By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Reality isn’t always my closest ally.
In fact, more than just once in a while, I’m perfectly content to turn on, tune in and drop out with a weekend diversion of my choice, while the rest of the world goes ahead and handles the heavy philosophical lifting without me.
It’s a lot less strain on a too-often achy 42-year-old back.
And by the time my attention returns Monday, I never feel like I’ve missed anything.
But then a Saturday night like the last one arrives… and I’ve got to punch in early.
Rather than making the trip to see it in person or gathering collateral to bankroll the pay-per-view, I instead endeavored to wake up Sunday morning, stay insulated from contact that’d spill the result – and find an online feed to let me watch the fight “live” 12 hours later.
I happily found success courtesy of a site called www. (oh, wait… sorry Bob, can’t reveal my sources, right?), which was rebroadcasting the as-it-happened UK feed from Primetime, including blow-by-blow by ex-NFL kicker Benny Ricardo and color from Pacquiao stablemate Amir Khan.
Truth told, I’d have preferred Tim Ryan and Gil Clancy… but piraters can’t be choosers.
Anyway, as I settled in front of the TV to do my duty, I admit my expectations were low.
Though I knew Marquez had given Manny issues through 24 rounds, I was in the majority this time that assumed the combination of his advancing age and Pacquiao’s marked upturn would make it little more than a violent exclamation of late-arriving Filipino superiority.
Going in, I figured eight rounds was about all it could last.
But it took about four rounds to realize a lot more was in store.
As counter after counter landed squarely on Pacquiao’s face – and replay after replay indicated the genuine frequency of the sequence – I made more and more shouts to my wife in the next room, saying, “Holy sh*t, Hon, I think he’s finally getting beat.”
And as the final third came and went, followed by the final bell and Pacquiao’s beaten look, I had zero reason to believe the impossible hadn’t occurred. And as boos rained at the MGM upon seeing Manny lifted to shoulders before the verdict, it was clear again that I wasn’t alone.
Even among the partisan crowd.
Even in Manny’s corner.
My card had it an easy 8-4 for the Mexican.
And truth told, I thought I’d reached a little to give Pac the rounds I had.
So when Michael Buffer read the first card even at 114, I figured it was nothing more than an occasionally misguided view of a ringsider not really believing what he’d just seen.
“Happens all the time,” I thought. One guy calls a fight a draw, while the other two restore sanity with cards more along the wider lines of the one I’d authored.
And I still remember thinking as he announced the next two, which still seemed a lot closer than they should have… “Even though it’ll kill the Mayweather fight, there’s no way they make it this blatant.”
Until, that is, they did.
And at that exact moment Buffer’s lips spit “still” instead of “new,” it became clear we were dealing with a much higher and more omnipotent force than I’d ever imagined.
Accuracy be damned. Competitive correctness be damned.
Plain old fairness be damned.
Ladies and gentlemen, Manny Mania is mightier than us all.
It’s an undisputed champion. No catch-weights need apply.
And regardless of who gets him from here on out, it’s pretty clear that short of a pistol or a ball bat laying him unconscious in ring center, no one’s going to beat the guy.
Or if you prefer after Saturday night’s charade, no one’s going to be allowed to.
But don’t worry, it’s not because Arum is intentionally instructing judges or influencing referees.
I’m quite sure he’s not. It’s something far more insidious than that.
For whatever reason… be it biological, pharmaceutical or simply fanatical – all grasp on reality seems to fade away whenever this dude fights.
It happens to posters in message boards, announcers in interviews and, now in Vegas, to perfectly well-intentioned arbiters who’d otherwise be counted on to do the right thing.
Accomplishments are exaggerated. Shortcomings are insulated.
And in the case of one Mr. Marquez… defeats are, well, ignored.
But, lest you think this merely the rant of a bitter Floyd fan, understand I’m hardly alone.
The three UK analysts at my free-of-charge theater were every bit as incredulous as me, with Andy Kerr, Steve Bunce and former two-division world champion Steve Collins wearing slack-jawed looks that matched mine as the broadcast was tossed back from ringside to studio.
Collins, in fact, took it one further, referring to the scoring as “diabolical.”
I never saw you fight, Steve. But I couldn’t agree more.
And along those lines, though it’s noticeably absent in the bowels of Top Rank on Howard Hughes Parkway, one shred of reality remains clear from here in occasionally subtropical Florida.
While the idea Pacquiao can dominate a counterpuncher like Marquez is merely dubious, the suggestion he’d wind up anything other than a bloody, humbled mess against Mayweather is laughable.
So get ready for Bradley, Khan and Rios, fight fans… the “Money” fight is officially dead.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF featherweight title – Sydney, Australia
Billy Dib (champion) vs. Alberto Servidei (No. 8 contender)
Dib (31-1, 19 KO): First title defense; Held IBO title at 126 (2008, zero defenses)
Servidei (31-0-2, 7 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Italy
Fitzbitz says: “First trip overseas not kind for dubious 36-year-old challenger.” Dib in 10
WBC middleweight title – Houston, Texas
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (champion) vs. Peter Manfredo Jr. (No. 4 contender)
Chavez (43-0-1, 30 KO): First title defense; Tenth fight in Texas (9-0, 6 KO)
Manfredo (37-6, 20 KO): Fourth title fight (1-2, 1 KO); Held IBO title (2010, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Either it’s an early blitz loss, or the challenger hangs tough.” Manfredo 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: 2-0
Overall picks record: 263-86 (75.3 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.