LAS VEGAS – The carcass, barely breathing and so near death, is kept alive only to drain its blood.
On the surface, this would appear to be torture. But that would assume boxing cares how anybody else feels.
Boxing’s chief concern is keeping interest alive merely to harvest every nickel, to bleed the public dry.
With each dollar wrung out, so too is the last whoop of joy we try to muster for a sport that used to mean so much in America.
Floyd Mayweather slipped, twisted and dodged his way to an easy victory over Manny Pacquiao in the wee Sunday hours at the MGM Grand Garden. That was somewhat expected.
But throughout an event where Mayweather clearly was the villain, the entire sport proved wicked and inept.
Mayweather-Pacquiao never was going to save boxing, a sport that has napalmed its grassroots development over the years. The Mayweather-Pacquiao experience, however, should’ve been a glorious opportunity to bring back old fans and welcome new ones.
Instead, the day began with a controversy over reporters allegedly being denied access for discussing Mayweather’s domestic-violence issues, the fight was delayed because cable and satellite carriers couldn’t cope with the pay-per-view orders, the action was monotonous and Pacquiao fought despite being injured.
Pacquiao revealed at Sunday morning’s news conference he fought despite a torn something-or-other in his right shoulder, essentially nullifying one of his most effective punches. He missed training because of it.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, said the injury happened at least two weeks ago. I asked Arum directly how, with everything at stake for boxing and the outlandish $99 pay-per-view fee to watch, anybody thought it was a good idea to send damaged goods into the ring.
“Athletes always fight hurt,” Arum said. “We were disappointed when, in the third round, the injury kicked up again. But this is always the case in sports, you know? The guy’s injured in training. He then deals with the injury, thinks he conquered it and then he gets reinjured in the game.”
Arum’s response is offensive on multiple levels. Athletes sometimes play hurt. But this is boxing, where competitors don’t have teammates or backups to rely upon. Boxing is not beholden to a league schedule that won’t wait for players to heal.
Boxing matches commonly are postponed for injuries, but Nevada State Athletic Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar announced at the news conference Pacquiao’s camp didn’t inform officials about the bum shoulder until 9:30 p.m., about an hour and a half before the fight was expected to begin.
The success of Mayweather-Pacquiao hinged on a credible, competitive bout.
How many people would’ve spent $99 to watch the fight or would’ve plunked down a fat wager in the MGM Grand sportsbook if they knew Pacquiao had a serious shoulder injury?
Boxing went for another distasteful cash grab rather than deliver the honest matchup everyone deserved.
After the uninspiring display, Mayweather gleefully showed off the $100 million check he received – just his initial payment, no less – and spoke about his apathy toward boxing.
“I don’t really think I’m going to miss the sport,” said Mayweather, who has said he plans to fight once more and then retire. “I don’t really watch boxing. … But throughout the years I just lost the love for the sport.”
Mayweather-Pacquiao was delayed because cable and satellite providers couldn’t handle the crush of pay-per-view requests. So the customer experience was unpleasant from the first button click.
While Mayweather parried around the ring, delivering potshots and then swerving out of the way of danger, one got the impression he was running away with everybody’s money. Then we learned Pacquiao intentionally fought without a right hook, and his promoter thought that was acceptable.
If ever drama was needed, then this was the night to conjure some. Neither fighter truly hurt the other. Nobody was wobbled or staggered or even looked particularly worn out.
Instead, a slithery defensive boxer made his one-armed opponent chase him around the ring.
Mayweather is a defensive virtuoso. Casual fight fans, however, don’t want to see that. They certainly don’t want to pay $99 to watch a fight that ended at 12:46 a.m. Eastern time.
“I’m just not into the boxing, running style,” promoter and former champion Oscar De La Hoya tweeted afterward. “I like jumping out of my seat because a fight was existing and the fans got their money’s worth.”
De La Hoya’s tweet had a typo, but the misspelling was appropriate.
Saturday night’s fight was the definition of existing, as in lying there on life support. The weekend was sad for boxing. The event’s promoters raked in mountains of cash, but not without making fans regret getting involved.
“I’m very happy,” the soft-spoken Pacquiao said. “It’s not bothering me because I fought a good fight. I did my best.
“I think the people are very happy because, even though I hurt my shoulder, I didn’t complain. It’s part of the game.”
All part of the game.
Let it bleed.