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On Marquez-Pacquiao IV: Man-love, piss-drinking & counter-punching [Dec. 6th, 2012|02:35 pm]
Business as usual. How things change, & how others stay the same. A draw & two bitterly contested losses, & Juan Manuel Marquez is back in the ring with Manny Pacquiao once again Saturday night.

It's a bit of an odd one, writing this. Eight & a half years have passed between the initial meeting between Manny Pacquiao & Juan Manuel Marquez, eight years in which we've all passed a lot of water (& some of us, like Marquez, have drunk a lot of our own water. I can't let a chance to not slip in a reference to the time when Marquez began drinking his own piss in preparation for a fight. I mean, come on...).



I love Juan Manuel Marquez for many reasons. His unstinting courage, his will to win, his no-bullshit attitude to getting hurt in the ring, his technical prowess, his textbook skills, his well-groomed facial hair. But mostly it's because... Well. See. Boxing is about nullifying the advantages of a stronger, faster, harder-hitting opponent. You do this using leverage, & timing, & technique. You apply these things--body-things, brain-things--in real-time, on the fly, using your entire body to shift a degree here, an inch there. It is about angles, & momentum, & force. It is as valid a display of the kinaesthetic intelligence as ballet dancing, say, or synchronised swimming. & Juan Manuel Marquez is the epitome of this nearly lost art. Not a superb athlete who happens to box. A fucking boxer who happens to be a superb athlete. There is a very telling difference in that.

A year ago I was worrying that Dinamita had had his chips, that age had wearied him to the extent that Manny Pacquiao would finally score a definitive win (surely the only reason the Mexican got the fight; in a worrying parallel, they've only given him this one to spite Timothy Bradley & try to kick-start The Pac-man's image after his wearisome struggle versus the enormo-domed Septic) over the Mexican counter-puncher. My worries on the occasion of their third meeting were for nought; JMM had slowed, true, but not as much, it turned out, as Pac-Man, & this led to another grinding contest of nip & tuck; at the end I had seven clear rounds for JMM, five for Pacquiao; the judges obviously didn't agree with me, the crowd booed & JMM stormed out the ring, sombrero somewhat cock-eyed upon his head.

Now, here we are again. & I'm going to get it out the way: I don't think Marquez is gonna win. I just can't see any way he can improve on the result of last time; a closely disputed decision loss for JMM seems the safe bet. But I can tell you why I love him, & rake over the coals of the fights they've had, & then I'm just gonna shut the fuck up & post a lot of pictures & probably slip some running gags in to kind of break up the flow a little. Business as usual, see?

The third meeting between the two was, I thought, also business as usual. Much like before the first two contests, everyone & their dog seemed to believe that Manny would literally rip Marquez a new one. This feeling was buoyed up before their last battle, as Manny had spent his last couple years ripping the welterweight division a new one. Yet again though, despite his moments of amazing success versus Marquez in all their fights, he was once again presented with a puzzle that he seemed incapable of truly solving, instead relying on frantic work-rate & his buzzsaw warrior spirit to make the best of it.

Versus Marquez last time out he looked, well, tame, having to will himself into fire he obviously didn't enjoy taking, swiping & missing & falling into the ropes, shying away from body-shots, cringing as counters smashed his head back on his shoulders. Even in dominant wins over Antonio Margarito & Shane Mosley, Manny had a "Fuck do I need this?"-type expression at the rare times when his bigger opponents discomfited him, as if the whole thing of punching people & getting punched back in return had become a bit of a chore (much like writing these posts have become to me. Arf). You could see on his face in the JMM rubber-match that not only had those nebulous doubts returned, they had solidified, & the head-down trudge back to his corner at the end of the twelve rounds seemed to seal the picture of despair.

(An aside, I am a shit poker player, but fuck me I'd like to play poker against Pac-Man. He probably bounces up & down in his seat like the Energiser Bunny when he's got anything better than a pair & casts his eyelashes down to the table & cries when he's got a shit hand, shaking his Justin Bieber-esque mop & ever-lengthening goatee in dismay like a distraught horsey.)

