The State [January 2020]: 20 Rounds
To be a walking tourist of macabre fascination and dark captivation…
As the ball dropped on 2019 I found myself asking a question: “What are we going to do with all this future?” As 2020 arrived, it became clear for some that the answer was: “Good riddance.” Not to go all Matthews 24:6 on you, but I found myself recalling things like “wars and rumors of wars.”
But in all of the ways this fosters dread, I wondered to myself and considered the sardonic irony, “How could this possibly be a cause for alarm in the sweet science?” It just doesn't seem possible, especially with a most pugnaciously pugilistic belief that “in the end, this will come.” Anticipation is everything, they tell us. “Well, what about the beginning?” I wondered, in front of burning jerseys and an open fire sifting winds of change. I knew that “The Goat” from Boston would drown in a different Tea Party and maybe feel the need for a few shots of some Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. I pondered this, with cryptic thoughts of “The Gwoat” back in action to further solidify her claim as “The Greatest [Woman] of All-Time” in 2020. I don't know.
A few angels from Victoria's Secret — who, even if they can't box know how to cause men to fight over what's in their boxes (or not) — may have an issue with that.
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“And stop using the fucking promoters, managers and advisers for that weak ass excuse y'all doing. They work for us. Y'all dumb mother******s. If you really want a fight, you tell them: “I don't give two fucks that's who I want to fight. Let yo nuts drop. You say you your own boss @ErrolSpenceJr”
That's WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, via Twitter, blowing smoke at IBF welterweight champion Errol “The Truth” Spence. This would be the war we want beyond rumor.
Never one to just allow one to drop ashes and drag nasty dog caca across his brand new carpet, the proud Texan and registered holder of heat under the 2nd Amendment (I believe), quickly fired back.
“It sound good. Only time I hear your shit is social media. Don't act like a boss now. Like he don't handle your shit. We've been told your handler Bob what it takes to make it happen. I don't choke off smoke dude.”
And to think, all of this started in earnest, with an apparent bag of Bud infused Crawford suggesting Spence “take off the panties,” to which TMZ had a lot of fun with across the nation in late 2019.
We're not suggesting this sent Spence to the bar, but shortly thereafter, an intoxicated Spence was seen careening all over highway walls in a rather sensational crash straight out of “Fast and Furious.” Incredibly, Spence emerged unscathed. Perhaps even more incredibly, he seemed to suffer far less damage as a result of what looked to be a career ending crash feared near fatal from initial reports.
As it were, the punishment he endured in a grueling affair with Shawn Porter turned out to be far more severe before escaping with the WBC welterweight title. Which is odd, I thought. Not to go all “Conspiracy Theory” on you, but something's amiss here. It’s somewhat interesting that Keith Thurman, another PBC elite fighter who happened to be a welterweight champion at the time, suffered from a serious automobile crash in January 2016 that nullified a schedule March 2016 date with the aforementioned Porter. They did engage in an epic encounter — perhaps even more grueling than Spence Vs Porter — that in this opinion, forever changed “One-Time” physically. Porter will probably go down as the welterweight division's modern Ken Norton; a real brick shithouse who, if not himself “elite”, will cause severe problems to them along the way. Ask the 70's film of Muhammad Ali or Larry Holmes. That's what he was to Spence and would most likely be to good friend Crawford.
Could it be that Porter was the car accident we witnessed with the wreck being something out of Hollywood? It’s 2020, and if ever words should not be minced like so many carrots of would be gold, that time is now. No one in boxing is more honest than Errol Spence Jr, and “The Truth” is (as Porter kept needling an overweight and party boy ravaged Spence during a presser just prior to Pacquaio Vs Thurman), Spence damn near killed himself to face Porter, falling victim to “The Good Life.” Take a look at EJ and listen to him during Fight Week interviews, and you'll see an emaciated shell of a mess that scantly resembles the menace that finished Lamont Peterson in January 2018. He emerged victorious in both 2019 affairs, but Spence himself would tell you he had an off year, with the Porter fight perhaps being so debilitating physically he damn near needs a year off. Boxing is the world's most enduring test of a human being on so many levels, and if that's the case (granted, all that I've just offered does fall under the auspices of conjecture) there's no shame there.
It’s just that if PBC or any other promotional outfit were to go Ringling Bros on a sport all too real, it thins the blood between fighters and fans thicker than the messy spit water in the bucket between rounds. As for Crawford Vs Spence, this is a steak on the cusp of being sent back to the kitchen. An all red hooded Spence went a verbal toe-to-toe with an all-black and gold trimmed hooded Crawford in the bowels of the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK in November 2018, where both were flanked by a momentarily flustered Bob Arum.
