(This article is republished with permission from the author. You can read more musings from Morgan P. Campbell at his blog, By Morgan Campbell.)
By Morgan P. Campbell / @morganpcampbell
If nature abhors a vacuum, the news media hate empty space even more — especially with the Internet’s bottomless news hole, and especially with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally set to meet in the most discussed, dissected and analyzed fight of our generation. Any #PacWeather talk is good talk, because empty web pages aren’t an option, and six weeks ahead of the Fight of the Century any type fight-related content drives traffic.
And with the fight still more than a month away it looks like we’re feeding our near-insatiable appetite for pre-fight info with one of my favourite types of boxing non-story — the Sparring Session Tall Tale.
First up: Team Pacquiao, from whence stories appeared last week laying out a plan to employ undefeated Cuban superstar Guillermo Rigondeaux as a sparring partner. If that news didn’t scare Mayweather and his supporters, it should have. “El Chacal” is a defensive wizard, an underrated puncher and one of the world’s best, pound-for-pound.
Plus, he spent time in training with the Mayweathers and probably has secrets you can’t glean by watching fight film.
You might read this report and wonder Pacquiao hopes to learn about Mayweather by sparring with a 122-pound southpaw, but if you’re asking that (very logical) question, you’re missing the point. The point is, oooooohhhhhh SNAP! Team Pacquiao hired a defensive specialist and a GOLD MEDALIST. Kiss that zero goodbye, Floyd. It’s OVER for you now that the Jackal is in camp.
It’s about a compelling as an indirect argument for Pac’s superiority as you’ll find. I mean, if Pac can catch Rigo he’ll have no problem cornering Floyd, right? It’s like Joe Louis sparring with Eddie Futch or Rocky Balboa chasing chickens. To prepare for speed, train against more speed.
It’s also bogus, as Sparring Session Tall Tales often are. If Pacquiao needs a zurdo Cubano to prepare him for Mayweather he’d be better off batting against Aroldis Chapman than boxing Rigondeaux. Chapman could throw 105-m.p.h. fastballs and sliders that flirt with 90, and Pac could practice dodging projectiles that, like Mayweather’s left hook, will come flying at him from his blind spot.
Of course, the best way to train is to engage in the type of sparring that might not lend itself to Tall Tales…. but where’s the fun in that?
Team Mayweather understands. That’s why a week after reports of Rigo in Pac’s camp, Mayweather’s uncle Jeff told reporters in Grand Rapids Floyd had been manhandling Zab Judah in early sparring.
It’s significant because Judah is a fast southpaw who gave Mayweather fits in the first half of their 2006 title bout.
You might read Uncle Jeff’s sparring session dispatch and remember that Judah is older than both Floyd and Pac. And that he has lost three of his last four fights. And that 15 months after his last bout we’re not even sure if he’s still active. You could observe that the last time Judah looked sharp people were still using Blackberries, and that if the The Best Ever can’t dominate a semi-retired former star he should recuse himself from the pound-for-pound list.
And if you do any of that, you’re missing the point.
The point is, aaaaawwwwww sh*t!!! If Mayweather’s already pummeling Judah, just imagine what he’ll do to Pacquiao. This isn’t the Same Old Floyd Mayweather. This time he’s going for the knockout! And if he can batter Zab Judah, Pacquiao doesn’t have a chance! Just find a soft spot in the ring and lie down there, Manny. Zab goeth before the Pac.
I won’t say Jeff Mayweather is lying, but I’d wager his training camp dispatches are, like Negro League Stories and the 12 Labours of Hercules, subject to legendary acretion. Every time he tells the story it grows more fantastic and a tad less truthful.
Which is the whole point of a Sparring Session Tall Tale. Fighters’ camps float these stories hoping to gain a mental edge they can carry into the ring. The next step in the sequence is for one of the camps to tell us several sparring partners quit under the withering beatings dished out by Headline Fighter, who, incidentally, Is In The Best Shape Of His Life.
Canelo Alvarez tried that tactic before his bout with Mayweather.
Didn’t help him much in the ring, but if it kept us occupied and entertained before the fight then it succeeded in its chief job.
Rigo isn’t Mayweather and Judah isn’t Pacquiao. Sparring Session Tall Tales are fun, but they’re often fiction.
Fight night is truth.
Morgan Campbell is a Toronto based sports reporter and culture critic, while also being the second-fastest person in his family.