Most of the reasons for this are obvious. Pac-Man's great strengths were always speed & power, allied to a chin made of steel & an engine that not only revved up like a Ferrari but had the durability & staying power of a Mercedes turbo-diesel. These are all things which slip with age & the wear & tear associated with being punched fucking hard in the head for a living, & Pac-Man's my age & has had near enough sixty fights, so at least that's not weird, is it, that the little bastard's finally slowing down.

JMM of course, at the advice of his trainer, seemed to let his foot off the gas in the last three rounds. This cost him on the judge's scorecards, because though--contrary to popular opinion--he didn't exactly give those rounds away, he didn't stamp his authority over them, thus giving the blind or the biased an opportunity to give them all (& the fight) to Pacquiao. Marquez didn't have a lot in the tank at the end, but he was at least holding his own with Pac-Man & nowhere near being over-run, so maybe another thudding combination or two would've tipped the balance in his favour. I actually don't quite agree on this point, for what it's worth. I don't think anything short of Marquez coming forward & outworking Pac-Man would've convinced those judges to score those rounds correctly, ahem, I mean, for Marquez, which obviously isn't his style at all & has been completely the opposite approach he's taken for all of the thirty-six rounds the two have shared a ring together.

After the first two, absolutely epic fights between them, the last fight they had was... Well, weird. It was cagey, yet nervy. Not many punches were thrown, but it was never boring. It was punctuated by some severe, top-drawer exchanges, but it was never what you'd call thrilling. Manny looked weird, his goatee swollen to strange proportion & seemingly threatening to take over his entire face until he looks like a South-East Asian Cousin It, his bouffant hairdo ever bigger & more improbably layered, even as age & punishment has craggied his features. In boxing terms, too, he appeared out of sorts, off-key. Whenever he tried the one-two of old, it sailed harmlessly over his rival's head, & he had to resort to a sort of swiping right hook to level up exchanges; the less said about all those left uppercuts thrown from four feet away he started winging in the late rounds, the better (though it should be noted that they were exactly the punches that wrecked Miguel Cotto, which I think tells you more about the relative ability levels of Marquez & Cotto than anything else). His trademark herky-jerky rushing made a bit of a comeback, but it looked rote, forced, like when you're no longer in love with the person you're fucking & you get it on anyway & fumble miserably through the routine of things you know they used to like but really could just do with a smoke & maybe a walk under some streetlights & you've got to get up early in the morning & their cries no longer thrill you the way they used to do, but you don't wanna stop, I mean, you're still getting laid, right, & that's something, but all of a sudden you're going through the motions to do something that once came so naturally & spontaneously that it made breathing seem like an awkward chore.

He's not in love with the game, any more, is what I'm trying to get at here. Not in love, but too comfortable or too in denial to leave. It happens to all of us.

JMM too looked weird, in that his hairline appears to have stopped receding in a straight line across his forehead & his new muscular physique on his squat featherweight frame made him look like the aspect ratio had gone wrong on my PC. He fought weird too, if you ask me. He looked--insanely for a man fighting the best-known power puncher of his age, the destroyer of Morales, Barrera, Hatton, Cotto & a long list of others, a bloke who'd already decked him four times)--the puncher in the ring, to my eyes, possibly because he braced himself so well on the canvas he could've tilted the Earth on its axis before letting go.

Actually, not to break up the flow but that's a fucking good point that's just occurred to me, in that he probably couldn't throw any more punches that night, because he was setting himself to throw each one with so much force he simply didn't have the feet positioning required to throw any more. Strategically, his employment as well as his delivery of the body-shots (which have always troubled Pac-Man in both their previous outings together) were literally fucking amazing, in that they stopped Manny working from range & nullified his attempts at leaping-in & when he slammed the jab into Manny's face the favourite rocked back on his heels like a commuter who has stood up too early on the bus & really wishes he was in range of one of those hanging-strap things to steady himself. It appeared he had even learned a new defensive move (ducking & pivoting on his lead foot then bobbing out to the side, to avoid the short left cross Pac-Man likes to drop in at the end of exchanges), nullifying the shot which had decked him in their previous meetings.

