Sweet Science

I wrote a few years ago what it was like to stop being emotionally invested in Manny Pacquiao matches as a Filipino American. I guess a lot of that was just match fatigue, because I found myself in the old stress traps again when Manny faced the undefeated villain, the Author of All Lies himself, Floyd Mayweather Jr. I watched HBO's documentary the night before and it activated my nervous stomach acid. I could hardly get to sleep.

Reactions to the fight among the masses were predictable even before the fight went down. We knew it would be a dodgy, defensive battle and we knew Mayweather was probably going to win a not-that-close decision after 12 rounds. Because I knew this, I also knew people would proclaim that Floyd was running and dancing, that Manny would've won in 2009 and that boxing was dead.

That last one is probably true.

Still, most of what I took out of it was relief that it was over. The question was answered, albeit half-heartedly and years too late to be worthwhile. It was the stress of the unknown that got me worked up. The shadows parted and revealed to be just a big, boring, nothing. That's okay. I can deal with that.

In my head, Pacquiao's only real shot was a miracle knock out. Mayweather would have to make a mistake, and Pacquiao would have to recognize it in time to capitalize in it. That's essentially how all knockouts work; little windows, breaks of daylight, and getting caught in them. It's how Pacquiao hit the mat all those years ago. You can be great for 11 rounds, but there's always that distant chance you leave a window open too long.

That's what's lovely about boxing, and what I'll miss about its nearly-assured decline in popular consciousness. Its brutish fighters and the endless story possibilities, round-to-round, make it a noble and intriguing ritual of violence. That's why some of the best films, essays and novels are written about boxing.

I watched Mayweather vs. Pacquiao hoping for one of those stories to occur. It was a lottery, sure, but it wasn't impossible. Storybook tales happen all the time in other sports, from LeBron James going back to Cleveland to the Red Sox finally winning the World Series. Sports are built for these audacious endings, and I was hoping that boxing would live up to that tradition on Saturday night. 

It didn't. It was realistic and true and logical, as we all thought it would be. Which is a shame, for a sport that has inspired such essential stories of redemption, underdogs and fighters.