Almost Missed Manny and Money

By George Thomas Clark on May 3, 2015
Almost Missed Manny and Money
“I’m keyed up like I was before the first Ali-Frazier fight in 1971.” (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

“They didn’t even hit each other,” said my mother, who during the preceding sixty-two years I’ve known her had denounced boxing as barbaric…

I realize most sports fans and other seekers of excitement planned to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight at cool places like the MGM Grand Arena or packed sports bars or at least at big private parties enlivened by booze. My intention was far more mundane: I’d view the eternally-hyped showdown with my Philippine wife at my mother’s home. I don’t have the full cable package and thus lack the high-tech box necessary to bet a hundred bucks that an event might be worth half that.

Let us be honest and emphasize that the deciding seventh NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs was certified to be more compelling than either preliminary fight. Clippers Blake Griffin and Chris Paul continued to play all-world basketball, Griffin soaring for baskets and rebounds, and Paul, like Mayweather, beating his opponents to critical spots. The Spurs’ Tim Duncan, theoretically-ancient at age thirty-nine, ten months older than Floyd, performed with comparable athletic excellence. As these teams, much too good to face each other in the first round, repeatedly exchanged leads, I, from my perch in the living room, asked my mother if she was sure everything was primed and ready for the fight TV in her office. “Of course,” she said.

Great. But after the third quarter, when the Clippers led by a single point, I arose and resolved to confirm the pay-per-view connection. “All this is is an advertisement,” I reported, and perhaps not in a pleasant voice.

“Bright House said all I have to do is turn to Channel 901.”

Channel 901 was hyping several different pre-fight productions but I saw no fight or any way to get the fight. “Call them.”

She did. I did. We called dozens of times, and got busy signals or a recording they were excruciatingly busy.

“All right, turn on your computer,” I said. “Your computer’s damn slow.”

“I beg your pardon.”

I sent an email, then sent another. “What’s going on?” I wrote Bright House. “We ordered this fight days ago.”

Only believers in the Tooth Fairy would anticipate an email response this night. I’d have to go live, to an online chat. I typed in a daunting list of required personal information, then clicked. A moving circle emerged, going round and round indicating it planned to soon load a page, and a few minutes later, mesmerized and tormented and still watching a whirling circle, I announced, “I’m going to Bright House.” 

“Do you want me to accompany you?” my wife asked.

“No, you guys wait here. And keep calling.” 

Some octogenarian was driving ten miles an hour in the neighborhood so I pulled around him and accelerated onto the main street, finally remembering to turn on the basketball game, and sped, but only a little, toward the freeway, Highway 99, which in Bakersfield is distinguished by running over the eternally dry bed of the Kern River. It would’ve been a ghastly sight, but a ringing cell phone spared me: “I think I’ve got it,” said my mother.

“The real thing?”

“I think so.”

“What do you see?”

“They’re fighting.”

I avoided the onramp, turning right onto a surface street, and hurried homeward, hoping that yellow left-hand turn light, in a photo-monitored intersection, hadn’t turned red. Back in the home office, two unfamiliar men were lashing each other, and I again relaxed in the living room. Now Chris Paul was limping. He’d pulled a hamstring earlier but kept hitting three-pointers. DeAndre Jordan, a great rebounder and shot blocker but a brick layer at the foul line, was taken out of the game, and that was a blunder by the usually astute coach Doc Rivers. Tim Duncan and colleagues proceeded to engulf offensive rebounds and build a five-point lead, but Blake Griffin and Paul were performing like Mayweathers on hardwood, and with a few seconds left the game was tied and the Clippers had the ball. Emerging from a time out, Paul drove to his right, smothered by defenders, and launched himself not so high but high enough to bank the ball in and, after a futile Spurs pass, win the game. 

“Okay, let’s turn that off and head into the office,” I said. “I’m keyed up like I was before the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight in 1971.”

Back in the office, the final preliminary having ended, we watched celebrities such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Beyoncé and assorted movie stars, and I commented, “This really helps the buildup.” And then the damn fight program disappeared again and offered the same repugnant ads. I thought they were the same but my mother said she’d changed the channel, to 902, and this one was a little different. It better be, or I’m going to…What? I’m going to miss the damn fight. The screen offered a Buy option, and I kept clicking the appropriate B on the remote control, and then clicking the B again. That didn’t work. We resumed calling, and I looked for nonexistent emails and chat responses, and was ready to scream when I accidentally pressed some large round button in the middle of the remote control, and the fight reappeared, that is the telecast of what would be the fight, offering most welcome images of the Prince of Pugilism, Al Bernstein, and Jim Lampley, and Roy Jones Jr.