All of this, though, is not important. Not even Pac-Man's limp performance versus Bradley is important.

What is important is that, based on the evidence of their previous meetings, there is nothing JMM can possibly do to persuade judges to give him close rounds versus Pacquiao. Every squeaker of a round they've had, some fucker finds a way to give it to Pacquiao. Someone even gave the last round of the second fight to Pac-Man, when Marquez smashed his head back with right hands & made him miss every left cross his rival threw (& it was four years ago, remember, so back then Manny was the fucking terrifying windmill of devastation that people still think he is). I thought it telling that in the first two fights, Manny was hitting so hard & so often that it was impossible not to give him the benefit of close rounds, as combined with his frenetic work-rate landing the bigger punches tends to nullify arguments to the contrary. But in the last match I considered Marquez's blows to be of superior quality & force, & they still found judges who preferred the (normally) unclean scuffling of Pac-Man's combinations to the thudding eye-catching bombs coming back.

Basically, I think that even if Marquez fights the perfect fight (again), he's going to drop another tight decision, exacerbated by the feeling that the judges fucked Pacquiao in his last outing, which was in itself a muddled reaction to the somewhat off-base scoring of the Marquez-Pacquiao rubber match. Mixed in with that is the suspicion that if the wheels do fall off for Marquez, it'll be now, within shouting distance of his fortieth birthday.

So. I think I've rambled enough. Pac-Man by disputed squeaker, once more, ad infinitum, & I get to stay up all night frantically masturbating over double-uppercut-straight-right combos & technically perfect left hooks to the liver & being left with that strangely ambiguous feeling where I'm overjoyed at seeing an artist perform to a level that exceeds the expectations of the hoi polloi, tempered by the gnawing sadness that this is probably the last time & he's not going to get the win, anyway.

So. Business as usual, then, like I said.

But... You know.

This is the man himself sparring in preparation. Yes, I have spilled man-goo over this footage, but then again I'd rather watch this motherfucker shadow-box than a range of other comparatively worthless activities in my life, such as sleeping or eating.



That right hand counter's a motherfucking shotgun, still. If he lands a few dozen of those I'll be a happy boy, scorecards be damned.

Let's just watch these two fight, once a year please, until they're eighty & have to be strapped into a combination of those sort of big walking tank things from Japanese Animé & a Zimmer frame...

The more things change...





The more they stay the same...



Particularly when you have a full-time team of attendants fussing with your facial hair around the clock...



WAR DINAMITA! WAR INAPPROPRIATELY IMMACULATE FACIAL HAIR!

MÁRQUEZ!
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A rare thing of beauty, part 245,567 [Jul. 20th, 2012|01:45 pm]
[music |Rats (In The Walls) - The Tiger Lilies]

