It was a beautiful 80 degree day in Wisconsin. The kind of day with a horizontal proclivity, with a sunshine-hot breeze-coolness, where the birds can’t spare a breath but for the idiot song of their tiny tongues. In short, God bless. Which may all strike as unrelated, but I feel it gives a Big Mac Index for my portion of the 100-dollar pay-per-view.
For the first undercard the surprise wasn’t the mass of empty seats but the sparse attendees. Were these the newly rich, anxious for this first appearance, sweating torrents down Chanel, and tapping Choos, to put their practiced smile into the pot? Or, more likely, they were seat holders for paranoid fame: Clint Eastwood with senile egoism demanding to have his seat warmed by the female measurements 36-24-32, brunettes only. Forgive me for not believing in fiscally endowed fans of Ukrainian fighter Vasyl Lomachenko, though you shouldn’t, he put on the best show of the night.
During and after the second noncompetitive fight we were finally graced with some fans. Tom Brady smiled into our cupped ears, his voice raw from an appearance at the Kentucky Derby, recalibrating our social GPS which lost him briefly after a 7 pm tweet on the saltiness of a Sal Vanitos h’ordeuvre and the timely utility of a mimosa. Denzel stood cryptic in a horse shoe of facial hair, refusing to say anything but make bassy moans into the interview mic: meant to assure us of the energy surrounding the event, of the “juice in the building.” DeNiro and the aforementioned Eastwood came in wispy and death-to-all-combs windblown, ready to sag before the violence. Paris Hilton spun in circles. Michael Jordan and Miss Wink-Wink Nudge-Nudge, a silent hubba-hubba attached to his elbow, put bookies hearts to flutter. Bradley Cooper, began this sentence. And many cried bingo after Jay-Z and Beyonce filled out the obligatory power couple at seat O 47, leaving Agassie and Graf to play a second fiddle a-piece on all things not irony as announcers used their image to unconscionably utter the word charity. In short, the stars were arranged ringside as in the night, and we with the announcers concocted shapes of them – a bull, the taut bow slings the arrow – with meanings and signs to match: the whom is cheering for what whom. All far removed, needle eyes, and heaven. Only five hundred tickets were available to the general public.
If you were wondering about boxing, you shouldn’t have. The analysts told a story of Pacquiao the volume puncher, Mayweather avoiding the ropes, Manny’s timely left, and Floyd’s counter punch. Six years in the making the dissection had been polished into an impossible minute of bullet points, the only question was if any of it were still applicable. In the meantime they held up pennies and Coke cans for perspective, even hyping the unique sight of HBO analysts side by side Showtime’s, as if anyone cared. This fight is huge, don’t you get it? The next entry in the thesaurus, after pay-per-view revenue turning out to be themselves.
The venue was not large, seating roughly sixteen thousand, but you don’t need a wave pool if you can get everyone to wade in the same direction. It was all hands on deck. The stars already seated, the millions watching at home, six Christmases of hype stacked up for lost time, and to top it all off, three national anthems and two ring announcers. After Mexico and the Philippines received their anthems, Jamie Foxx inexplicably yodeled the delusion of the free, then Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr. gave us dueling crescendos. Finally referee Kenny Bayless brought the two contestants to the center of the ring, of our dilating pupils, light grown singular as the moment. “You are both world champions,” he said, and then the real fight began.
The crowd swelled in the first two rounds as Pacquiao sought to break the quicker Mayweather’s defenses. Chants of ‘Man-ny, Man-ny’ marched in unison to his advance, attempting to reign in Mayweather with the ropes. It wasn’t what analyst James Brown feared – evidence the overarching narrative was an unfair, unrealistic, story of good vs evil – it was cheering against the greater evil, for love of the underdog; it was a world indicting a domestic abuser and loudmouth as a dick, and they did so repeatedly, in favor of Pacquiao.
It was an uphill battle and the aging Pacquiao chased diligently, arguably (perhaps from best wishes) winning the second round. Mayweather, rarely the aggressor, in just such typical fashion won the third, rolling easily off the ropes, always a step ahead, leaving plenty to caution in Pacuiao’s often straight up, squared shoulders approach.
If any of this sounds exhilarating, you’re only human; which, to your personal James Brown, let me point out, is no acquittal. But there was hope in this ineffectual dance. Something in our brains to at least shout about, now and again, a maybe. And maybe seemed vindicated in the the fourth with Mayweather backed to the ropes with a straight left, a bit stunned, finally unable to roll free. But Pacquiao’s consequent flurry accomplished little, unable to break Maywather’s solid guard, and he let off for fear of punching himself out.
From there on the chase began ever anew and to little significance. Mayweather’s defensive style dictated the fight to the chagrin of popular opinion, the vocal crowd, and fans of entertainment in general. The chanting ceased after Pacqiuao squeaked out the 6th, and had no reason to return. The half-hearted attention that met the beginning of the show now withdrew with similar ease.
“Hard to believe we’re over half way through what was 6 years in the making,” said one announcer to another. “Yes, but we’re getting exactly what we expected,” which he meant as a compliment and quickly removed me from any further use of that announcer’s collective pronouns.
At times, with little else to talk about, the cat and mouse of the ongoing fight being described in its first few revolutions sufficiently enough, the announcers complimented Mayweather’s patience. Not just his stingy, effective punching, but his business acumen. Praising him for waiting for the higher purse and his successful promotion, calling him “brilliant,” joining Pacquiao, verbally, in his fruitless quest around the ring for something to connect with. Never was there a doubt from then on what snake oil we were all watching.
Most boxing experts expected Mayweather to win in a defensive battle. I heard such murmurs, but thought the pageantry of the spectacle itself would carry the day: that the score of the Superbowl was immaterial, the points made in the presidential debate beside themselves. It is a question of slivers it turns out, this one being a whittle or two closer to social product than social event. It wasn’t that the fight had no business being hyped, but that it had only that; and even those like me, in full suspension, came away disappointed, a little guilty.
It was just past midnight as I walked to my car, no birdsong to relate this time. If I’d looked just right I might fairly have placed those dead lights in the arms of the tree, or alternately seen a branded product in every object I passed; it just took some convincing. “More than I’ve got,” I guessed. I was just tired.