have to be in awe of Arum’s logic.
“Number 5 is now the biggest fight in boxing,” Arum told the Los Angeles Times, already hyping a fifth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez a day after the boxing world was still dealing with the shock of last week’s fourth fight between the two longtime rivals.
Last week’s fight in Las Vegas ended in the sixth round when Marquez hit Pacquiao with a straight right counterpunch that put the born-again Filipino congressman and liquor TV pitchman flat on his face, unconscious. Arum interprets that outcome as a mandate for a fifth fight.
You might think normal people’s logic would go something like this:
OK, these two magnificent warriors have fought four times over the past 8½ years, including twice in the past 13 months. The first three fights were legendary ring wars with results being draw, split decision and majority decision, the second and third decisions going to Pacquiao by a whisker. But now, finally, we have a conclusive ending. Now, there is no doubt about who won and who lost. The fight was decided by the fighters and not by judges who may not always practice the ancient science of addition in the same way as you or I. Now it’s time for these gladiators, and for us, to move on. Marquez is 39 years old and has had 62 professional fights over 19 years. Pacquiao will turn 34 on Monday and has had 61 fights over 18 years. They have fought hundreds, maybe thousands, of rounds, including 42 against each other. They’ve taken enough punishment and have given enough violent entertainment to the bloodthirsty boxing public. Enough is enough.
But Arum’s logic is different. He’s been a big-time boxing promoter for 45 years now, ever since 1967 when a so-called heavyweight tournament was organized to find a replacement for Muhammad Ali after Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to be drafted into the army. The tournament lacked the two best active heavyweights of the time — Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier. Liston wasn’t invited and Frazier told Arum and his tournament to take a hike. So, the tournament featured second-tier heavyweights and was eventually won by an Ali sparring partner, Jimmy Ellis. None of that, of course, fazed Arum. He was on his way, becoming a controlling force in boxing, along with the inimitable Don King.
Arum talks as if a fifth fight between Pacquiao and Marquez is necessary. It isn’t.
He assumes the public demands it. It doesn’t.
Arum is the epitome of the Ugly American businessman — living in an amoral vacuum where the only thing that matters is profit. And if he can lure the aging, weary, already-wealthy fighters with guarantees of more millions and sucker-punch the public with another exorbitant pay-per-view price and promises of another bloodbath, well, he hasn’t broken any laws. He’s merely providing a service, doing business.
Still, it’s difficult to believe that real, informed boxing fans or anyone who cares about the fighters would truly want a fifth Pacquiao-Marquez match.
Although the fourth fight had harder and more devastating punching than the three previous bouts and therefore produced a more sensational outcome, it did so because these fighters lacked the one thing clean, legitimate boxing ideally requires — the ability of the combatants to defend themselves. Before Pacquiao was knocked out, he had scored a knockdown of Marquez. Before Marquez was knocked down, he had scored a knockdown of Pacquiao. Both men were clearly exhausted and terribly battered, their faces bruised and swollen and bloody.
It wasn’t boxing as much as it was a war of attrition, which might lead to an interest in another fight if these men were in their 20s, or if we knew them to have the artless styles of lumbering heavyweights.
But these are men who in their first three fights demonstrated a near-perfect blend of tactical skill and brute strength, a superb balance of speed, aggression and defense. These are now old men, by boxing’s cruel standards, and aggression is all that remains. Besides, they might be leery of fighting in front of Mitt Romney again, fearing Romney, with nothing better to do these days, might try to persuade them to self-deport.
Talking to the Los Angeles Times about the fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight and already hyping a fifth, the 81-year-old Arum said, “this fight shows the health of the sport. ... It puts the sport back in the mainstream.”
He’s dead wrong. The fact that he and the sport would need two old pugilists with diminished ring survival skills to go at it a fifth time in order to squeeze out another pay-per-view jackpot isn’t a sign of the sport’s vigor.
It’s yet another sign of boxing’s decay.
Robert Rubino can be reached at email@example.com.
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