Nightmare, With Angels
By Stephen Vincent Benet

An angel came to me and stood by my bedside,
Remarking in a professional-historical-economic and
irritated voice,
"If the Romans had only invented a decent explosion-engine!
Not even the best, not even a Ford V-8
But, say, a Model-T or even an early Napier,
They'd have built good enough roads for it (they knew how to
build roads)
From Cape Wrath to Cape St. Vincent, Susa, Babylon and Moscow.
And the motorized legions never would have fallen,
And Peace, in the shape of a giant eagle, would brood over the
entire Western World!"
He changed his expression, looking now like a combination of
Gilbert Murray, Hilaire Belloc,
and a dozen other scientists, writers,
and prophets,
And continued, in angelic tones,
"If the Greeks had known how to cooperate, if there'd never
been a Reformation,
If Sparta had not been Sparta, and the Church had been the Church
of the saints,
The Argive peace like a free-blooming olive-tree, the peace of Christ
(who loved peace)
like a great, beautiful vine enwrapping the spinning earth!
Take it nearer home," he said.
Take these Mayans and their star-clocks, their carvings and their
great cities.
Who sacked them out of their cities, drowned the cities with a
green jungle?
A plague? A change of climate? A queer migration?
Certainly they were skillful, certainly they created.
And in Tenochtitlan, the dark obsidian knife and the smoking heart on
the stone but a fair city,
And the Incas had it worked out beautifully til Pizarro smashed them.
The collectivist state was there, and the ladies very agreeable.
They lacked steel, alphabet, and gunpowder and they had to get
married when the government said so.
They also lacked unemployment and overproduction.
For that matter," he said, "take the Cro-Magnons,
The fellows with the big skills, the handsome folk, the excellent
scribers of mammoths,
Physical gods and yet with sensitive brain (they drew the fine,
running reindeer).
What stopped them? What kept us all from being Apollos and Aphrodites
Only with a new taste to the nectar,
The laughing gods, not the cruel, the gods of song, not of war?
Supposing Aurelius, Confucius, Napoleon, Plato, Gautama, Alexander -
Just to name half a dozen -
Had ever realized and stabilized the full dream?
How long, O Lord God in the highest? How long, what now, perturbed spirit?"

He turned blue at the wingtips and disappeared as another angel
approached me.
This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in cellophane, synthetic
rubber and stainless steel,
But his mask was the blind mask of Ares, snouted for gasmasks.
He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator, nor munitions-manufacturer.
Nor did he have much conversation, except to say,
"You will not be saved by General Motors or the prefabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the Lambeth Conference.
You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding universe.
In fact, you will not be saved."
In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small metallic and
shining like the seeds of portulaca;
Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke and
armies sprang up.
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What I blame books for [Jun. 22nd, 2012|02:56 pm]
I think that what I blame books for, in general, is that they are not free. One can see it in the writing: they are fabricated, organized, regulated; one could say they conform. A function of the revision that the writer often wants to impose on himself. At that moment, the writer becomes his own cop. By being concerned with good form, in other words the most banal form, the clearest and most inoffensive. There are still dead generations that produce prim books. Even young people: charming books, without extension, without darkness. Without silence. In other words, without a true author. Books for daytime, for whiling away the hours, for traveling. But not books that become embedded in one's thoughts and toll the black mourning for all life, the commonplace of every thought.
--Marguerite Duras (why yes, I have just re-read The Lover, why do you ask?)
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Last night, a vat-grown Samurai warrior virgin saved my (boxing) life [Jun. 21st, 2012|04:20 pm]
Boxing is like a bad love affair. Once it's wormed its way into your heart, you'll happily haemorrhage money, sanity & peace of mind just to taste it again. Life dwindles & contracts about a point, so that you measure out your span in the distance between big fights. Daily life seems a mundane chore. Your self-respect flies out the window. Your friends tell you that your lover's no good; you deny them. Your family disapproves of the liaison. Your mother probably won't talk about it in public. You know it's going to break your heart, you know it's going to disappoint you & let you down. You do it anyway. "Never again," you tell yourself, zipping yourself up & wondering vaguely why you itch down there.

But you come crawling back.

Just lately, boxing fans have, more than usual, been crying about "the state of the game". Harsh words are being bandied at the prospect of Dereck Chisora & David Haye finally squaring up & the endless related shenanigans spinning off from it.

The revelation that popular heavyweight Larry Olubamiwo has been so chock-full (for years!) of so many performance-enhancing drugs you could drain off some of his blood & open up a chemist's--yet still couldn't beat the Adonis that goes by the name of John McDermott--has caused furore amongst Britain's hard-core. People feel that the personable Larry O. has somehow let them down personally, & the fatalistic shrugging that normally accompanies a "dirty" fighter being outed has been largely absent.

