By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I suppose I’m what you’d call a cinema savant.
I don’t go to a lot of movies – in fact, I haven’t been to five in the last five years – but when I find one I like I tend to watch it over and over until nearly every sliver of dialogue is memorized.
So it’s hardly a surprise that as Manny Pacquiao lay face down and motionless on the MGM Grand canvas, my early Sunday morning reactions instantly revolved around favorite on-screen quotes.
And by the time Tuesday comes and ring highlights have been dissected Zapruder-style in every cranny of every mother’s basement, it’s a whole lot better way to churn out the week’s 1,000 words.
Here, then, are a few flicks I immediately thought of while still wobbly from a post-KO buzz:
“To beat me, he’s gonna have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s got to be willing to die himself.”
-- Rocky Balboa, Rocky IV, 1985
I concede that quoting a series whose scenes were more caveman than cavalier is an odd tribute to Juan Manuel Marquez; but the more I thought about what it takes to actually employ counterpunching on the highest level, the more I came back to these words from Stallone to screen wife Talia Shire.
While appreciating the beauty of the right hand that ended Pacquiao’s stay atop pound-for-pound lists, the amount of courage it took to be ready to throw such a shot might get lost. Bottom line, while a lot of guys can evade an aggressive foe and later pounce on a tiring attacker, only a few – like Marquez on Saturday – stay deep enough in harm’s way to both draw the fire and launch the decisive return.
Sure, Rocky was talking about a significantly different brand of combat 27 years ago in the fourth-best installment of his signature six-pack, but his theme was still spot on for what occurred in Vegas right around 1 a.m. Sunday.
“What is ya, ignorant?”
-- Cellmate No. 2, Trading Places, 1983
Anyone who’s read my stuff over the years knows I’ve not been Pacquiao’s biggest fan. There’s no denying what he’s done while climbing the scales is remarkable – and unprecedented – but I’ve long believed Bob Arum deserved a huge share of the credit for making matches that accentuated his man’s positives and sidestepped his negatives.
That said, the alacrity shown by those fleeing the Pacman bandwagon within hours of Kenny Bayless’s wave-off stunned even the cynic in me. In fact, the deposed seven-division champion had barely been revived and dispatched on the five-mile trip to University Medical Center before the vultures began picking at what they perceived as decaying remains of a once-great career.
And while I’ll assign the predictable “See, this is what happens when you’re off PEDs” jabs to the cretins who provide little of value at any hour, I’ve got to wonder if the normally rational sorts who suddenly strayed were already falling victim to the Strip’s well-chronicled after-hours charms.
Most egregious among the exodus was a post-mortem P4P list on which Pacquiao plummeted from fourth to 12th, with rationale that included his losses to Marquez and Tim Bradley in 2012 and the questionable decision over Marquez in 2011. Among those passing him on the dubious inventory were Nonito Donaire, Carl Froch and the aforementioned Bradley, not to mention Wlad Klitschko, Abner Mares, Adrien Broner and even Lucas Matthysse.
In my bleary-eyed morning-after state, all I had were questions.
Not the least of which were… doesn’t it reek of double jeopardy to penalize a guy both for getting a lousy verdict (Marquez, 2011) and losing one (Bradley, 2012)? And… can only NASA ascertain how the WBO welter champ went from three spots behind Pacquiao to five spots ahead without throwing a punch – especially when 99.9 percent of lucid observers felt the Filipino won big when they met?
It made no sense to me then and it hasn’t changed since. But whether just a contrarian way to draw readers or actually a misguided thought process on the author’s part, the best byproduct for me was how well it embodied Giancarlo Esposito’s stellar cameo in one of my all-time favorite flicks.
“The house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house.”
-- Danny Ocean, Ocean’s Eleven, 2001
For the record, let me say upfront that not only do I hope Marquez will retire after one of the sport’s greatest final scenes, I honestly believe he will. But in the event he doesn’t, his career-defining right to Pacquiao’s jaw most certainly changed the stakes in his favor going forward.
Should he parlay the win into a duel with someone not named Manny, he could legitimately expect a purse in the environs of the $6 mill he drew to be a sidekick. And if the promoter is prescient and a fifth match is what the Mexican really desires, the landscape he created with a single blow puts him in an eight-figure stratosphere reserved for the game’s truly high rollers.
It’s proof that good guys sometimes do win.
And for a guy who’d seen the house take him three times in three previous tries – in as excruciating a fashion imaginable short of water-boarding – it was an exit perfectly worthy of a Clooney/Pitt caper.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF bantamweight title – Los Angeles, Calif.
Leo Santa Cruz (champion) vs. Alberto Guevara (unranked)
Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KO): Third title defense; Eleven stoppages in last 12 fights
Guevara (16-0, 6 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Mexico
Fitzbitz says: “Huge step up for Mexican challenger likely to end in painful fall as streaking incumbent gets a network TV showcase.” Santa Cruz in 7
WBA super bantamweight title – Houston, Texas
Guillermo Rigondeaux (champion) vs. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (No. 2 contender)
Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KO): Third title defense; Second fight in Texas (1-0)
Kratingdaenggym (48-2, 33 KO): Sixth title fight; Held WBA title in 2009-10 (two defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Thai veteran dwarfs champion in terms of experience, but has been just mediocre in previous title events in weight class.” Rigondeaux by decision
WBO cruiserweight title – Nuremberg, Germany
Arthur Abraham (champion) vs. Mehdi Bouadla (No. 2 contender)
Abraham (35-3, 27 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in Germany (33-0)
Bouadla (26-4, 11 KO): First title fight; Second fight in Germany (0-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Homestanding champion should continue excel on familiar turf while facing foe clearly lacking in the championship fight qualifications department.” Abraham in 8
WBO junior featherweight title – Houston, Texas
Nonito Donaire (champion) vs. Jorge Arce (No. 1 contender)
Donaire (30-1, 19 KO): Third title defense; Unbeaten above 118 pounds (4-0)
Arce (61-6-2, 46 KO): Nineteenth title fight; Held titles at 108, 115, 118 and 122 (nine defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Mexican action hero is rarely in a bad fight, but probably in over his head when it comes to streaking Filipino with equally concussive work rate.” Donaire in 10
WBO junior bantamweight title – San Miguel, Argentina
Omar Narvaez (champion) vs. David Quijano (No. 11 contender)
Narvaez (37-1-2, 20 KO): Sixth title defense; Unbeaten below 118 pounds
Quijano (15-2-1, 9 KO): First title defense; One loss in six fights at 115 or below
Fitzbitz says: “Argentine champion has been a master of his own weight-class domain and should continue the run, even against opponent more than a decade his junior.” Narvaez by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full- fledged title-holder -- no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Last week’s picks: 0-1
Overall picks record: 367-119 (75.5 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.