Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pacman vs. The Hitman

If you were one of the 8 people who were reading this site before the baseball season, you would know that here at Fack Youk, we are fans of sports in general, not just of baseball and not just of the Yankees. Those of us from Upstate New York grew up watching Mike Tyson, and were captivated by the vicious dominance of his early years. But like many boxing fans, we sort of lost interest in the sweet science when Lennox Lewis absconded with the heavyweight title, thereby submarining the division.

Boxing tends to live and die with the charisma of its heavyweights. History tells you that. For every Sugar Ray Robinson, there are ten Gene Tunneys, Jack Dempseys, Max Schmelings, Joe Louises, Rocky Marcianos, Floyd Pattersons, Muhammad Alis, George Foremans, Mike Tysons and Evander Holyfields. There is something inherently captivating about watching two of the biggest and baddest men on the planet determine who is smarter, stronger and tougher, playing by the same rules, using only their fists. It's sporting reduced to it's most basic elements: Strength and Strategy.

Between the Klitschko brothers refusing to fight each other and the 7 foot behemoth Nikolai Valuev refusing to throw a punch and still getting the decision, the heavyweight division is entirely unwatchable at the moment. If you bother to dig a little deeper, however, you'll find that sort of drama can exist at any weight class.

One gigantic reason for that is HBO's 24/7 documentaries. Typically four to six episodes leading up to major fights, the crew follows each fighter through their training regiment all the way to Vegas or whever the bout happens to be. They are incredibly entertaining and astonishingly well done. They are beautifully shot and the musical selections are spot on, something we clearly strive towards on our "Game: XX" posts. It's even more remarkable when you consider that they are aired less than a week after they are filmed. Watch the series and you will find a rooting interest based on the way the fighter's personalities come out through the episodes. I realize it's a little bit late for the heads up, but you can catch up on the episodes on HBO OnDemand or on their website.

I've been looking forward to tonight's junior welterweight (140lb) tilt ever since Manny Pacquiao, as Jim Lampley put it, "rearrang[ed] De La Hoya's beautiful face" and Ricky Hatton did the same to Paulie Malignaggi. As was masterfully portrayed in the episodes of 24/7, Pacman and The Hitman are ideal foils; Pacquiao a proud, humble, generous, religious Filipino and Hatton a brash, fun loving joker from Manchester, England. Both fighters are revered to epic proportions in their native lands, but you will undoubtedly notice the cheering section for Hatton serenading their hero if you order the fight.

Each is likable in their own way, but I'm rooting for Pacquiao. I love his trainer, Freddie Roach, and the fact that Manny keeps a tight-knit staff of 10 guys who all live in a 2 bedroom apartment leading up to his fights. I find it fascinating that he is a national icon, literally the most famous person in his country, and is called "the nation's fist". As the Phillipines prepares it's power grid for the surge resulting from almost every resident watching the fight, I will be heading over the la casa de Big Willie Style, pulling in the same direction.

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