As Tod Browning's directorial career proved, we're far more interested in sideshows & abnormalities than we'd like to let on -- which is to say, I understand the interest inherent in Pacquiao-Broner, which pits a man 10 years past his prime against a fighter at least 12 lbs above his best weight.
(Incidentally, I think Browning's work was neither entirely exploitative nor reflective but some combination of the two -- the result of a limited talent and impatient industry crossed with Kurtz-esque curiosity.)
What bothers me are industry hype people -- fellow writers included -- who'd paint this PPV as being more central to the sport's hierarchy than that. I don't want dilettantes thinking this PT Barnum event is akin to an actual box-off; just because we can't get Spence-Crawford-Thurman, the only 147 round-robin that matters, doesn't mean we should pretend anything else is a reasonable substitute. Mayweather-Pacquiao didn't hurt boxing because it sucked -- it hurt boxing because we promised the general public for years it wouldn't.
So let's call Pac-Broner what it is: A freak fight -- made for freaks and featuring them -- sharing more in common with RJJ-Trinidad or Mayorga-Vargas than any recently-prominent welter PPVs. While I find Broner's staged self-absorption tiresome and Pacquiao's reincarnations exhausting in their own way (spunky Santos City-survivor to adulterer to religious zealot to dictator-dutiful politician, with some unnatural muscular growth along the way and the sudden unloosing of a sense of humor), I'm also curious as to what may happen once they're penned in together.
I also buy Showtime pressing the package hard -- they've been screwed by the division of the PBC into parallel Fox & Showtime passageways -- screwed because they couldn't pay out enough to ensure Al-fidelity. So Haymon, who originally wanted to buy out the sport for the sake of UFC-ifcation, has fractured his own mini-league to keep it funded.
But to everyone else -- and I'm thinking of two hall of famers active on Twitter right now, neither a fighter -- call a spade a spade. There's nothing wrong with us digging superficially-unalike and unlikely-headliner dudes. But when we do, let's give the wider public credit -- let's not condescend to it. Acknowledge the night's niche appeal -- even if it makes the HD PPV cost seem prohibitively pricey (after all, it is -- and $20 closed-circuit ain't a bad alternative for viewers). Better we prompt an economic issue now than a larger question later -- one that's haunted too many PPVs through the years come Hangover Morning Sunday: Hey -- why'd that fight you featured feel so damn unfulfilling?
As for me, any issues I have with the weekend action are unlikely to arise from the bout alone. I'll be not in Vegas but in Houston, for the wedding of the friend who took the above photo of me talking to a very sullen Gennady Golovkin.
He -- the groom, not Golovkin -- is good people, and the price of the ceremony (on my end, anyway) is right. But I'm staring squarely at the TSA folks in Texas, whose understandable absence from work while they aren't paid during the government shutdown has already created serious snags at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. This could be more problematic than Rau'shee Warren's lack of power in lower divisions dominated by Srisaket and Inoue.
Which brings us to public service, sorta...
Credit to Matchroom USA for sending out the above figures -- returning welter (and hella handsome nutritionist) Chris Algieri and forgotten middleweight strapman Boo Boo Andrade -- to a Bronx Charter school yesterday. I don't mind their showing up in a classroom as a form of fight publicity, even if elementary school children are unlikely beneficiaries of pug perspicacity.
That said, the timing struck me as most intriguing (and obviously not because these two are part of Matchroom's upcoming card Friday night in MSG -- an affair so underwhelming I'm worried recent-Chazan-signee Dmitry Bivol will never face decent opposition on the Ak & Barak non-linear network of HBO vets).
As the vaudeville duo of Algieri & Andrade played puppets with muppets, children of a similar age on the other coast -- 500,000 tykes in LA, to be precise -- were dealing with the effects of a major teacher's strike, one cause of which is the tug-of-war between traditional schools and charters for resources.
So it was hard for me to watch these boxers in the sandbox without considering that container -- South Bronx Early College Academy, a charter. On Google, parents and kids have left alternately heartbreaking and heartwarming reviews:
"This school is the real life equivalent of cancer, this school makes me and others feel like trash, the teachers pick favorites."
"My daughter has been in this school for two years this is her third and she loves it."
"All They Do Is Suspend Children."
In the end, the 31 reviews, almost all five-star and one-stars, average out to a 3.0 -- prompting me to wonder how parents ever entrust their children to any outside institution but especially one so polarizing in an area so poor (where decisions must be weightier).
I went to elementary school in a beautiful area of the Bronx, northwest of this spot, and the building had no walls, having been constructed as a tremendous tiered greenhouse on the side of a cliff by a hippie architect in the '60s, and that open dynamic and the teachers who knew how to operate in it -- I know I benefited from it, but I imagine there were some borderline kids for whom the whole design and operation made the difference.
Life is still difficult as fuck for everyone, but some of us were taught to give it angles.
And now a kid I befriended there 25 years ago is getting married, our connection still strong enough to make me forsake a couple fights (although, again, if we're being honest, Andrade-Akavov sounds like a rare skin disease named for the two physicians who first diagnosed it, and Old Man Pacquiao has nothing left to prove, while Broner will never be anything but a bonehead in my estimation).
So yeah, good on you, Matchroom, for your publicity stunt -- if only because it prompted me to think, somewhat vainly, about the small margins that make us us. That keep some of us above water when we'd otherwise be sunk.
If Adrien Broner's teacher had spent less time brushing his hair, who knows where he'd be right now...
About teachers and students: Oakley Hall is a forgotten noir writer who taught eminent contemporary novelists Michael Chabon and Richard Ford and whose first attempt at a book under his own name in 1950 was just reissued by the Hard Case Crime imprint -- "So Many Doors."
To read one chapter of it is to read any of them (his work improved with time) but there's something naughty and sinful -- no matter how retrograde-- about his mid-century unpacking of the power -- and victimization -- of a desired woman. It's the allusive quality -- the way things left unsaid are clearly communicated for being so.
Other recommendations for free hours (whether they're terrestrial or in the unfriendly skies of United, en route to the Lone Star state): the suspenseful and smartly-scored K-drama "Squad 38" -- about a new-school scammer learning from an old-school tax collector and vice-versa. Agendas -- righteous and vengeful -- abound. Freely available with English subtitles on the VIKI app.
And as a valedictory, one of my favorite teachers of all time, the best middleweight to never fight for a title, who took a bullet in the spine from crossfire and almost immediately thereafter began training his peers before rearing Lou Duva's generation of '84 Olympians (Holyfield, Meldrick, Sweet Pea), the Mayor of North Philadelphia, Georgie Benton: