By Fox Doucette
As a boxing writer, the subject of the sport comes up a lot on dates and in conversation with casual fans of the fight game. As a public service to hardcore boxing fans, The Southpaw presents this handy guide to dealing with people who can’t name any boxers other than Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, conveniently divided into categories to suit all kinds of casuals. Next time you’re talking to someone about the sport we all love, maybe you’ll make a convert—or know when to just change the subject to LeBron and cheap beer.
Category #1: The Frothing Pacquiao/Mayweather Fanboy.
The easiest way to deal with someone who only knows of two fighters and is dead-solid convinced that their guy would knock out the other and will brook no intelligent argument is to take a cue from Joshua, the computer in WarGames: “What an interesting game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”
There are plenty of intelligent arguments to be made in favor of Manny Pacquiao knocking out Floyd Mayweather, most of them involving Pacquiao’s pressure-fighting style frustrating Mayweather’s preference for fighting defensively. In a nice bit of boxing symmetry, that is exactly the same argument for why Mayweather would win the fight; Pacquiao has shown difficulty against a good counter-puncher (Juan Manuel Marquez) and Floyd is much quicker and more skilled than a guy who arguably already beat the Philippine sensation. Neither man would “oh, like, totally knock Gayweather/Pacroid out in the first round, the dude’s a chump and a fraud and…” (you get the idea.) I personally believe Mayweather wins that fight by fifth-round KO after walking Manny into a counter right hook, but I don’t then take the next step of assuming anyone who thinks Pacquiao will win is “gay for that cheating roid rager” or anything similar. I believe they’re wrong, I’d bet against them in a friendly wager, but this is boxing—crazy things can and do happen in the ring, as Mike Tyson learned against Buster Douglas.
Category #2: The Curious Newbie.
Or, as the species is known by its Latin name, Greenhornus Cutegirlensis. This is the woman who, on a first date, finds out you love boxing and doesn’t immediately say “excuse me, I need to use the restroom” while making use of the restaurant’s back-door exit and a friend on the waitstaff. She’s not a fight expert, she can’t name any fighter other than Pacquiao or Mayweather, she asks questions like “why do some fights have 12 rounds and others only have 10? Aren’t main events supposed to be 12 rounds?” and “Wait, I thought Manny Pacquiao was the champion, why is this fight for the championship?” (that latter in regards to Mayweather-Ortiz). You can explain (or try to, considering how screwed up boxing is) that there are four major sanctioning bodies and that their world title fights are 12 rounds and that Manny and Floyd and Viacheslav Senchenko and Andre Berto are all the welterweight champion in their own way (WBO/WBC/WBA/IBF, respectively) and she’ll soon understand that alphabet soup isn’t just something you give to the kids out of a Campbell’s can.
Mind you, there is a major pitfall here, and it’s one that having a curious outsider lays very bare when you’re trying to explain things like the above scenario. Boxing is a screwed up sport. We all know this. Focusing on the insanity drives casual fans away. But show someone a great fight, get her watching FNF or ShoBox with you where prospects fight quite removed from the absurdity (for the most part) of the alphabet soup brigade, and you might even remind yourself why you love the sport yourself, something we so often forget every time we complain about a bad decision or a questionable titlist (Viacheslav Senchenko? Seriously?! Thanks, Boxrec, for helping with the research…I guess…)
Category #3: A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing.
Otherwise known as “90% of the boxing media not covered by Category 1.” These are the folks who you can easily tell don’t watch a lot of boxing, or if they do they just parrot back whatever they heard Jim Lampley or Teddy Atlas or Max Kellerman say on-air. Mind you, some influences are better than others (Lampley’s a shill, Atlas knows his stuff, and Kellerman’s…well, he’s Max Kellerman, the Marmite of boxing broadcasters, you either love him or hate him) but you’re still dealing with someone who cannot form an intelligent opinion they haven’t been force-fed by someone far (allegedly) wiser than themselves. Sometimes you get these folks insisting that Mike Jones should be Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent “because Boxrec has him #4 in the world, he must be a big-time contender” or that some fighter must be good because he’s ranked by Ring Magazine (not because of who he fights, but because Golden Boy’s editorial board said it is so).
This is boxing’s version of the political blogger. Substitute “Fox News” or “CNN” or “Keith Olbermann” for the names in that last paragraph (and sort them according to who you think is knowledgeable, a shill, and Marmite). Sound familiar? Some of these folks can be reasoned with, or at least rehabilitated; show them a few fights via the Internet with foreign-language broadcasters in a language they don’t speak (Buenos tardes, TV Azteca!) and make them score the fight. That usually cures the disease.
Category #4: No, I Don’t Know Who You’re Talking About.
This is the sort of woman who thinks you can read her mind every other damn time she gives you three vague details and thinks she’s explained something in full. The one who smiles like she’s about to “really connect with you” and says (and this is an actual quote from someone I encountered earlier this week) “I saw a fight the other night, it was a Ukrainian guy, heavyweight I think” (one of the Klitschkos?) “and he fought this black dude” (David Haye? Shannon Briggs? Sam Peter? Lennox Lewis?) “and the black dude knocked him out in the second round.” I had to think for a minute before realizing she was talking about Seth Mitchell’s knockout of Timur Ibragimov, who is from Uzbekistan. Mind you, a black guy involved in the misidentification of Uzbekistan is nothing new, but this woman was absolutely convinced I’d know exactly what she was talking about from that smattering of details.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice at all for this one. If I knew how to handle a woman who expected me to read her mind at all times, I wouldn’t still be single. Or at the very least, I would be appearing on talk shows and writing relationship books and…hell, I’d rather put on a pair of boxing gloves and try to go the distance with Seth Mitchell. The best you can hope for in this case is to either make a Category 2 out of her or else trade her in for a nice game of chess.
Category #5: MMA Fans Who Think You Meant MMA When You Said “The Fights”.
Ever read Nineteen Eighty-Four? Specifically, the Room 101 chapter? Then you know what to do. If that doesn’t work, graduate to A Clockwork Orange. It’s for their own good.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and headache pills for use after dates can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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