Rocky and his opponents fought from the heart. Money was an issue, but their honor and pride were of foremost importance to them. Who can forget Clubber Lang’s challenge in the public square at Rocky’s statue dedication – “I’ll fight this fool anytime, anywhere for nothing!” Last night, the time, place and the money were at the forefront of the planning. Great fighters can put on a great fight in a beauty parlor if they had to. There was so much money involved, it choked out the spirit of the fight that so many had waited for – for so long!
Rocky and his opponents stayed hungry. When Rocky’s will to fight began to fade, Mighty Mick lamented, “You’ve suffered the worst thing that can happen to a fighter – You got civilized!” It took Apollo and the “eye of the Tiger” to get the Rock back on track. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao seemed to have lost some of their edge and the “eye of the tiger” was conspicuously absent. Instead of watching two hungry champions battle it out for pugilistic immortality, the world witnessed two highly skilled and wealthy entrepreneurs square off for self-preservation. Both men have financial empires to protect, interests to guard and futures to consider. If someone were to invent the Time Machine, this fight might have been a spectacular one to watch when both were still hungry young lions establishing their greatness, rather than what they are now - seasoned boxing royalty trying to protect their legacies.
Rocky and his opponents faced their demons. When confronted by the ghosts of their past defeats or future uncertainties, Rocky and his crew overcame them. Pac Man seemed haunted by the Ghost of Marquez Past, while Mayweather seemed obsessed with the Ghost of his legacy future. As a result, their performances seemed to lack passion and generally appeared to be choked with an abundance of caution. Even the final “Championship Rounds” seemed more like an exhibition than a display of boxing excellence and intensity.
Boxing is known as the Sweet Science. In its brutality, there is an artistry and technicality present. When it is presented with excellence, all the elements of science and passion comingle, elevating boxing above the level of a mere brawl. Rocky’s fights always managed to show the sweetness of the passion and the science of the preparation. Yesterday’s contest had all the technicality of the science and very little of the sweetness of the heart. The result was a flat, lifeless display.
The Fight that was supposed to resurrect boxing has now put its future as an industry in an even more uncertain state. The best fight of the evening – one of the preliminaries – began with the challenger entering the ring to “Gonna Fly Now!” His opponent showed fierce scientific skills and passion, while the would be “Rocky” showed a level of heart and grit that would make Sylvester Stallone proud surviving every fistic barrage and managing to return fire, even to the last bell. Perhaps our two heroes need to watch Rocky III for themselves and to rediscover their own eye of the tiger. If not, they should enjoy the futures they have secured and make a way for those behind them who still have it.