Stars and Gripes: Thoughts on Pacquiao vs. Mosley
Seeing this past weekend’s fight between WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley brought to mind a quote I’d read somewhere: “The bell that tolls for all in boxing belongs to a cash register”. After reading about and watching commercials for the fight, I gave my tithe to the church of pugilism (AKA the local cable company)—54 dollars and change—hard earned money from my Uncle Tom job as a doorman at an upscale (when I speak of upscale, I speak of the residents) apartment complex.
I wanted to watch Pacquiao because I have neglected him. He is Pilipino, I am Pilipino-American and have not followed his career—a career that can only be described as brilliant. My gripe is that the quality of the sport has receded due to a dearth of great fighters. Fighters I watched growing up—Ali, Frazier, Arguello, Duran, Monzon, Hagler, Leonard, Sanchez, Hearns and Duran—were all active in the same generation—all future hall of famers. My father collected boxing magazines while I collected Marvel and DC comics. I graduated to collecting Ring and Boxing Illustrated Magazines, amassing an impressive stack under the bed.
I had first seen Pacquiao in 2002 on the undercard of the Mike Tyson/Lennox Lewis heavyweight title fight. Pacquiao was vying for the IBF featherweight title but my main focus was Tyson. I wanted him to beat Lewis. I didn’t give Pacquiao much thought although he was obviously a terrific puncher with good defensive skills and intensity cut from the same cloth as one of my heroes, Roberto Duran. But my narrow-mindedness did not allow me to foresee the potential greatness of Manny Pacquaio. I focused on Tyson because I didn’t like Lewis. Lennox didn’t sound like a heavyweight champion; heavyweight champions had names like Muhammad, Joe, Rocky–or Mike. That night Tyson got knocked out. The champion’s name was Lennox (not Linux). Pacquiao won that night too.
Fight night—clips of Pacquiao and Mosley’s fights are shown, footage of the two fighters training, posing for cameras and clips of Pacquiao at work as a congressman in the Philippines. The announcer talks about Pacquiao’s humble beginnings prior to his boxing career, about his drive and perseverance which resulted in an unprecedented feat–the first fighter to win world titles in 8 different weight classes. When asked about his political career, Pacquaio says that prior to being elected as Congressman, he saw the problems in the Philippines as being this big, illustrating the size with the space between his thumb and forefinger. He then added that the problems are this big, spreading his arms wide. Members of the press corps often referred to Pacquiao is being the smaller fighter, a distinction Mosley respectfully corrected–“He is the shorter man” Mosley said.
The weigh-in was shown and I became somewhat depressed. As I approach the mid stage of life–along with millions of other sedentary members of my gender– I watch these athletes and realize I will never achieve six pack abs. I look at the body of 39 year old Mosley and remember his fight against Oscar De La Hoya in 2000. He won that fight with speed. I wondered how much he had left at age 39. The prelim bouts begin and I drop to the floor, attempt a set of crunches when a text message from my friend Ezekiel–“Zeak” for short–the boxing fan, comes through.
Zeak: You watching the fight?
Zeak: I think Pac’s gonna knock him out in 9
Me: How many crunches can you do?
I give up my crunches, jog to the kitchen and back, hitting the couch in time for the main event. I sit. Mosley enters first with his team led by LL Cool J on the mic doing “Mama said knock you out”. It was decent but I preferred the music video. Leading the Pacquaio contingent is Jimi Jamison—of the group “Survivor”—singing “Eye of the Tiger” from the movie “Rocky III”. I get another text:
Zeak: Pac should have sung that song himself. He has the voice.
Me: LL Cool J looks like he could give Pac a good fight
Zeak: Jamison looks like he should be carrying the bucket
Both national anthems are sung; the Philippine first, beautifully sung by Charice followed by the US anthem sung by Tyrese. Somehow I don’t hear the words that Tyrese sings. I keep thinking of his role in “Baby Boy”, in the python-like choke hold of Ving Rhames who whispers in his ear: Jody…little Jody before slapping his shiny head. I wonder how Ving Rhames would sound singing the national anthem.
I looked at the Philippine flag hanging stoically amidst the thousands of fans, moving slightly under the hum of lights and above the ocean of anticipation. I thought about myself as a Filipino-American. It felt good hearing the Philippine anthem. I wanted to join in but didn’t know the words. After Tyrese’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, Jamie Fox was introduced and segued into “America the Beautiful”. Another text:
Zeak: Fox is taking this Ray Charles thing serious, huh?
Me: I like Ray
I wondered why the extra portion of patriotism was being doled out and it came to me via yet another text:
Zeak: It’s a dig on the Bin Laden Folk. It’s code for: WE GOT ‘EM
Me: Also a dig at Pacquiao. It’s the US saying, you might be the best fighter in the world, but ours is the best COUNTRY in the world. It makes ’em feel better.
Round one. Both fighters are jabbing and moving, respectful of each other’s power. No damage done. I score the round even. That was as close as it got. I had Pacquiao winning every round thereafter. He used his jab and applied constant pressure, landing hard shots that took the steam from Mosley within a few rounds. Mosley’s signature speed and pinpoint counter punching that had been brilliant in fights against De La Hoya, Forrest and Mayorga was not present.
Mosley seemed to age as the rounds progressed. It was as if his mind knew what to do but was betrayed by an uncooperative body. I was reminded of Sugar Ray Leonard, in one of his last fights, against Jr. Welterweight Champion Terry Norris. Leonard absorbed a beating, taking punches he would have avoided in his prime. Mosley, like Leonard, was past his prime. Both fighters had much respect for each other—at times seeming too respectful—touching gloves before every round and in various times in between. Prior to the fight, Mosley expressed resentment at being the underdog. Having been thrown off his rhythm by Pacquiao’s power and speed, Mosley seemed to have left any resentment he had in his dressing room.
During the fight cameras cut to each fighter’s respective Wife/partner; their faces etched with anxiety, concern, worry. I get another text message:
Zeak: Who you thinks hotter, Pac’s wife or Mosley’s girl?
Me: They’re both beautiful…like models
Zeak: Come on, you got to have a preference
Me: It has nothing to do with the fight
Zeak: Hell, the way the fight’s going, I’d rather see the ladies go at it
Me: You got a point
At the final bell I had Pacquiao winning every round except the first, which I scored even. Pacquiao was simply too fast and possessed too much power for Mosley to overcome with his famed counterpunching that made him one of the best pound for pound fighters in boxing for much of the past decade. The unanimous decision verdict was anti-climatic. Both fighters showed respect for each other during the post fight interview. “You’re the pound for pound king” said Mosley to Pacquiao through swollen but still handsome features. Pacquiao nodded silently.
The post-fight text message:
Zeak: Who’s hotter, Mrs. Pacquiao or Mosley’s girlfriend?
(The 54 dollar question)