There's the continuing soap opera saga of Manny Pacquiao & Floyd Mayweather, given recent further spice by the latter being beaten by Timmy Bradley & the former whining that life in jail is not pleasant (I, for one, am outraged that a wife-beating scumbag might be losing muscle tone whilst incarcerated).

Then this weekend, novice heavy Richard Towers appeared to get more than a helping hand from the ref whilst being clomped around the ring by the big Frenchman, Gregory Tony.

On & on: drug cheats, blood-dopers, contract-breakers, Mickey-takers. Fighters who don't fight & other fighters who fight on too long. Terrible mismatches. Evenly matched fights that turn out to be bloody awful. Head clashes stopping fights. Heavyweight Prizefighter. The continued existence of the sanctioning organisations. No-one but those who get in the ring with him wants Julio Cesar Chavez jr. drug-tested. Joe Goosen still has a striking resemblance to Gary Busey.

As rap-sheets go, it's longer than your average WBA light-middleweight champion's, but myself, I"m not concerned, or disillusioned, or even vaguely upset (Heavyweight Prizefighter can naff off, mind).

Maybe it's because last night I saw a truly great fight. This is always the best tonic for boxing-related ills, though usually limited to those fights that take place within one's timezone. However, thanks to those kerray-zee Japanese & their insistence to having a big fight on a Wednesday lunchtime (& thanks of course, to the magic of the Interweb), I got to see the WBC/WBA unification fight between Japanese strawweight titlists Kazuto Ioka (10-0, 6 KOs) & Akira Yaegashi (15-3, 8 early).

& it was bloody great. There were swings of fortune. There was back-from-the-brink action. Ioka, despite looking like he hasn't gone through puberty yet, (in fact he resembles some sort of vat-grown Samurai warrior virgin), fights like a... Well. Like a vat-grown Samurai warrior virgin. I keep expecting his mum to shout loudly, between rounds, that she wants him to go home & finish his homework. Last year he knocked out the unbeaten Thai champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai, who was 35-0-1 at the time. It was Ioka's seventh fight. Ioka has all the physical grace of a new-born foal, but he hits incredibly hard with his gangling straight punches. Something about him reminds me vaguely of a very young, very raw Alexis Arguello.


Contrary to appearances, he's actually twenty-two!


Akira Yaegashi, on the other hand, not only looks like he's escaped from an Anime flick, he fights like he's escaped from one too. Compared to the gangling youth in the other corner, the short, stockily-muscled Yaegashi is all flash & bounce, & throws about a hundred punches a round. Ioka, though methodical, has a certain classical grace & balance; his punches thud home like distant artillery fire. Yaegashi has the quickest hands you'll probably ever see, & is one of those types who cannot take a punch without wishing to repay his opponent six or seven times over. He won his title in 2011 he was engaged in what many thought was the fight of the year, when he stopped another Thai, Pornsawan Porpramook.

Ioka started by circling & snapping out the jab, looking to slot his long straight shots home. Yaegashi responded by closing the distance behind a triple jab that flashed like heat-lightning, & raked his six-years younger opponent with flurries to body & head whenever he got close enough.

Definitely not the same Akira

It looked like an interesting tactical battle until halfway through the second, when an Ioka straight right caused an Elephant Man-size swelling above Yaegashi's left eye. As the rounds progressed & it began to develop into a vast distended shelf of flesh, the referee repeatedly stopped the action to check whether or not Akira could see. Yaegashi's response? Exchange his flashy pot-shotting approach for trench warfare. Ioka, after initially seeming surprised that the fella in front of him didn't want to run away crying after his entire eye-socket closed up like a wound, adjusted & raged back, mixing in deft boxing with violent trading of full-blooded power-shots.

It was magnificent, frankly, & instead of wasting any more time describing it I'm just going to give you the link to the video & hope the lawyers don't see it:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xrnhth_kazuto-ioka-vs-akira-yaegashi_sport

Enjoy.

