Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Ghost is the Real Deal

My pal Vinny's got to be jumping for joy again this morning. That's because his Youngstown paisan, middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, showed the world last night that last year's dramatic victory over Jermain Taylor was no fluke.

While last night's fight didn't have the drama of the earlier bout, Pavlik turned in another solid performance, scoring a unanimous 12 round decision over Taylor. In the eyes of most observers, the outcome wasn't close. True to his reputation, Taylor appeared to tire in the later rounds, and didn't appear to win a single round after the third.

One of the most depressing things that I've witnessed during my life as a sports fan has been the slow decline of boxing, and its replacement by the back alley barbarism of "sports" like the UFC. I grew up in the 1970s, and while boxing wasn't at its most popular point back then in terms of fan appeal, it may have been at its all time best in terms of quality. In the heavyweight ranks, you had not just the great Ali, but also worthy adversaries like Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, Jimmy Ellis and Jerry Quarry. Among the lower weight classes, you had guys like Bob Foster, Carlos Monzon, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard. The talent was deep, and it was spread throughout almost every weight class.

Big fights were enormous events, not merely pay-per-view greed grabs. Sure, you might not have been able to watch the big fight live without paying through the nose for it, but you'd see it on Wide World of Sports the very next week, and you could bet your bottom dollar that you'd have Howard Cosell right there to capture the all the drama. I know that Cosell remains a controversial figure, but the plain truth is that there was never a better ringside announcer than Howard Cosell. Want proof? Check this out. It is Foreman v. Frazier, and may just be Cosell's finest performance (Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!).

Kelly Pavlik may not be able to restore boxing to its former glory, but he reminds us that it is the primal sport, and that at its best, it has the power to captivate us more than just about any other kind of athletic event.

1 comment:

Vinny said...

My pal beat me to the punch.

I was thrilled about Pavlik's win. Like the article The Rhino attached said, it wasn't as exciting as the first Taylor fight, but Pavlik showed he could box rather than just give and take punishment.

The best part about Pavlik is that a couple of nights before the fight, he ate with a bunch of his fans by going through the hotel buffet.

He's a long cry from Golden Boy De La Hoya.