Mac Engel

For one night on a huge sports day, boxing beat ’em all

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, hits Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, during their welterweight title fight on Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, hits Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, during their welterweight title fight on Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas. AP

Combine the noise and atmosphere of an NBA All-Star weekend with the even louder party that is a Super Bowl week — now put it on The Strip in Vegas, and the vitally important pair of sunglasses on the whole thing — and that will give you an idea of the scene that was Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Picture the streets at the South end of the Vegas Strip packed with fans who simply wanted to be near the party, while inside the venue itself was crammed with A-listers and beautiful people whose presence validates any room. Saturday night was a reminder that we still love a good fight.

The sport has had a seemingly ungraceful descent down the American sports’ consciousness over the past decade, but for one glorious evening boxing trumped ’em all on one of the busiest and best days on any sports calendar in the modern era. It was the sport’s big swing at the popularity it once enjoyed for decades.

There is a reason why some of Hollywood’s best sports movies are about boxers, and the sport of boxing. This fight drew enough celebs for a TMZ bonanza.

The NFL Draft, the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, MLB regular season, MLS regular season, the Kentucky Derby all ran Saturday, yet the biggest of them all was a prizefight between the only two boxers with names you know. Floyd Mayweather’s long anticipated fight against Manny Pacquiao for the undisputed welterweight champion of the world — and the right to be called the pound for pound best fighter alive — ended Saturday night in a unanimous decision for Mayweather.

Regardless, you may say you don’t care about boxing for a variety of reasons, but on this one, you did. On this one, you cared. This was America at its over-hyped best, or worst. It was corporate gouge combined with plastic, and an ample amount of credit card debt, and hype, on the Vegas strip.

Speaking of Hollywood, the NFL is bigger, but the wattage at this fight was brighter than any other football game could ever draw. This fight was like an Oscars red carpet, with bodyguards assigned to protect bodyguards.

Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, Dax Shepherd, Russell Westbrook, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Jake Gyllenhall, Mark Wahlberg, the Jonas Brothers, Claire Danes, model Irina Shayk and a host of other A-listers were either seen, or spotted, at the MGM Grand Arena on Saturday night. Seemingly half of the NBA and NFL were here, too.

There were so many hot people on the floor at ring side it would make a plastic surgeon blush. Even the good looking people weren’t hot enough.

The biggest knock on boxing — other than endless charges of bad judging and pitiful corruption — is that nobody cares. We don’t. But when we do, nothing beats a prize fight.

The sports book at the MGM Grand was packed with fans waiting for as much as 20 minutes just for the right to bet on this fight. The casino and lobby were slammed with people just trying to see people who might be celebrities, or look like one. The scene behind former NBA guard Allen Iverson playing blackjack on Friday night was almost laughable; people just watching another guy playing 21.

It will be a long time before boxing is king again, yet this fight was a reminder that this sport still can pull on our sports’ emotions better than any other. That for as much as we may decry its violence, and as much as we prefer that no one ever get hurt or suffer a concussion, the sight of two guys beating each other to a pulp plays on our animal instincts for combat.

It worked for the Romans with gladiators, and despite our advances since those ancient times there are still some forms of entertainment we can’t resist. Mayweather/Pacquiao was sports at its simplest essence — two guys, pick one.

Fight purists may, and did, whine about this fight and the fact it took five years to happen but for boxing it was a day to be relevant in a way it has not since the days of Tyson, Sugar Ray and Ali. Boxing fans, just take it. The sports’ landscape is so intense and competitive these days that to have one night such as this should be simply be savored.

Pacquiao/Mayweather took forever to happen, and it will be a long time before a fight of this magnitude will occur again.

The era of big boxing is over, but Saturday night was a reminder that when the fight is big it still trumps the rest in American sports.

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

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