My Top Three Fights

Last week I shared my three greatest fighters of all time.  This week I thought I’d share my three favorite fights of all time. 

3.) Mike Tyson vs. James “Buster” Douglas (1990):  While many might not see this as a “great” fight I can barely think of a fight that deserves to be recognized more.  Mike Tyson was viewed as an unstoppable force in the heavyweight division.  Some revisionists state that he had never “truly been tested” however looking at his fights with Frank Bruno and Razor Ruddock he had been tested he had just come back to pass the tests.  Iron Mike was starting to show signs of distraction and outside-the-ring drama that would mar his later career; however his victory over Douglas, a perennial underachiever, was never in doubt (42 to 1 if the legend is to be believed).  Douglas took the fight and during the lead up to the clash his mother tragically died, and rather than cancel the fight Douglas used it as inspiration.  For one night, ten rounds, Douglas was the greatest fighter who ever lived.  He controlled the space in the ring like a master, knew his range, controlled and bullied Mike, showed courage when he got knocked down, and came back to dominate the so-called “Baddest Man on the Planet.”  All “long count” nonsense aside, Douglas fought the perfect fight.  The uppercut he slammed into Mike’s jaw in the tenth round is still amazing to behold, and watching the biggest underdog in history fight his way to victory under the most dramatic circumstances is still one of the best stories in sports history.  Mike, who I have come to respect and appreciate for his self-awareness and honesty, finally retired in 2006.  When asked how he felt with his career ending he responded that his career ended in 1990, citing the first time his aura of invincibility dissipated and he was handed his first loss in a great, great fight.

2.) Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns (1985):  For years this was THE greatest single fight of all time.  Hagler and Hearns both lived in the shadow of media darling Sugar Ray Leonard.  When they met in 1985 everyone knew it would be a short, vicious battle but no one knew how short and how vicious.  In three rounds Hagler and Hearns gave the world some of the greatest combat ever.  Hagler, known to be a tough but smart bully boxer charged Hearns immediately.  Hearns slammed his vaunted right hand into Hagler, briefly stemming Marvin’s charge and breaking the hand in the first round.  Looking at this fight now you get the feeling when Hearns landed his right and Hagler barely wobbled back…the fight was over.  Hagler continued to pummel into Hearns toward the end of the first and into the second round.  During the second Hagler was cut and in the third, fearing a stoppage due to the gash, Hagler again bulled his way to Hearns and battered him to the canvas.  Less than nine minutes of action, but it showed the heart and desire of both fighters and, unlike the fights we have often today, showed two warriors willing to leave everything in the ring to win.

1.) Arturo “Thunder” Gatti vs. “Irish” Micky Ward I-III (2002-2003):  I’m calling this one fight as it really is 30 rounds of beautiful combat that took place over 13 months.  The first fight is a true legend.  Gatti showing his heart, with the best single round ever, the famous ninth, that saw Gatti go down from a Micky Ward left hook to the liver only to rise (itself a herculean feat) and win the tenth.  In the second fight Ward was knocked down in the second round, a rare occurrence, and then dominated for the remaining eight rounds.  The third fight saw Gatti dominate early, only to break his right hand and fight Ward off one-handed.  The two most honest, honorable, tough fighters you could ever see in a single fight, as we got three fights.  They became so close from the experience that Ward trained Gatti at the end of Arturo’s career.  Sporting events are entertainment, pure and simple, but when Gatti and Ward were in the ring you couldn’t help but feel elevated by the range of humanity they displayed during their 30 legendary rounds.

Of course depending on what might happen in the next few years something may show up to unseat one of the above great fights…but it’s doubtful.  Boxing isn’t dead.  It goes through phases of ups and downs, but always comes back, usually on the shoulders of a new, exciting, successful fighter.  There’s still a lot to get excited about under the hot lights of the boxing ring.  We shouldn’t let the disappointment of a superfight of the two so-called “best” fighters weaken our interest in the sport.  The above fights show it to be one of the most exciting and humanly dramatic forms of entertainment.

Top Three Fighters According to Me

It’s time for a reality check.  Over the weekend “the two best fighters of their generation” fought in what was a very disappointing showing.  Of course anyone who followed the sport knew it would be (as “superfights” almost always are).  Mayweather is too skilled defensively and too protective of his undefeated record to pull a Sugar Ray Leonard circa Montreal in 1980 to make it interesting, and Pacquiao is too small and has slipped a bit into one-dimensionality to force Floyd to do so.  But there has been a lot of talk as both of these fighters being “all-time greats” as though there is generational forgetfulness on what a real greatness looks like.

Of course “who is the greatest fighter ever” is entirely based on opinion.  There is NO answer and rather than say this is a “definitive list” of the greatest fighters of all time I thought I’d say these are the 3 greatest fighters in MY opinion, meaning the ones I like to watch the most and whose abilities have made us stand in awe.  And neither Pacquiao, and I love Manny and think he has accomplished a lot, nor Mayweather, who has made a career avoiding the hardest fights, have come close to these legends.

3.) Marco Antonio Barrera: Probably an strange choice for many, but Barrera was without a doubt a pound-for-pound all-time great who could both box, counter, or brawl.  In legendary performances against Erik Morales (who many fans appreciate more for his all-guns blazing style), a beautiful chess match with Prince Naseem Hamed (who he battered essentially into retirement), and an all guts battle with Kennedy McKinney Barrera showed ring intelligence, heart, power, and adaptability that is almost never shown nowadays.  He could jab southpaws, blast you with right hands, and crush you with left hooks to the body.  An aging Barrera looked helpless against the young hungry Pacquiao in their first fight, but lured him into a slower pace in their second.  Barrera has faded from collective memory in modern boxing, but people wanting to learn how to be an effective boxer-puncher-brawler need to sit down and watch Marco’s 75 fights.

2.) Roy Jones Jr: This is going to be unpopular, I know, but I have my reasons.  In his prime Roy was supernatural.  He was the fastest, wiliest, most elusive fighter to ever live.  Robbed at the Seoul Olympics, he turned pro in 1989 and essentially didn’t lose a fight (one controversial DQ) until 2004.  He had power in both hands and made other all-time greats look like absolute amateurs.  Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Virgil Hill, all great champions made to look slow, awkward, and helpless again Roy Jones.  Light Heavyweights, who in any other era would have battled it out for light heavyweight supremacy, skilled fighters, all called uncompetitive and weak challenges.  Montel Griffin, Reggie Johnson, Clinton Woods, and Julio Gonzalez, all shelved with contemptuous ease.  Even mandatory and lesser defenses against David Talesco (who followed Roy calling him out for months only to lose 12 out of 12 rounds against a one-handed Jones) and Richard Hall (one of the greatest of Roy’s performances) showed what an artist he was.  He started at junior middleweight, became middle weight champion, super middleweight champion, light heavyweight champion, and cherry-picked a heavy weight title, easily beating John Ruiz.  As with most fighters who rely on athleticism over well-schooled boxing ability, he faded badly and from 2004 onward has had a career that has been a shame to see (though he can still turn on some preternatural abilities even at the age of 40+) but if you look at his career from his heavy weight performance backward to his pro-debut you will see possibly the greatest-skilled pound-for-pound fighter ever to live.

1.) Roberto Duran: What needs to be said? Duran turned pro in 1968 (a year after Ali was forced into exile). Was lightweight champion, possibly the greatest lightweight of all time, from 1972-1979, handed Ray Leonard his first defeat to become welterweight champion in 1980, defeated young champion Davey Moore to become junior middleweight champ and took the greatest middleweight champion in the modern era, Marvin Hagler, to his only 15 round defense in 1983. He won the middleweight title from tough, younger, stronger champion Iran Barkley (scoring the fight’s only knockdown) in 1989.  And even won a minor Super Middleweight title from journeyman Pat Lawlor in 2000 (19 years after Ali retired!).Fighting in FIVE decades, winning titles in FOUR.  Duran was a brutal warrior with a fighting IQ above anyone who has ever stepped into the ring.  He didn’t always look brilliant and lived an entire life in the ring, showing excitement, depression, indifference, joy, rage, and pride under the hot lights.  Known for his aggression, Duran was also one of the greatest defensive fighters to ever fight, very hard to hit with clean shots and able to stand in front of you and still be elusive while crushing you with either his left or right hand.  There’s never been a more effectively aggressive and brilliant street fighter to ever step into the ring.  One Hundred and Thirteen fights.  In the modern era that is epic and they are some of the greatest ring performances in history.

