Back in 1969, Norman Mailer, writer, gadfly, fight fan, and best-selling author, put himself forward as a candidate for mayor of New York City. It was a mad, hopeless, quixotic effort, and the future author of a book-length account of “The Rumble In The Jungle” and star of the 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, never came close to winning. But Mailer’s campaign slogan was a winner, despite the fact it was unprintable and censored from the airwaves. Simple and direct, Mailer’s slogan and promise to the people of New York, “No more bullshit,” has never been topped, before or since.
Sometimes I yearn for a time when guys like Mailer were still around, when we didn’t have the Internet and cell phones to make us dumber, blatant lies were not shamelessly spouted as truth, and championship fighters didn’t say they were the best without actually intending to back up their boasts with their fists. If people back in 1969 thought there was too much “bullshit” flying around then, what would they think of today?
As readers of this site will recall, I was concerned about Errol Spence’s health given the fact he spent two weeks in hospital and at least six days in intensive care following a horrendous car crash in October of 2019. So I dutifully plunked down a hefty 75 bucks for the privilege of watching last evening’s pay-per-view show for his big comeback fight. Say what you want now after Spence showed no ill-effects last night from the unspecified injuries he suffered in that drunken car wreck, but that kind of accident could easily have meant the end of his days as an elite performer, if not the end of his career. And he did get rocked in the second round last night in a way that has me still a bit concerned about his neurological health.
And I say “unspecified injuries” because it would seem that Spence’s team put a lockdown in place in terms of specific information about what actually happened back in the early morning hours of October 10th, 2019. Outside of Spence himself, his immediate family, Al Haymon and God, few know the full extent of the injuries he suffered. Given that fact, I’m not sure what to make of what I heard during the pre-fight hoopla about Spence not recalling anything about the wreck of his Ferrari in that spectacular crash, in which the car flipped at least twice, sending Spence flying out of the vehicle, before he was found unconscious by paramedics and then airlifted to the nearest hospital.
That said, my concerns about any ill-effects from the car crash were put to rest, at least for now, in watching Spence dominate Danny Garcia last night. He looked sharp and it appears he remains one of the top operators in the division, not to mention one of the best in the game, pound-for-pound. Good for him.
However, it was with great dismay and disgust that I watched some bogus bullshit between undercard fights, delivered with much gravitas, about the significance of the main event. Viewers were subjected to a slick promo, an alleged tribute to the Golden Age of the 1980s, when the best fought the best, with photos of Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and “Hands of Stone,” Roberto Duran. The comparison being drawn was between those welterweight greats and last night’s main event, the resonant voice-over uttering the huge lie that Spence vs Garcia represented “the best fighting the best.”
The utter ridiculousness of that falsehood hardly needs to be pointed out, especially when the Showtime announcers themselves stated during Garcia’s ring walk that the challenger was, maybe, the third-best welterweight in the world, which is being extremely generous in light of his defeats to Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. To his credit, Garcia himself refrained from puffing himself up in a pre-fight interview as “the best,” commenting instead that he saw himself as “the people’s choice.”
I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is this blatant lying of saying Spence vs Garcia represents “the best vs the best.” We live in a time when the media never stops trying to mislead us, and when the American president himself is a walking lie machine. As one commentator puts it, Trump “lies like most people breathe oxygen.” It’s already increasingly difficult to separate the truth from all the bullshit, so it bothers me more than a little when PBC feeds us the obvious lie that last night’s fight represented “the best vs the best” in the welterweight division, as if Terence Crawford didn’t exist.
Spence himself got in on the act in his post-fight interview, saying something he must know has yet to be proved when he stated “I’m the best in the welterweight division.” True, he masterfully dismantled Garcia in his comeback fight, dominating Danny in a way no one has, but that remains a statement Spence still has to back up by taking on fighters ranked higher than Garcia. Mind you, that is no disrespect to Danny, who I’ve always viewed as a game warrior who doesn’t brag much and who now must know he’s in the late rounds of a successful career. And I liked it when he didn’t snivel or whine after the fight but simply admitted it was Spence’s night, he was beaten by the better man, and he was grateful for the opportunity. No bullshit there.
Now I’m not calling Spence a liar when he says he believes he’s “the best,” but the fact remains there was a guy in the audience last night who I think is not only the best in the welterweight division, but some believe might be the very best in the game, pound-for-pound, if only he was given the chance to prove it. Terence “Bud” Crawford is rotting on the vine, and that’s a damn shame given his unique talent and impressive skills. The talk is Spence might get Manny Pacquiao next, which is a huge money fight, but in the meantime the 34-year-old Crawford gets that much older as he waits for his chance to fight “The Truth.”
But the real “truth,” not to mention an obvious one, is that Spence is not entitled to bragging rights as the best at 147 pounds until he finally faces Crawford. If there were any justice in the boxing world, Spence vs Crawford would be the next big fight on the schedule. No more delays, no more politics, no more bullshit. Just as it was in the 1980’s. After Sugar Ray Leonard beat Roberto Duran and Ayub Kalule, fans didn’t have to wait months on end for the obvious match to be made. The night he knocked out Kalule, Sugar Ray looked right at the camera and said, “But you know who’s next: Tommy Hearns.” And less than three months later, the big fight everyone wanted to see went down.
These were the ring legends PBC mightily disrespected by comparing their genuine “best vs best” showdowns with last night’s fight. These are different times, when the bullshit flies thick and fast, and so I wasn’t surprised when Spence carefully side-stepped the question of who he wanted to face next, commenting that he wanted to spend some time with his family. No bold statements to the camera à la Sugar Ray Leonard or Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns. So it goes in our unique era of the fight game.
With Spence being coy, I wondered if the show’s broadcast team, comprised of Brian Kenny, Lennox Lewis and Joe Goosen, might say something about Terence Crawford instead. And it should be noted that Showtime did put their cameras on “Bud” between some rounds of the main event last night, but when they did, Kenny and company said nothing about the obvious match-up that needs to be made.
In fact, so little was said about Crawford, I wondered if Al Haymon was directing things from the shadows, making sure there was no mention of the man from Omaha, nor of a Spence vs Crawford superfight. That is a true “best vs best” showdown and indeed worthy, unlike Spence vs Garcia, of comparisons to Leonard vs Duran, and Sugar Ray vs “The Motor City Cobra.” But to my surprise, Kenny and company did briefly set aside the bullshit pretense long enough to bring up a hypothetical Spence vs Crawford fight and then say, “Well, at least we can hope.” Speaks volumes, don’t it? — Ralph M. Semien