Back... and to the Left: HBO's Weak "Face Off"Written by Marc Livitz
"Back and to the left"; Such were the words deposed in the Warren Commission many years ago. It's anyone's guess as to why the recent edition of HBO's "Face Off" would elicit such a comparison.
However, the drab nature and presentation of the showcase to build up the anticipation towards Pacquiao/Marquez III merits such an analogy as to watching the paint peel from the walls. If indeed styles make fights, then what does no style bring us? The fifteen minute film room farce should force the boxing purist to feel betrayed.
So many of us have been waiting for the third installment to settle the score between these two certain first-ballot Hall of Fame candidates. HBO's attempt to fly a swiss cheese kite in our faces makes the "threematch" appear as tantalizing as another go-round between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue.
What would have been so wrong with following the format of the preceding episodes of "Face Off"? Just having Manny and Juan Manuel on opposite sides of a steel table would have been beyond sufficient.
Instead, so much time was spent on analyzing the first fight from 2004. The pitch to us is that the first fight was a barn-burner viewed by the masses. It wasn't. Back and forth went the vague and condescending Max Kellerman with his signals to the house projector folks to freeze the action here and there.
In terms of the first fight, Manny Pacquiao was such a "hit first, ask questions later" type of slugger. How things have changed. Not just a little or even a lot. The Filipino is beyond cosmic now in terms of his ability.
After their first bout in 2004, Pacquiao has lost just once and Marquez a few more times. He took the inadvisable fight for peanuts in Indonesia against Chris John and then of course lost to Pacquiao in 2008 in a razor-thin decision. This was one where you could ask one hundred different fans for their opinions on the fight and possibly get just as many answers.
No one can blame Juan Manuel Marquez for his loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. "Money May" climbed into the ring as gold bullion and he was happy to pay a petty minor fine in his eyes for not making the contracted weight.
Kellerman twice asked the combatants on the program to stand up and demonstrate what they think they may have been thinking during the two bouts. Perhaps this writer is way off course, but it looked as scripted as a daytime soap opera.
Again, the true fight fan should feel slighted. These battles were ours and now we're subjected to the lows when it comes to selling a fight to the public. Why? Come November, the only American sport that will matter will be the NFL. Baseball will be done, there will be no NBA ball to talk of and hockey will just be getting warmed up.
A few years ago, this fight had to happen. Now, it's just happening. We've had enough of the glorified infomercials to persuade us to plunk $60 on a Pay-per-View fight. We know we have to pay to watch. We just don't need to be reminded of why it's necessary.
In doing so, the sales pitch feels less to us, the boxing public as it does to those who see it only as a prelude to Pacquiao versus Mayweather. Salad fork and then dinner fork, is it? Never mind the theatrics. Max Kellerman could just have easily used a clicker and paused the action himself. It all seemed to make us feel as if we were supposed to feel subjected to a well-practiced performance and not the truth.
Forgive this vent, if you please. What was perhaps most irritating was the fact the great trainer, Nacho Beristain may as well have been hooked up to a car battery. He was able to sneak in a word or two right before the credits rolled.
Think of it this way. Juan Manuel has been available to us on HBO and some Spanish networks for his last few fights. Manny hasn't been on regular cable TV since 2005. "Dinamita" Marquez is perhaps the People's Champion in his native Mexico. Manny is important enough to stop traffic and crime in the Philippines. Both boxers are likeable, approachable and classy.
The only difference is one is viewed as a current 5-to-1 favorite and the other is but a side note, as sad as it may seem.
The completion of this article is a few days late due to the passing of my Aunt. Annette Brown, I'll miss you. May you rest in peace.