Looking at the massive amounts of national and international coverage here, it would be dumb to believe the fatalists who cry that boxing is dead. It’s not dead. It’s smaller, and it’s niche, but DOA it is not.
One of the delicious elements that made boxing so wonderful to follow is, however, sadly gone. If trash-talking is not dead, it’s on a ventilator, and it is the athletes themselves who are desperately trying to turn the machine off.
In the city that sells “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are behaving like a dutiful and loyal married couple. The lovefest between the two pugilists parallels a paradigm shift that has everyone desperately trying to avoid being labeled “a bully.”
Boxing is the most primitive sport on the planet, and it should be a safe haven for otherwise offensive behavior. Yet, here we are in 2015, and inside the ropes has gone PC.
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When neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao will trash talk the other before their Saturday night mega-fight, it is the latest sign that we have gone soft.
Sports events have exploded in the past 20 years with the proliferation of cable television and social media, but saturated coverage has a downside. Everyone is scared to say anything that could be misperceived when, in fact, most bravado, when taken in its proper context, is gamesmanship or just plain fun.
The moment somebody says anything that could remotely be perceived as insensitive he gets vilified. It’s not worth it.
In the waning seconds of the Rockets’ playoff-series win against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, the Rockets sent out a tweet that featured emojis of a tiny gun and a tiny horse head. The message said: “Close your eyes. It will all be over soon.”
Rather than simply laugh off this playful trash talk, social media does as social media does and immediately went into full assault on the Rockets.
It was a joke. Maybe crass, but a joke.
Nonetheless, the Rockets hurriedly issued an unnecessary apology. It’s another reminder that we just can’t wait to have our feelings hurt.
Here in Vegas, the only ones unafraid of their own opinions are the trainers, who are older and come from a generation of trash-talking.
I asked Floyd Mayweather Sr. if Pacquiao is any tougher than any of Mayweather’s previous 47 victims.
“Oh, hell nooo,” he said. “Man, that man fixin’ to get messed up.”
Did we overrate Pacquiao?
“Yeah, y’all definitely did,” he said. “Tell you right now — he’s way outta his class right now. He’s fixing to get the hell beat outta him.”
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, had said he does not even think Mayweather will show up for the fight. That the only reason Mayweather took this fight is because CBS/Showtime forced him.
“Freddie Roach is a joke with no hope,” said Mayweather Sr.
Freddie Roach has Parkinson’s disease, but Mayweather’s father was not talking about that. This is sports trash talk, and it is fun.
Boxing used to be a haven of woofers and participants who fearlessly proclaimed their greatness, and would explain why they were the baddest man on the planet.
For years, Mayweather taunted Pacquiao via social media or in interviews, but now that the fight is here, these two are tripping over themselves in an effort to show how much they love the other.
“I don’t take nothin’ away from Manny Pacquiao. He’s a solid fighter,” Mayweather told a collection of writers this week. “He’s a solid competitor, and it’s going to be an intriguing matchup. He’s a great fighter. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best.”
What happened to the days of Muhammad Ali calling Joe Frazier an Uncle Tom? Or Mike Tyson claiming he was going to eat someone’s children? Or the days when Sugar Ray Leonard truly hated Thomas Hearns — and their ensuing match became a legendary street fight?
The combination of increased cash and societal oversensitivity has made the longtime art of woofing go just about silent.
We have become such a giant collection of babies that we can’t even stand it when our favorite jocks jaw at each other.
Boxing may not be dead, but jawing is just about out.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog