The first thing I see is Floyd Mayweather’s famous defensive stance. The second thing, Manny Pacquiao landing a blow on Mayweather’s face. Nothing in between.
Watching a free, Peruvian stream of “The Fight of the Century,” I pieced together choppy, oft-laggy clips. The commentary played throughout, so that kept me from utter confusion as I’d see Mayweather throwing a jab in one frame and, in the next, he sat in the corner, round over.
It was an anti-climactic spectacle. I’d spent the better part of a month getting excited for the fight. I read Sports Illustrated’s phenomenal cover and Pablo S. Torre’s incredible Pacquiao profile. I enjoyed the unadulterated, mutual disdain for one another the fighters shared. In a world of most team’s players being best friends with guys on other teams, it was great to see Pacquiao’s manager come out and say this fight was good (Pacquiao, the politician, pop star and national hero) versus evil Mayweather, the woman-beater. There are no higher powers to answer to for criticizing anyone, so the puncher’s launched pre-fight barbs with abandon. It got my hyped up. But I still turned to Peru.
At $100 pay per view in high definition, I know I’m not the only one to seek out some unsavory places on the web to try and get it. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher John Axford tweeted out a picture of probably 30 people watching through a stranger’s window. A guy in Syracuse, I found out later, bought the fight, brought his television outside and hosted a lawn party for passers-by, which collected about 50 people.
But this is why boxing is dead.
I have never watched a boxing match in my life, but when I did want to watch one, I couldn’t find it without ludicrous pricing. I didn’t want to drop a Benjamin to get it, so I planned to head out to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the fight with friends. Only, when I called around to make sure, I found that almost no local bars carried the fight. The owner of Harry’s and the Saltine Warrior – two local Syracuse bars – went on a tirade laced with the word ‘f*ck’ and curses on boxing’s name.
Boxing has priced many parties out of watching the fight – only four venues within 40 miles of the Syracuse campus carried the bout, including Dave & Buster’s, a corporate sponsor. At those four establishments, patrons were expected to pre-order their seats (what???) and show up at least four hours early. From local restaurants to interested-but-not-dedicated spectators, boxing made it nearly impossible to get to/enjoy a viewing experience. My roommate said he would watch the fight if readily available, but he wouldn’t seek it out, or pay a lot of money.
Boxing is making its product difficult to access for a largely-coveted demographic: 18- to 25-year-olds. In doing that, they don’t rope in casual fans with an exciting product – which the Mayweather v. Pacquiao debate was not perceived to be, but that’s a different topic. By shutting out the demographic, they fail to capitalize on a young, impressionable, sway-able market base. By doing this, they don’t build loyal fans and the sport will decline even further. It has obviously declined since its Muhammed Ali-fueled pinnacle and Mike Tyson-involved revival, but it will do so even more.
My father says he watched it sometimes growing up, and he wasn’t particularly a sports fan. Professor Dennis Deninger at Syracuse said it was a top-tier sport when he grew up.
The difficulty I had to find the fight this time and the relatively disappointing viewing experience – really, Peru did me wrong – doesn’t make me want to watch boxing anymore.
I understand the total net for the two fighters was somewhere around an absurd figure of $300 million, but this fight was touted as the “Fight of the Century.” This payday may be more than some Major League Baseball 2015 salaries, but it comes so infrequently that one must wonder how worth it is. In addition, only these two fighters would fetch such a figure.
The health of the sport is not reflected upon its two biggest stars. No under-card showcase or any lesser display of talent would generate that type of coinage. Not even Mayweather’s retirement fight in September will do as well, because he’s fighting a lesser-known fighter, which became guaranteed now that Pacquiao will be out for nearly a year with shoulder surgery.
As I watched the end of the fight, Mayweather and Pacquiao danced around, despite it being pretty clear Mayweather won. (This part of the fight streamed perfectly.) At the end, I felt wholly unsatisfied with the “Fight of the Century” and can say that it didn’t make me want to watch another boxing match.
I guess I’ll have to wait for the “Fight of the Next Century.”
Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and the sound Kanye makes in his songs, which he thinks is spelled “HAAH.” He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.