I just wrote a whole article about boxing trying to compare it to the recent pseudo-outrage from the sporting press about head shots in the NFL. After two and a half pages of typing I scrapped it. It didn’t flow very well and I wasn’t in the mood to post it because I didn’t think it represented the best I can do. Which, after reading some of the posts on here is saying something.
There was one phrase I really wanted to use. I really liked the way it sounded in my head, and the way it looked on the screen. So I guess I’ll just use it here. Noble Sadness. There ya go. Enjoy it, breathe it in. Let it resonate in your skull. Say it out loud, don’t worry your co-workers won’t mind.
The phrase popped into my mind toward the end of a Vic Darchanyan / Rodrigo Guerrero replay on Showtime I watched the other night. Darchanyan (who I thought was named D’Artagnan for the first two rounds) dominated the younger Guerrero, a Mexican fighter who was fighting on U.S. soil for the first time.
Who are these guys, you ask. Bantamweight fighters I reply. That means the two of them combined weigh less than I do. Darchanyan, an Armenian by way of Australia (Yossarian the Assyrian) is an aging champion possessing tremendous power for a fighter his size. He was defending two titles against the unheralded, unknown Guerrero and outclassed him at every turn.
The young Mexican fought valiantly, but ineffectively. Despite landing early shots on the older fighter Guerrero couldn’t hurt him. By the end of the fight he kept throwing punches, but it was visible, even to an amateur critic like myself, that there was no steam in them. His jabs lacked any snap and his power punches had no body in them.
Darchanyan would shrug off any attempted offense and then launch into a multi-punch attack that would stagger, but not drop the younger fighter. Round after round the onslaught continued, until it was kind of uncomfortable to watch. Yet he still kept coming, blows reigning down on him and the only thing I could think of was how sad it was to watch, yet there was something noble in the way he kept working at it.
By the 8th round there was no way Guerrero could win the contest. He was waaaaaaayyy behind in points (the final scores would be 120-108, 118-110 and 117-111 which means even the overly optimistic judge gave him three rounds) and there was no way he was knocking Darchinyan out. Still he kept coming forward, looking for a way, anyway, to hurt the champion.
When it was over Darchinyan’s hand was raised as the winner he looked a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to give the crowd what they wanted - a knockout. Later he would admit that Guerrero was one of the toughest fighters he had ever fought and was surprised that he hadn’t been able to floor him.
Throughout the fight the Showtime commentators wondered out loud if Guerrero’s corner was doing him more harm then good by letting the fight continue. He is young, 21 at the time of the fight, and absorbing that much damage could be detrimental to his career. Imagine James Harrison slamming into Josh Cribs not once, but 35 times a game.
Having that happen can be more damaging then the big knockout. The one punch knockout looks great, but for the most part it’s just causes temporary damage. Suffering repeated shots, jarring the head back repeatedly in a short period of time is what causes permanent damage, that’s why boxers don’t age gracefully.
Sports fans tend to skew towards gladiatorial displays of violence. Which is why I found all of the rabble-rousing about one week of violent hits in the NFL so perplexing. Yes, some of the hits were illegal and unnecessary, but if they had happened over the course of a season instead of just a few hours would there have been such a hue raised? I submit to you that it would not.
So goes the duality of sports, punching someone in the face until they fall down is ok, but hitting them in the helmet with your shoulder pad is not. This is probably why my girlfriend thinks I’m insane for watching so many sports…..