On the other hand, I should admit that I'm not as down as some boxing fans seem to be. I even found Prizefighter funny (though I loathe the format/idea of it), if only to see useless supersize heavyweights gas out after thirty seconds. I'm sure Kevin Johnson getting beaten had something to do with my enjoyment of Eddie Hearn's little tournament as well.

Perhaps though, I am sanguine about boxing's current woes because I am a heartless cynic, who regards boxing's bollocks to be much the same as it's ever been (only probably now more so). My old man & his older brothers used to go on about how my uncle's promoter (he was a pro back in fifties) used to rip him off, fuck about with matchmaking, put him into fights at short notice & generally act like a bargain-basement Bob Arum. He wasn't paid the money he was owed, he had dodgy decisions go against him, he got overlooked for title shots, opponents were changed at short notice, he had too many fights, far too many tough fights. Some days, he doesn't recognise me. Some days, he doesn't recognise his wife. Others, he talks to me like nothing's changed.

Unlike others, I'm not going to stop watching boxing. I don't think I could. Maybe I just grew up knowing it's a terrible, beautiful thing, maybe my relation to it was more visceral; maybe I never had any innocence to lose. The only thing I ever enjoyed was seeing what happened between the ropes, when two guys are left alone out there under the lights; all the rest of it, the press conferences, the interviews, the news stories, seemed unreal, staged, unnecessary.

The only reality is a punch to the face.

I'm sorry others are turning away from it, or that there is a perception that others are, but my habit's my habit & I'm certainly not going to mourn for what I see as their loss. I don't talk about my enthusiasms to most people, because their eyes glaze over & they shuffle away, check their watches, pretend they have something else to do. That's okay. My pleasure is furtive. It is secretive. It is my own. Most people don't care about things. I do, sad & pathetic as that makes me.

It's like doing drugs. You keep the company of those who otherwise you would not keep. You exercise your need amongst those with whom you have little in common. You don't speak of it out in the open, but occasionally you see the light behind someone's eyes & you just know.

I bumped into a kiddie down the pub the night of the England football game (no, I didn't watch it, my interest in sports in which no-one gets punched in the face is absolutely zero; I was press-ganged by some friends). He was the mate of a mate. I'd never met him before. Fight fan, it turned out. Sat there & talked boxing, Jhonny Gonzalez & Lee Haskins, Michael Watson & Mike McCallum. We sat there until everyone else had gone & the barmaid kicked us out. There's always going to be lunatics like me & my new mate. We'll find each other. We can smell our own.

We can't let it go & we don't really care if no-one else watches, or cares. The lights will go out, eventually. On everything. But it won't be until I'm buried, I'm sure.

& in the meantime there'll be great fights happening, all over the world.
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What I would've said, had I been half as good [Jun. 11th, 2012|07:59 pm]
[Tags|]

This is Carlos Acevedo's terrible, beautiful eulogy to Johnny Tapia, the three-weight world champion who died a couple of weeks ago. I've been trying to write something about Tapia ever since the news broke, but Mr Acevedo has done me the huge kindness of conveying exactly what I wanted to convey better than I ever could.

Go read it.




RIP champ.
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Fables & Reflections: On Bradley vs Pacquiao [Jun. 10th, 2012|01:53 pm]
[music |Fluke - Goodnight Lover]

New boxing column.
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For my own reference [May. 10th, 2012|05:10 pm]
Or rather, to remind myself to get a book on it out the library...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning

That is all.
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Drugs [May. 10th, 2012|11:24 am]
[Tags|]

New boxing column is up. Actual references to boxing: very few. As it should be...
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Preserve or conserve? [May. 9th, 2012|05:36 pm]
[music |Portishead - Wandering Star]

“Fantasy is like jam. . . . You have to spread it on a solid piece of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing . . . out of which you can’t make anything.”

- Italo Calvino
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Unquestionably the best thing ever [Apr. 18th, 2012|02:08 am]
No, really.



Like a Southern roots/Gospel/60s girl group/surf mash-up. But good.
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