The thing is: talking about boxing is extremely, extremely delicate if you’ve never tried boxing. In a way, anyone has kicked a football at school, and anyone has shot a ball through a basket. I mean, you can even go spend a few hours in Faraya and learn how to slide on a snowboard. But seriously, how many of you “boxing specialists” have actually been in a boxing ring? And more seriously, how can you be so confident talking about something you know absolutely nothing about? Because trust me, watching a fight and a documentary on YouTube and repeating stuff you’ve read in an article or a tweet really, really doesn’t count.
First of all, let’s start by stop calling it a game. Boxing is not a game. You can play tennis, you can play water polo, but you can’t play boxing. It’s a fight. And every single fighter deserve respect for even stepping inside a boxing ring. The overwhelming experience of being in a ring facing a guy whose sole mission is to destroy you is an emotional ride that is unmatched in any other sport, and truth be told: very few people can handle it. Most importantly, when you’re in the ring, boxing is nothing like what you see on television. It’s an intense experience that’s absolutely nothing like the whole circus we see on screen. So when you’re sitting there drinking beer and munching on a cheeseburger and giving expert opinions about what a fighter should be doing, you’re not fooling anyone but the clueless people like you, because there’s no other way to put it: you have absolutely no clue about what’s happening.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. After all, you don’t have to be a boxer to watch boxing. But what I’m saying is, at least have the decency and the humility to just watch, support your favorite fighter, and hopefully enjoy the fight. Out of the tens of people (who have never worn a boxing glove in their life) who have been posting their expert opinions about the fight, only two of them were real enough to be honest – with themselves and with others. The first one told me he knows absolutely nothing about boxing but that he’s very curious to know more. The other one came to me admitting that he’s watched a fight or two in anticipation of the event, but that he didn’t really “get it” or understand what was happening. We spent the evening together and went through fight footages, we went through slow motion footages, I demonstrated to him what each fighter was trying to do, techniques, we discussed strategy, and a myriad of other things that most people who don’t practice the sport simply can’t see. Have you ever tried watching Judo? Don’t. It’s the most boring shit ever. Unless you’re a Judoka yourself. And well, I’m sorry, but it’s kind of the same thing with boxing.
There’s a reason why boxing is called “the sweet science:” Boxing is not your average mashkal outside SkyBar. Ironically though, a SkyBar mashkal seems to be what most people look for when they watch a boxing fight. People look for big punches, blood and knockouts. People can’t see defense. They can’t see footwork, timing, accuracy, pace and rhythm, distance control, and so on. So it’s no surprise that the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight was deemed boring by the average person. I don’t even disagree. If I was unable to see all of the things mentioned above in order to truly appreciate the genius and skills of both fighters in that ring, I would have thought it was terribly boring too. No blood, no standing counts, no knockdowns, no knockout.
Instead, Mayweather gave us a beautiful performance, a lesson in boxing excellence. Unfortunately for him, you had to be a fighter yourself to be able to see it and appreciate it. No, Floyd Mayweather was not running away from Manny Pacquiao, he was dancing and controlling the distance. Ali, the greatest, danced. Sugar Ray Leonard danced. Larry Holmes Danced. All the great fighters danced and circled the ring. And so did Mayweather. No, Floyd Mayweather was not hugging Manny Pacquiao. Clinching is one of the most common techniques in professional boxing. Ali clinched. Lennox Lewis clinched. Frank Bruno clinched. Trevor Berbick clinched. In every single fight, the taller fighter always clinches when the opponent gets inside. In fact, Mayweather clinched much less than usual last night, and there was fewer clinching than any average fight you may watch. The difference is that that was probably the only fight you’ve ever watched, and the few YouTube highlights and documentaries you clicked on obviously don’t show any clinching. You know what? Let me throw you in a closed ring with a less than average boxer and show me how you can run away and clinch and win the fight.
The problem with Floyd Mayweather’s style – especially in the last 8 years – is that it has become a very clinical one. It’s simply not entertaining enough to the average fan. There’s always disappointment by the average fan after each Mayweather fight, and I completely understand that: it’s a style that’s meant to be dominant and efficient, but not very entertaining.
So was the huge hype around the event actually bad for the fight then? I now realize that maybe it was. Because people didn’t get it. And unless people are going to be more familiar with boxing, they will never be able to get it. Is there any other way to completely “get it” other getting in the ring yourself and experiencing it for real? Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is. Is boxing then meant to be enjoyed by boxers only? Not necessarily, because every era also has entertaining fighters, knockout kings that the average fan loves to watch. I’m talking Mike Tyson, I’m talking Prince Nasseem, I’m talking Manny Pacquiao.
I grew up in a family of boxers. I was thrown in a ring when I was 9 and had my share of junior bouts, and my share of sparring sessions later as an adult. There is nothing like being in the ring. Nothing. And it’s been so frustrating to read commentaries, mockeries, memes about last night’s megafight when 99% of you guys really, really have no clue what you’re talking about. I’m sorry again, but there is no other way to put it. When I first saw my brother – the current Lebanese boxing champion – today, the grim look on his face said it all. He is Manny Pacquiao’s biggest fan and was disappointed by the loss. But because he too knows the sport so well, he gave me a bitter smile and said: “Mayweather is truly unbelievable. I never expected to see Manny so helpless against anyone. He couldn’t do anything, Mayweather made him look like an amateur at times.” We talked about confidence, about outboxing, about control. About an out-of-this world defense. About landing more punches than his opponent while the whole world saw the exact opposite. About standing in the pocket and leaning on the ropes and taking it all against one of the most devastating fighters of our generation, Manny Pacquiao.
And I couldn’t agree more. Mayweather just needs to accept that the average fan will never be able to witness his magic. And will never give him the credit he truly deserves. But we do, champ.