Just for fun three honorable mentions:

Marvin Hagler: Essentially unbeatable.  He was another guy who could fight, box, brawl, or counter punch.  His last fight, a shame, where he was out-PR’d by Sugar Ray Leonard in the ring.  Even as a Ray Leonard fan I think Hagler won it on aggressive, effective punching, but beat himself by starting too slowly and giving away the first 3 rounds.  Marvin was involved in the greatest single fight ever.  Out-willing, out-fighting, and out-slugging dangerous puncher and brilliant boxer Tommy Hearns in under three rounds.

Arturo Gatti: Not the most skilled fighter, but good god what a heart and what a warrior.  He could lose every second of every round and you’d still cheer for him because he never stopped trying.  He could be battered into a swollen pulp and with one left hook change your life.  His ring life is linked forever to his wars with Mickey Ward; probably the three greatest fights of all time.  You were always on the edge of your seat when Arturo fought.

Vitali Klitschko: Yeah.  I said that.  Vitali is one tough mo-fo.  Though not showing his brother’s pure athletic skill, this is a guy who never was a afraid to fight anyone.  Anywhere.  Any time.  He NEVER lost from being out-fought, losing only twice and only through injury; once from cuts and once from having an injured shoulder.  Never knocked down, never knocked out, never visually in trouble in a fight.  Vitali was one hell of a smart, strong, SOB who would have been a threat to just about any heavyweight.  Ever.  Even Mike Tyson says so!

Off the Edge: A Commentary on Forums and Commentaries…

Off the Edge

Everyone needs a good rant. And it’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to go off a bit. It’s been a busy few weeks so I thought I’d take a break to let off some steam.

A lot of people use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family; share random things about themselves; or surreptitiously stalk people. I use mine almost entirely for news and the occasional non sequitur. I’m a fan of several things, including boxing, films, and miniature wargaming. And news flows freely on Facebook in the form of rumors, leaks, and on-the-scene reports.  The news is almost always welcome; the response to news in the form of comments rarely is… I thought I’d let some gripes go about the mood of internet commentary:

1.)    Negativity: I’ve been to several forum sites for ALL my favorite hobbies and the commentary of the reading public is about 90% negative. And of the negativity about 80% of those aren’t just dismissive but also hateful. Games Workshop releases a new model and “it’s the ugliest, most expensive thing ever,”   a new movie comes out and it’s “boring, slow, and overrated,” a fighter wins a fight he was expected to lose and it was because his highly favored opponent was “old, washed up, or over-trained.”   I made similar comments in my How to be a Fan posting series, but why is EVERYTHING the worst thing ever? Rarely will you see some positive comments, but forums and article comments don’t seem to be a place for discussion any more. They’re all just places for people to bitch… Apparently those who remain silent are the quiet approvers…

2.)    Pop-Cultured: This one isn’t related to just forums, but following themed news sites (sci-fi sites, gaming sites, fan sites) they all seem to be obsessed with the same few topics that everyone is obsessed with and post them endlessly. For a few quick examples out of MANY:

  1. Nintendo Culture: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw said it best; Nintendo has basically been making three games, the same three games over and over again for 30 years. And people freak out every time the new Zelda (which is just like the old Zelda) is released like it’s made out of gold…
  2. Game of Thrones: People love the show. I don’t particularly care for it (fantasy soap opera with nudity) but it’s all the posts talk about. Mostly they talk about characters dying. My thought, if all these characters die at random why would I care the least about any of them?
  3. Firefly: It got cancelled. Lots of great shows get cancelled. It’s not coming back. Saying it over and over doesn’t help.

So what’s the problem with these posts? Well we see about 800 Game of Thrones “these people died” posts a day. Meanwhile other great fantasy/sci fi topics are getting ignored by sites supposedly designed to discuss sci fi and fantasy but seem to be stuck in the same few loops. I think it would be remiss if themed sites ignored the most popular topics, but when 90% of topics ARE Nintendo or Game of Thrones the site has become a specified fan page. How about introducing people to some lesser-known material? Save “All Firefly All the Time” for the specific fan pages.

3.)    Memes: I won’t lie. I do find some of them hilarious. All the “Shut up and take my moneys” and Grumpy Cats make for good quick reference moods but they’ve become ridiculously overused. The evolution of the Meme is so fast even Professor Richard Dawkins’ head would spin. It’s gotten to the point where people almost talk in “Meme.” And they are almost always snark-based. So not only are people negative but they’re lazy and negative. Posters could use some training in how to be cleverly negative. Read this review or this review from Roger Ebert to see how it’s done. Just posting “meh” or the Picard face palm isn’t nearly so effective.

Yes I’m aware of the irony of complaining about internet complainers. But what can be done?

First, remember why you’re there. If you’re on a hobby site you’re there because SUPPOSEDLY you enjoy the hobby. Then why are you just complaining? Some forums have an active debate where people discuss merits and even theories, but many are just lines of hatred. The latest rulebook for Warhammer 40k hadn’t hit SHELVES yet and people were declaring they were quitting because it was the worst ever. Calm down. It’s a hobby. It’s for fun. If you’re not having fun do something else instead of bitching about why you’re not having fun playing something you haven’t played yet based on news you read 15 minutes ago.

Second, remember these are people you’re talking to not just screen names. Debating is good. We all have unique perspectives, but declaring someone’s opinion invalid simply because it disagrees with yours is non-sense. Could Ali beat Tyson? We’ll never know. But your guess is LITERALLY as good as mine. So just because we disagree doesn’t make either of us wrong. Also those about whom you’re spewing your venom are also people. Jervis Johnson is certainly not an idiot and wrote very complex rules for a very complex game in conjunction with several other game experts. If you can do better maybe you can make your own game (with blackjack! And hookers!) or maybe it’s easier to arm-chair general and criticize than actually DO something? Being proactive about things is hard but it’s actually progress rather than just whining.

Third, remember none of us are perfect. We will make mistakes, lose our rags, and make bad decisions; but remember it’s EASY to criticize, which is why the rewards for doing so are so low. It’s much riskier to actually be out there doing something, but the chances at achieving something and making an actual difference. If you’re ever proved wrong or change your opinion be gracious enough to admit it. You’ll be surprised how effective that is…

I know I’ve sounded like “can’t we all just get along” before, but it may not be the best philosophy, because we can’t and shouldn’t. Disagreement leads to new ideas (Thesis+Antithesis=Synthesis=NEW Thesis+Antithesis, etc.) but we can be respectful at all times. I’ve had many, many great debates with people and we were all are allowed to conclude our discussions as in the Napoleonic Wars, “in good order, with colors and arms.”

It’s just the internet. It’s hobbies. It’s entertainment, people. It’s NOT that critical.

How to be a Good Fan: Building Them Up to Tear Them Down

Off the Edge

This topic is one of the most alarming to me, it says a lot about the nature of our culture’s priorities and mentality.  I’ll leave geek culture for a bit and enter the only part of the sports realm I know.

Manny Pacquiao circa 2003 was an incredible, but one-dimensional fighter.  Aggressive, courageous, talented, fast, powerful.  He had it all.  He shocked challengers, from up and comers to established, brilliant, hard-fighting, more skilled boxers (Marco Antonio Barrera anyone?  Styles really do make fights…).  He his reputation increased when he stepped up from Featherweight to Super Featherweight to Lightweight.  Even fighting a draw and disputed victory with Marquez, he was hailed for giving a great fight.  He demolished champions, sometimes ferocious long-running champions like Ricky Hatton, crushed Oscar De La Hoya in a fight OSCAR sought, so he could beat the best fighter of the era and retire (thinking the little Pacquiao would be too small to be effective), pounded dangerous fighter Miguel Cotto.  He did even more by fighting the massive but stationary Antonio Margarito.  Manny’s showing some rust a bit now, but even worse, going all the way back to his conquest of De La Hoya, a fight many ring experts picked him to lose based on the legend and size of Oscar, fans started to turn against him.

