Boxing
The World Awaits well worth the price
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you're a boxing fan, or a television mogul, it's time to start salivating.

Saturday night's pay-per-view (PPV) show in Las Vegas not only brings together two of the top in-ring names of the last 25 years, it also serves as another of the fewer and farther between instances when boxing will occupy center stage in the overall sports world.

Simultaneous covers of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine, lead stories on SportsCenter, a four-part documentary on HBO and a guest shot on the Tonight Show, the sorts of rarified air it appears less likely to breathe again any time soon.

But it'll be a profitable 'last' gasp, to be sure.

At $54.95 a pop, it'll take between 1.25 and 1.30 million buys for the bout to eclipse the standing revenue record for non-heavyweights, which was set in 1999 when Oscar De La Hoya met Felix Trinidad to register $70 million over a (non-heavy) record 1.4 million buys.

Also within reach are the sport's overall marks for revenues and buys, both the product of Mike Tyson. The former heavyweight champ's rematch with Evander Holyfield in 1997 drew an all-time best 1.9 million PPV sign-ups, while his failed title try against Lennox Lewis five years later registered $106.9 million on the cash-cow scale.

De La Hoya, who at $492 million sits third on the career PPV revenue scale behind only Tyson ($545 million) and Holyfield ($543 million), can make the leap to the top spot if Saturday's show garners 965,000 hits. The sold-out live gate at the MGM Grand Garden Arena is already set to generate a Nevada- record $19 million.

Maybe they should have called it 18/5 instead.

Because the deeper HBO got into its four-part series, the more it seemed substance was replaced by fluff.

Thursday night's finale picked up the story as the fighters ended their camps and moved into fight week -- with De La Hoya heading from Puerto Rico to Los Angeles to Nevada, while the already Vegas-based Mayweather simply tapered his workouts and sharpened his tongue.

Yet rather than the compelling audio and video that had carried the initial three episodes, the finale fell more in line with formulaic 30-minute previews of years past and relied far more on cliched 'I'm ready' sound bytes than anything truly revealing.

In fact, the only constant from the first few shows was the by-now tired refrain of Floyd Mayweather Sr., whose tightrope walk between former employer and flesh-and-blood progeny entertained before slowly devolving into the rant of a spotlight-seeking hanger-on.

"This is a good guy and bad guy fight, and we all know which is which," said the former 16-year pro, who groomed his son in early stages of his career before a falling out eventually gave the job to his brother and Floyd Jr.'s uncle -- ex-world champion Roger Mayweather.

The elder Mayweather seemed reticent to grasp his non-role throughout the series while lurking in the training-camp shadows, before another disagreement with his son sent him pouting back to his own gym to train lightweight contender Joan Guzman, who'll fight later this month.

"He's still my dad and I still love him, even if he's acting like a jerk," Mayweather Jr. said.

This week, part three is hereby proclaimed 'venting space.'

Now naturally, in the midst of the hype and build-up and other nonsense that accompanies a big fistic event, the opinions about said the event and its participants are as plentiful as the punches ought to be come Saturday.

But much like they'll do in the ring, many miss their targets in the run-up as well.

What's particularly irritated me lately is the notion, because his 37 straight wins as a pro have largely come without the titillating impact of blood, sweat and tears, that Floyd Mayweather Jr. possesses something other than or less than a "fighter's heart."

It's the same sort of tired and lazy thinking that's followed the "Pretty Boy" around for his last several fights, which featured similarly shoddy diagnoses as he prepped to face the latest in a line of tough guys designated to finally close his prodigious mouth.

Ironically this time, however, the man deemed as more hungry and more in tune with what a "real" fighter ought to be is the very same man who had those very same characteristics widely questioned in the aftermath of a dubious 2004 KO loss.

But for convenience's sake here in 2007, the "Golden Boy" is cast as the hearty throwback, while Mayweather -- whose destruction of Corrales, Gatti and Baldomir were violent displays of virtuosity -- is labeled unwilling when it comes to skirmishes.

It's not just revisionist history. It's going way too far to prop up a flawed point.

Regardless of what is imagined of his prospects Saturday, it takes far too wide a swing at the blatant greatness of a multi-division world champion whose only crime has been making a difficult sport look easier than anyone else ever could.

Lastly, it says here that it'll be just such an ability -- to somehow render an arduous athletic endeavor almost pedestrian while hardly drawing a heavy breath -- that proves both bouquet and brickbat to the winner on fight night.

Oh sure, Mayweather's clear unanimous decision -- let's say 117-111, or a cool 9-3 in rounds, for argument's sake -- will cop him another shiny jewel-laden belt, but his methods may yet again be fodder for the keyboard-wielding contrarians.

Might it be dull? Sure. In fact, the competitive "bore" prompted by Mayweather leaning on his clear advantages in both hand and foot speed -- disparities that have proven troublesome for Oscar in past struggles with Shane Mosley and Pernell Whitaker -- is clearly Floyd's most predictable path to victory.

Truth told, even if he beats Oscar even decisively and legitimately in everyone's eyes, it's really not going to change anything. The omnipresent critics are not going to be satisfied until he beats King Kong. And then, it'll only be because they'll claim Kong was weakened from trying to make weight.

So rather than lauding the new WBC 154-pound champion for another career- defining dragon slay, instead expect his tactics-first/violence-second modus operandi to prompt the lament that seems to follows every event failing to pay off at the "loud hype = riveting action" windows.

Again, though, the logic falls flat.

And regardless of whether it's slugfest or snooze-fest on Saturday, this fight matters.

It matters because it's the two biggest names in the sport. It matters because it's the only fight out there that transcends the simple "OK, this would be a meaningful match-up" chatter. These are the two biggest stars in the boxing universe and they're fighting each other. That doesn't happen often, and when it does, it matters.

Even for $54.95.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Powered by The Sports Network.

Sports Plus - Ruidoso News