With the looming Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match, both fans and curious onlookers alike will bear witness to a perfect storm of drama, romance, technical brilliance, scientific know-how, and by extension, the bridging of the great boxing vs. MMA divide. Indeed, boxing, known as the sweet science, in all its glory and majesty, will be on full display and many, perhaps for the first time, will experience what has made boxing, for generations of fans, the prototypical and paradigmatic metaphor for the human experience.
While the younger, and perhaps, less patient generation appears to have a taste for the explosive brutality of MMA, cerebral traditionalists, those boxing aficionados who would like to believe that they tend to be more epicurean in their sporting tastes than their all-you-can-eat or cram-into-your-Arkansas-bred-pie-hole buffet counterparts, are a little older, more mature, and perhaps, more rationally inclined. Like sitting for a meal at the finest restaurant, the boxing aficionado suggests a predilection and appreciation for the nuance, technique, presentation, and strategy good chefs and master boxers bring to the table.
Boxing, at its best, high-born and seated purists might suggest, is less like the checkers match one might see kids playing at the beach or playing out in the Octagon, and more like the chess match one might see among thoughtful, educated, and cerebral types. In checkers, not unlike ordering a meal from the local drive through, things are done quickly and one does not have to wait around for things like presentation, nuance, strategy, relationship, and civilization. A good boxing match is not like pulling up to a menu-board that talks, spews out an order, pulls up fifteen more feet, pays without getting out of the car, and viola, a hot meal will full the tummy. A good boxing match is patient. It develops its own narrative within the broader meta-narrative of the human condition, and one has to be patient to appreciate the details of said narrative for boxing is a thinking man’s sport, not a gluttonous eating man’s sport.
Make no mistake, coming out of the east and settling into the hot, arid desert of Nevada, the brewing Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing bout is a perfect storm of technical and blood-curdling brilliance, calculated to both exposing and bridging the great boxing vs. MMA divide. In it, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see not just brilliance, but genius on display. While MMA, when properly understood, is in fact the stuff of high science, the details of same are often lost on its crazed and sometimes single-minded fans looking for blood as well as mayhem. What will not be lost on fans watching Money and Pac go at it, is a quality of boxing science that is turned into high-art by the two greatest living pugilists on the planet.
Those who pay close attention will see a level of nuance and ability that they may well never see again. Indeed, what MMA fans lust most for, Pacman will deliver in spades. What the boxing aficionado demands, Money May will deliver in abundance. This particular fight holds the promise of a wonderful intersection or nexus where both fan bases will find satisfaction. The glory of the fight, however, may be that each combatant, in his own right, is capable of adjusting on the fly and turning the tables on each other. Pacman, known for blazing speed and brutal power, may morph into the master boxer and technician. While Mayweather, known as the consummate craftsman, could well become a brutal MMA-like offensive machine. Indeed, this is a fight where, like the first Leonard-Hearns fight, both fighters are so well-gifted and versatile that, as need may dictate, boxing’s conventional wisdom could well be turned on its head.
Dana White and the UFC deserve props for elevating MMA from its bar-room, street-corner womb to its current prominence and high-business enterprise. To be fair, MMA, unlike boxing of late, caters to a fan base that represents less the Harvard MBA or Oxford Neuroscientist than the pedestrian Jane or Joe, who stop freeway traffic while rubbernecking the latest accident on their way to their nine-to-five. “Sure, we stopped traffic but the red and yellow lights were flashing and blinking and stuff.”
While rubbernecking is a part of life on today’s freeways, proper boxing is less reactionary than proactionary. It is a gentleman’s sport, filled with drama of a different sort. One can spot the occasional MMA fan at a boxing event when, in the midst of a very good bout, a fist-fight breaks out in the audience. They are the ones, despite paying decent money to see the boxing match, have either engaged the fist-fight itself or are those that take their eyes off the professional bout and transfix them on the fist fight. Then, they go home and talk about the cool fight that broke out at the fights.
Bubba, the guy in the trailer on the outskirts of town, together with his chum, Cletus, from the local hills, like their favorite meal–road-kill possum–prefer the blood and guts of the coliseum. John, the accountant at the local law firm, will have none of it. Whether from the hills or at home, however, both Bubba and Cletus, together with John, will be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder watching perhaps the greatest sporting event of their lifetimes, while appreciating both the nuance of technique and the potential for blood, guts, and perchance, along with the rending of perfectly functioning brains into confusion and unconsciousness.
Indeed, the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and perfect storm that is the coming together of their respective technical brilliance will initiate a bridging of the great generational and culturally imposed boxing vs. MMA divide. It will thereby welcome Bubba and Cletus back to their rightful home at ringside, and John the accountant, to a better understanding if not appreciation for what makes the MMA fan tick.
Commentary By Matthew R. Fellows