Growing up, sports were always at the forefront of every I thought, and everything I did. Even moreso at that time than they are now, which is scary.
While other kids were out riding bikes and smoking cigarettes behind the bleachers, I was at home, watching meaningless Tuesday night NBA games, and having important, internal debates, like "Who's the better first baseman, Ken Caminiti or Jeff Bagwell?" (Which of course is similar to the same debate we have today about Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols. Only if you added syringes, sketchy foreign pharmacists, and 1000mL a day of HGH)
I even remember being assigned a free write in elementary school, choosing to do a paper on "college basketball's top newcomers," while most kids wrote about their summer vacation or new Super Nintendo game. Sure it was a little weird, and sure when I handed it in, my teacher looked at me like I'd asked her to be a surrogate mother for me and my recess girlfriend. But who cares, I got an "A." That assignment also marked the first and last time as a sportswriter that I ever wrote about Steve Francis.
But as much as I loved all sports, boxing was right up there with any of them. Upon discovering the sport as a young AT, Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad all became as much a part of my sports television viewing as Ken Griffey Jr., John Elway and Shaq. Granted I didn't completely understand the "Sweet Science," of boxing, but something always appealed to me and kept me coming back. Looking back now, it was probably just the simplicity of the sport: No crazy rules or exaggerated playoff formats. Just two dudes in a ring beating the crap out of each other. Last man standing was the winner.
Of course since my early days, we all know what has happened to the sport of boxing: There are simply too many different belts, corrupt judges and top fighters avoiding each other, to keep the sport mainstream, and the casual fan interested.
It also doesn't help that the best young athletes are gravitating toward other sports (You know, to avoid getting their brains beaten in for 20 years), and the next generation of boxing superstars never emerged as De La Hoya and Jones got older and their skills diminished. Add in the fact that there hasn't been a recognizable heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis, and all that leads to the sport experiencing a slow, painful demise, almost like seeing a half dead animal clinging to life on the side of a highway.
So with that lovely back drop, let's get back to the Floyd Mayweather- Shane Mosley fight on Saturday night. Because for the first time in a long time, it seemed like boxing mattered again. Believe me when I say, no one was more surprised than me.
Honestly, I knew the fight was taking place, but was in no rush to watch it. I've seen enough Mayweather fights in my life to know exactly what I'd be getting myself into if I plopped down the $60 for Pay-Per-View or hit a bar that was carrying the fight. What I'd get was Mayweather fighting his defensive style, and sneaking in a few quick jabs here and there, but other than that, there wouldn't be a whole lot of action. Mayweather would land twice as many punches, and win a 12 round unanimous decision.
As I wrote on Twitter Saturday afternoon, the fight would have "No drama. No excitement. Mosley is 38. No way he can keep up with Mayweather. Consider me uninterested."
Needless to say, that between Mayweather's history of boring fights, and the fact that Mosley is at least half a decade past his prime, I figured everyone else would feel the same way. Why waste the money when you already knew the outcome?
Boy was I wrong.
While at my buddies place for a barbeque on Saturday evening, sentiment started to grow for the fight. Not only did the casual sports fans in attendance know about it, they were pumped for it. One kid was going to a local sports bar to watch, and another was about to bail to go to a friends house.
With my buddy hosting the party, and sensing his apartment was about to clear out, he said the magic words that I'd never expected two hours earlier, but only seemed appropriate, "Why don't we just order the fight here?"
All of a sudden, everybody started to pipe up:
"I've got 10 bucks."
"Here's a 20."
"All I've got is five, but take it."
And after checking under the couch cushions for some nickles, dimes and pennies, we had ourselves a boxing match.
After ordering and flipping on the undercard, a few of us gathered around the TV, beers in hand, ready to talk boxing, while everyone else kept the party going in another room. We all had opinions on the two fighters in the first match, one who happened to be Miguel Cotto's brother, the other a red-headed freckled kid, that I personally nicknamed, "Irish," Danny O'Brien. Of course, his real name turned out to be Saul Alvarez, and the mood was set for a fun evening, as everyone got in a few laughs. Even if they were at my expense.
And as the main event got ready to go down, the rest of the guys gathered around and clamored for the good seats, while the girls, confused, sat in the corner and pretended to text, wondering why all of a sudden no one was paying attention to them.
The introductions came and went, and as the cameras panned throughout the arena, I learned an important lesson: This fight was not only a big deal in one living room in Connecticut, but in Vegas too. Will Smith was in attendance. So was Hollywood's most bizarre couple, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon. As were Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali, who was accompanied by some small, strange child, sitting on his lap. That sight alone caused the biggest commotion of the entire night.
Once the fight got underway, the tension grew thicker, as everyone moved to the edge of their seats, all glued to the TV. Mosley came out looking strong, and landed a few big blows to Mayweather's head. Mayweather didn't seem to have much pop behind his punches. Was this going to be a fight after all?
We all thought so in the second round, when Mosley landed a crushing blow to Mayweather, which sent him to a knee. The room errupted. An upset was in the works.
Of course, for those who watched, it wasn't meant to be. After the second round scare, Mayweather got into a groove, bobbing and weaving, landing way more punches than his opponent, and making the 38-year-old Mosley, look, well, 38-years-old.
As the fight went to Round 9, then 10, and Mayweather seemed to become more interested in just avoiding a big shot from Mosley rather than trying to finish him with a big punch of his own, the air began to come out of the room. It was clear that Pretty Boy Floyd was going to win, but we weren't going to get the epic kill shot we were all hoping for.
We didn't. Mayweather won the fight, and it really wasn't close.
Regardless though, for the first time in a long time, at the end of a Saturday night fueled by booze and burgers, there were a bunch of guys talking about boxing. One yelling over the other, about Mosley and Mayweather, not to mention the Filipino elephant in the room, Manny Pacquiao.
It was like a scene from my childhood, when Oscar De La Hoya was still America's "Golden Boy," and Mike Tyson was America's resident lunatic. And everyone could still pick a handful of boxers, Roy Jones, Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe out of a crowd. A generation before that, it was Hagler and Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. And Saturday night it was Mayweather and Mosley.
Saturday's fight may have ended with little suspense, but it also started some more, as we argued with each other before the fight, and vowed to do it all again, to get the boys together and order the next big fight.
It remains to be seen when and where that next big fight will occur, and whether we actually follow up on that promise or not. But for at least one night, boxing was back on the tip of our tongues.
And I for one, couldn't have been happier.