“Overrated,” he “picks his fights,” “he’s limited in ability and just made to look good by fighting old, drained, and chosen fighters.”  Media started to look into his private life.  How’s his marriage?  How are his taxes?  What kind of business is he in?  Is he overspending his money?  He’s not that nice, he can’t be.  His movie was a bomb.  He lost his first election.  Etc.  Etc.  Eeetttc…

It’s this kind of attitude I just can’t understand.  We love you, we love you! Oh wait no we don’t.  We hate you!  We hate you!

It happens in so many areas of entertainment.  TV shows are the “new” thing, then quickly abandoned as the “worst” thing.  Bands and musical artists sell more than anyone ever has, then are quickly hated.  Some of it is over-exposure.  The “summer hit” rarely means the artist will be the next U2.  For example: The Macarena.  Biggest hit of the summer one year when I was in school…  In the U.S., Los Del Rio never showed up again, and the dance and song Macarena went from national pastime to a reviled joke.  The opinion changes from, “this is fun, this guy’s great, this show is the best” to not only “this isn’t good anymore” but to “this is the worst thing that ever existed and, not only that, but it always has been.”  Then why did you love it six months ago?  Like I said in the CBG post, maybe you’re the one who’s changed.  If you hate the exact same song you loved six months ago, it may mean that you hate a little bit of who you were when you loved that song, too.  Maybe that’s why we so violently turn against things.

With Pacquiao, I think it’s partially the change from “up and comer” to “made it.”  For some reason, fans love the up and comer, but can’t wait for the NEXT up and comer.  Once Manny made it, the only thing fans wanted to see was the next guy whose coming up to beat him.  When no one really showed up (he beat Bradley…sorry guys) it just became, “I just want to see him beaten!”  I haven’t quite pinpointed this mentality.  It’s like the fans of a band who only like the underground stuff.  Once they release a studio album, they “sold out” and are no longer worthy of our undying love.  Like Maynard says though, they likely sold out long before you’d ever heard of them.  Is the music still good?  If the answer’s “yes” just sit back and enjoy it without complaining, “it was better when” just to be pretentious and snobbish.

On the other side of the coin, sometimes something that doesn’t last long causes outcry simply because it didn’t.  Three popular examples: the original Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Edgar Wright collaboration Spaced, the UK Office, and Firefly.  I haven’t seen the latter yet, but the other two were written to be limited in run.  Firefly wasn’t, but many feel it was unjustly cancelled as it was a terrific sci-fi show.  One of the things I feel about Spaced and the BBC Office is these shows were great because they were so short in their run.  They packed hilarious good ideas into 14 episodes or so each and never grew stale, or made dumb sitcom mistakes.  It makes me wonder if the same is true about other shows many feel ended before their time.  If Firefly went 12 seasons, would it have been as incredible?  Joss Whedon has been elevated into a geek god, but Buffy eventually ran out of steam… I can’t think of any shows that maintain the same level of quality throughout their run.  I wonder if Spaced had gone into season 8 would it have had a fan outcry of “this show is terrible…it’s not what it used to be” — some fans say that about the difference between its TWO seasons, though fans of the first tend to agree both are terrific.

The only lesson I can think of with this is “enjoy what we have while we have it.”  Fighters, as Marcellus Wallace said, “have a short shelf life and don’t age like wine.” Manny, Jones Jr., Tyson, Duran, Ali, all had great careers.  They have (or will eventually) turn to vinegar in the ring.  It’s the aging process.  So why do we hate them for getting old and not being what they used to be?  Stupid songs can be terrific fun.  Almost ALL popular 80s music has that stupid sing-along quality that can grate at your brain.  But still fun to sing along to!  Even shows you loved as a kid that may seem incredibly lousy now (I’m thinking Thundercats), why hate them for being lousy now?  Just love the fact that you loved them then.

Fans shouldn’t see things in black and white.  It’s not the “greatest of all time” or, related to the last post the, “worst thing ever.”  I think of them as “things I loved then,” “things I’m into now,” and of course, “things I can’t believe I ever liked!”  All said with a smile.  After all, we’re always changing; the things we love will change as we do.  But we shouldn’t hate the things we used to love.  They help explain who we were then and helped make us who we are today.