No more technical atrocities bedeviled us. I urged my wife not to fall asleep, as she often does during movies, and even one morning last month in Aguascalientes, Mexico, as I interviewed the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art. But she wasn’t going to sleep for this one. She looked super serious, damn near in tears, and had her hands clasped, prayer style, just beneath her chin. She’d met Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines and, like almost all in that typhoon-tormented archipelago, revered him for so often using his money to donate rice and clothes and medical supplies and money to those in need.

“You think Manny would send me some money?” I asked.

Her expression, I believe, indicated: probably not.

Manny smiled and, unless he’s a nonpareil actor, enjoyed himself marching toward the ring. (Someday they need to set up bouts between those beastly-bicep guys who always escort the fighters.) Mayweather, accompanied by the same two brutes, looked quite serious and rather nervous. He must’ve been tight because he hadn’t invited Justin Bieber to walk right behind him. I think I spotted the Biebster in about the fourth row of the phalanx.

Promoters were prudent in hiring two eminent announcers for introductions because Michael Buffer, handsome but aging, strained his vocal chords crooning, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” and shortly had to be rescued, it seemed, by the still youthful voice of Jimmy Lennon Jr. Floyd concurred it was time to rumble, and there’d be no conceding early rounds as he had in his first fight against Marcos Maidana. Much taller, longer-armed, and sleeker than Manny, he at once dictated action, landing some authoritative right hands, and won the first and second rounds easily. I had the third pretty close, called it even, and won’t quibble with anyone’s conclusion. In the fourth, finally, squat Manny forced himself to sustain an attack inside – he certainly wasn’t going to hit Floyd long range – and landed several blows, including a left to the chin, during an impressive flurry that backed the Money man against the ropes.

Floyd abandoned the ropes in the fifth round and moved like a ballroom dancer while landing some rights and preventing Manny from doing much. In the sixth, Manny again attacked Floyd against the ropes, and I gave him the round, making the fight three-two-one, mathematically close but to me, as probably most others, it was evident Floyd would win.

Looking at my notes, I see I had Mayweather winning four of the final six rounds, Manny taking only one, the tenth, and the ninth being even. The script remained the same, Mayweather moving and dodging and rarely being hit hard, landing rights and occasional left jabs, and befuddling Manny. My final tally gave Floyd a four-round victory margin, which accorded with two of the three judges, and was probably generous for Manny. The judge scoring it ten rounds to two may have had it right but I think the Philippine congressman did a bit better. 

It was a delightful evening. The big-fight feel, like no other in sports, was sustained before, during, and after the match – I lapped up interviews and commentary until the telecast ended – and both boxers can be proud of their efforts during this event as well as throughout their careers. There was but one complainant.

“They didn’t even hit each other,” said my mother, who during the preceding sixty-two years I’ve known her had denounced boxing as barbaric, and as far as I know had never seen a complete boxing match. But this night, three years shy of ninety, she lusted for blood as much as beer drinking young men.

“Floyd Mayweather is a very skillful and scientific fighter who believes in not getting hit,” I explained. “He didn’t want this to be like the first and third Ali-Frazier fights when they about killed each other, and did permanently destroy each other’s health.”

As for my wife, she merely said, “Manny was more aggressive.”

“It’s fine to be aggressive,” I said, “but you’ve got to land more punches.”

George Thomas Clark is the author of Paint it Blue as well as Death in the Ring, a collection of boxing stories, and The Bold Investor, a short story collection. See the author’s website at www.GeorgeThomasClark.com.

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  1. Mafia gay Weather 01:31am, 05/06/2015

    B O X I N G is D E A D

  2. George Thomas Clark 01:40pm, 05/04/2015

    Alex, it’s always a dance with Floyd.  That’s what he does: he dances and dodges and sticks and moves, and he doesn’t get hit much while winning all his fights.  He’ll never be in an Ali-Frazier I or III, and he’ll always be healthier because of that.

  3. Alex 11:36am, 05/04/2015

    I paid to see a fight. If I want to see dancing, I watch “Dancing With The Stars”
    This was a dance, not a fight.

  4. Pete The Sneak 04:15am, 05/04/2015

    GTC, wonderful write up…. Especially when you say “It was a delightful evening. The big-fight feel, like no other in sports, was sustained before, during, and after the match.”...That’s exactly what I saw throughout the city (NYC)...The fight may not have been the barnburner everyone expected, but for one beautiful weekend here in the Big Apple, it was all about boxing and I loved it…Peace.

  5. allen 11:20pm, 05/03/2015

    that sound great for Olympic boxing but the truth is defence is only haft the fight. This looked more like a sparing match between friends . i think they still call it a fight . this is not the NFL your going to get hit in the head and you should look that way too. i have been watching fighting sence i was a little boy and i want my money back . The money boy did produce and i have to say Pacman let me down also . There is no hugs in boxing only after the last bell rings . i want a fight !!!!

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