There, I watched “The Bobfather” tell Spence to his face that Al Haymon wasn't real, while putting Sam Watson on Front St to give us this fight. In one of my most enduring memories of 2019, I watched an 87 year-old Arum climb into the ring in Madison Square Garden like Jack Dempsey reborn. He grabbed the mic and passionately demanded Al Haymon make the fight with Crawford in April 2020, just after Bud exposed A Mere Con yet again. Just give us the damn fight Al, Sam… somebody.
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After famously asking with thin air “Who is Teofimo Lopez?” early last year, a supremely confident Vasiliy Lomachenko, the world's best fighter, paid Lopez a great honor by showing up at ringside last December 14 to witness his 2nd round destruction of Richard Commey to capture the WBA lightweight title. “Yes, of course. Now he's a world champion. Welcome to my club… See you in April,” deadpanned Loma with trademark insouciance, in response to ESPN's Bernardo Osuna regarding the spectre of Teo. This no longer falls under “rumors and reports of war.” You've heard of a looming confrontation between Iran and the United States in political circles. This one, would for all intents and purposes, pit Ukraine against Honduras. To be even more succinct, it would juxtapose as the sporting equivalent to Eastern Europe against Central America, while all but declaring the winner the conqueror of a nation and an entire region, in addition to solidifying lightweight supremacy. That a fighter of personality cult can shape or shift ideology is not a myth or “Conspiracy Theory” — it is a proven theorem.
I saw a recent interview with Loma, recorded in his native tongue with subtitles to gain more insight into the man. Even without words on screen, he'd remain loaded with the seasoned aura of a champion. Observing that he hadn't gleaned much from the two round sample size, “The Matrix” stated in so many words that he didn't see any special effects in the defense of Teo, indicating he can't wait to put Lopez in a Tao-like trance short of the distance. When pressed about the decade between the two (Loma is a near ripe age of 32 to a precocious age of 22 for Lopez), Vasiliy sees this as an advantage, more or less viewing Teofimo as an arrogant man-child about to get grown manned.
Their make-up and styles are dissimilar, but this is a bag of candy and Alexis Arguello Vs Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini in front of an old floor model TV to me as a kid. Arguello, from Managua, Nicaragua and very much fighting for the pride of his beleaguered nation in October 1981, was a very seasoned 29 year-old world champion to Boom-Boom's similarly precocious 20 year-old All-American boy-next-door charm.
Their fathers also played pivotal roles in their trajectory, though Ray's bore more sentiment. Lenny “Boom-Boom” Mancini was a World War II recipient of a Purple Heart following his heroics during the “Battle of The Bulge”, which prevented him from achieving lightweight championship glory as a highly touted contender after suffering grievous wounds. The storyline for that one had the younger “Boom-Boom” winning one for his Old Man and war hero. This one, Lomachenko Vs Lopez, would feature a brash father that turned his son, Teofimo, into the best fighter in the history of Honduras. Bouyed by his father's fervent belief that Lomachenko has been ready for the taking approaching two years now, Teofimo famously had this to say about Vasiliy (which pissed him off) last year on MaxBoxing:
“Lomachenko does the same thing over and over again when it comes to footwork and moving to the same side. There's 3 or 4 ways to beat Lomachenko… I could fight him on April 20. I don't fear no man besides God. I don't respect no man besides my father. So when it’s all said and done, who is Lomachenko to me?”
I like them both, but one will prove to be A.I at lightweight with other proving supernatural. It should be just that kind of special grueling. I couldn't help but focus on the two from ringside inside of Madison Square Garden after Teo's resounding win over Commey. Posing for a photo worthy of framing in the middle of the ring, Teo donned an LSU #9 jersey while “The One” stood adjacent in royal blue. I don't want to declare a victor just yet, but I can see a victoriously imperial Loma standing over Teo screaming, “I am your father!”
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What a fighter Manny Pacquiao is historically and remains, but it’s starting to become clear that he's a better man. After a decade in Politics and Religion, the Filipino icon has morphed from a wild party animal enjoying the celebrity as the world's best fighter, to a stately devoted father and husband to Jinkee, and a dignified proletariat of integrity and honor who's graced the cover of TIME. The now 41 year-old was a no brainer for Fighter of The Year, just as even Justin Bieber would sing it don't make “No Sense” were “Pac-Man” not named Fighter of The Decade.
His accomplishments prior to the fourth saga with Juan Manuel Marquez was noteworthy, but it’s what he did after that shocking defeat, culminated by improbable victory over Keith Thurman, that gives him the clear nod over arch nemesis Floyd Mayweather. And as 2020 begins to crest ashore, who needs “Money” when you're worth more than gold? The end of '18 featured a pitched battle between a new age “Bronze Bomber” that would've brown bombed Joe Louis, and a “Gypsy King” who would've made Max Baer blush.
In front of the fireplace as the New Year ceased to beckon, I sat stoked for Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury II. If the first is anything like the last, it should remind us all of the beginning of “The Hateful 8”.