On Final Four day, a fight broke out between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Vegas.
The only reason I knew about it was because I was there. I’m serious.
I just happened to be walking around the hotel, and I saw a sign for it. The sign said April 3. I thought to myself, April 3, by golly. That’s today!
Strange. People had been waiting for this for years. I think they waited so long that they finally forgot about it, myself included. Some say better late than never, but that did not apply on this Final Four day.
This fight was set up to take place the moment after Duke etched its name into the final slot against Butler in the NCAA March Madness bracket. Those who ordered the fight on HBO Pay-Per-View found themselves switching back and forth between the basketball game and the undercards to see if they were missing anything. They weren’t, but what followed was far worse.
Saturday night’s showing wasn’t just a spectacle. It was more like something you might see from a Tuesday night network early '90s wrestling show with some idiot in a mask putting on a bad show for a hopeless crowd (not that there's anything wrong with that if that's your thing).
But for me, it wasn’t just painful to watch. It was almost sad.
Neither fighter would engage. Every time Hopkins caught Jones on the inside, he’d take a cheap shot, which would be fine except for the fact that every time Jones lightly tapped Hopkins on the back of the head or on the belt, Hopkins would crawl around the ring like a jackass.
In fact, the only good 30 seconds of the whole fight were after Hopkins got up from his act in some middle round and started hitting Jones after the bell. Thirty seconds for two of the greatest careers in boxing, and it had to end this way.
It went the distance, and Hopkins got the decision, avenging his loss to Jones so many years ago, but not before he squandered every last shred of integrity he had, taking Jones and what was left of the sport down with him.
One of the guys watching the fight with me said, “This is so boring. Why would anyone watch this? MMA is so much better.” Had that remark been made under any other circumstances, I would have thought it sacrilege. But this time he was right.
From his perspective, from someone who never got to the chance to see Jones or Hopkins in his prime, this was a joke. It was a joke to me, and I worshiped these guys. I even thought something might happen that Final Four day. Throughout the fight, I kept telling myself, now Roy’s going to get him, but he never did. There was nothing to get.
This is the future of boxing. If things keep going the way they’re going, one day we might actually get to see Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather—many years from now, when they don’t have anything left but a dwindling bank account, a few brain cells, and the regret of never having fought each other when they were at the peaks of their careers.
At the end of the fight, they’ll hug each other the way Jones and Hopkins hugged each other on Final Four day, letting us know that the show was over, and it was time to stop watching. And that will be it. That will be the end of boxing.