How Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya Didn't Save Boxing

Sang NguyenCorrespondent IMay 7, 2007

IconI'm not the biggest boxing aficionado in my neck of the woods, but I've always been fascinated by the sport.  
It triggers something primal in me—the idea of two gladiators stepping into the ring to go toe-to-toe, mano-a-mano. I'm not the type to buy a pay-per-view match, much less pay to see a bout in person...but if I do happen to catch a fight on TV, I know enough about the sport to enjoy both its visceral and technical appeal.
And that's why I was so disappointed on Saturday night.
The truth? The show almost got the job done by itself.
I was wowed by the sheer physicality of the training. These guys were fit and lean—and they never quit working to get in even better shape. It was awe-inspiring to watch two men sacrifice so much—to go through hell and back—for an event that would last only a single, bloody night.
The point: I was hyped for this match, more so than for any I'd ever seen. I was fully prepared to give my heart to boxing. I went over to a buddy's house with some beer, hunkered down in front of the boob tube, and...
If there was a word to describe my feelings after the fight, it would have to be "meh."
The result, of course, was a 12-round split decision in favor of Mayweather—although many in the crowd disagreed. The fight was mechanical, with the fighters only mixing it up in a few widely-dispersed flurries. In the end, I was completely underwhelmed. It reminded me of every other high-profile boxing match I've seen in recent memory—overhyped, with a payoff that fell far short of expectations.
Call me picky, but when a fight is billed as the "fight of the year" and "boxing's saving grace," I at least expect a good boxing match. Not a solid, technically-sound boxing match (that's what I avoid Olympic boxing for)—a boxing match that'll get my heart thumping.
I may sound crass for saying this, but I wanted more gore on Saturday. I wanted a slobberknocker of a match...and instead I got two fighters who went at each other methodically, without taking any major risks. The only really exciting moment didn't come until the very end of the match, when both Mayweather and De La Hoya ditched the strategy and resorted to throwing one wild haymaker after another.
That was the boxing match I wanted to see—and it barely lasted a minute.
I can understand how longtime boxing fans might have enjoyed the fight on its technical merits...but for this fence-sitter, the bout fell miserably short in its effort to save an ailing (and still multi-million-dollar) sport.
It seems that lesser-known fighters—those who have nothing to lose—are the only ones who put on good performances anymore. Boxing's big names are almost timid in comparison, as if they're fighting not to get hurt.
Or then again maybe I'm just too barbaric to enjoy the finesse of big-time boxing.