Thursday, December 6, 2007


Will it be a conquering or a comeuppance?

That’s the question that surrounds the last mega-fight of the 2007 boxing calendar. Undefeated pugilists Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Ricky Hatton will duel on Saturday in Pretty Boy’s adopted home of Las Vegas. If you have been watching Mayweather-Hatton 24/7 on HBO (the best sports-related show on television right now), you can see not only a stark contrast in boxing styles, but despite very few commonalities, you’ll find that these guys are the complete antithesis of one another. And that makes for an even better fight than people think.

In this era of sports, there is more animosity between and within fans and media – even between local governments and owners – than between athletes themselves. There is more vitriol and venom from non-participants of sports than the folks that put their complete beings on the line. At the same time, there are cries that athletes are too friendly, too chummy, too… nice.

This is where boxing comes in.

What makes the sport so intriguing, no matter how poor the politics or how bad the business is how contrasting styles and personalities can sell the fight. Because teams in league sports tend to try to emulate the style of the current dominant clubs, you tend to have the differences between the original and a near replication or dull copy. In boxing, where there is a greater emphasis on matching styles for their Pay-Per-View fights, the debates that rage reflect how the contrasting styles are selling the fight. You have Floyd’s speed and svelte movement with his punches and defense that the technical fans gravitate to. In the other corner, Ricky brings the bulldog style, combined with his 2-for-1 specialty – takes two punches to give one body shot. These fights come about more often than not, but because of varying levels of experience between combatants, usually one style tends to dominate the other. With a combined 81 professional wins and zero draws or ties, this is not a hard sell to the boxing fan. Yet for anyone who has been mesmerized or enraged by Pretty Boy Floyd’s persona over the past year, there are going to be more buys for this fight just for the chance to see him fail… or succeed.

What made the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team and Notre Dame’s football squad so polarizing throughout the history of sports were not only the championships and storied histories. They had the built-in advantages of their passionate fan bases with more disposable income to consume anything showing allegiance. They had indelible images that have lived on forever to torture their rivals. Most of all – for most outside those bases – those teams had the players that you wanted to catch in a back alley. Maybe you didn’t have a logical reason for despising the athletes or maybe an overall perception became reality. Yet, you didn’t know them as people.

You know Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

He tells you that he’s the greatest boxer of all time. He shows you how much money he carries in his man-purse. He flips the bird at crowds that boo him. He gets in the faces of his opponents and belittles them… constantly. He was on Dancing with the Stars weeks before he was to train for the most challenging bout of his career. He let 50 Cent ride a Segway! He… doesn’t… stop… talking.

He has about as many supporters and fans as he has detractors and haters. He’s the perfect villain in a sports landscape that craves them. He has the brashness once owned by Terrell Owens. After this fight, he’ll have the bank account stemming from sheer talent and a great sales pitch as Alex Rodriguez. Yet, Mayweather has the championships and a quick combination.
He’s perfect for the everyman that is supposed to be Ricky Hatton.

There’s a tidal wave of Hatton backers preparing to order this fight, crossing all socioeconomic backgrounds. Most of them – admittedly, myself included – knew little about the Briton’s career until Mayweather’s camp went on the attack. As they have studied up on his record and looked into his personality, they are anxiously awaiting the fists to fly in hopes to watch the sport’s biggest comeuppance since this guy. In some ways, the fight represents much more than two men dueling.

It represents the Florida Marlins upending the Yankees in 2003. The Arizona Cardinals upsetting the Cowboys in 1999. The Blue Devils losing to Clemson… ever. Notre Dame… well, you know. Notre Dame today.

The Pittsburgh Steelers beating the New England Patriots on Sunday? Maybe.

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