I had planned a different post for today but was inspired last night to go with something different.
I don't talk about boxing much on this blog, but I do enjoy watching the occasional big fight, and there's a good reason for that: boxing was something fun I shared with my stepdad, who was a huge part of my life as a part of my family for the majority of my first 25+ years. He had watched tons of fights through the years and lived through some of the greats, so he was an ideal person with whom to watch a big bout. More importantly, he passed down some of his knowledge and all of his enjoyment of the sport to me, and whenever we could, we'd arrange to catch some boxing, big-time or small.
Sadly, he passed away unexpectedly in June of 2009, and that dealt a large blow to my family, but we've all found ways to move on and honor his memory. In my case, I still make sure I watch a few big fights each year, thinking about how we laughed at Larry Merchant's slow cadence and Harold Lederman's excitable analysis, soaked up Emmanuel Steward's excellent commentary, and most of all, raised fists high in anticipation after Michael Buffer's signature "LLLLLLLET'S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLE!"
As is typical of the sport, we were disappointed as often as we were satisfied--a terrible referee fighting for the spotlight to the detriment of the bout, a judge inexplicably coming up with a bad score, or a first-round KO--but the ones that excited us were more than worth it. I never did a good job of keeping track of how often we saw each fighter how he did when we last saw him, but I do know I saw some of today's great fighters and more than a few matchups that have since passed into legend.
I bring all of this up because last night was one of those marquee fights: Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao. It was actually their fourth meeting, as previously they had fought to a draw, a split-decision win for Pacquiao, and most recently, a majority-decision win for "Pac-Man." These fights weren't without a certain level of controversy, as is often the case with boxing, but they certainly made for excellent entertainment. Marquez surely had a chip on his shoulder, though, and his added bulk proved that.
The action quickly grew with Marquez catching Pacquiao hard enough to knock him down early. A few rounds later, Manny clocked him hard enough to get him to touch a glove to the canvas, scoring a knockdown of his own. Pacquiao was statistically the more aggressive and accurate fighter, and multiple times he had Marquez hurt and in significant danger. Marquez somehow managed to weather the storm, and then with only a second left in the 6th round, he faked out Pacquiao and caught him just barely defenseless, and that would prove to be the decisive blow--Manny went down hard face first and was clearly out for several minutes. He did eventually regain consciousness, and later tests proved negative for any significant damage. It was a stunning finish to a fight that for all intents and purposes appeared to be going the other way.
Here's a look at some highlights of the fight to give you a quick idea of how things went down:
Anyway, the reason I thought to post something about this fight, besides discussing the joy I still experience watching boxing sometimes thanks to my stepdad, is that it reminded me of how a few years ago, Topps inserted some boxing autographs in its 2008 Co-Signers set. I managed to pull a couple from boxes, namely notable trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas. I then began grabbing more to give to him as a Christmas present, including more than a few big names. Since his passing I've sold off a few, but kept my favorites, one of which is this guy:
I'd like to close on a lighter note, though, with a Youtube video I still love sharing with people. I was reminded of it with the way Pacquiao was just knocked OUT last night (and now that it's clear he's OK, I think it's not exactly offensive to post). Awesome comedian Cedric the Entertainer did a bit on a fight featuring Zab Judah years ago, and someone synced it up to a clip of the fight in question. So enjoy the hilarity!: