As he does so many times, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach offered a nugget of wisdom before taping an upcoming segment of Inside MMA. Sitting in a chair in the section of Wild Card Gym in Hollywood where Manny Pacquiao will be training for THE FIGHT with Floyd Mayweather, Roach summed it up.
“Everyone needs a villain. That’s what sells the tickets.”
So simple, it is perfect. Perfection is the whole theme of this long awaited showdown. Floyd undefeated and flashy; flaunting and daunting; he is perfect in the ring having beaten every peer except for Pacquiao. He has made several ill advised moves outside the ropes though and while we are a forgiving country for politicians and personalities, there is a different standard for our sports stars.
Instead of a reverence for what Mayweather has accomplished–and there is a minority who do bow on this–the majority or at least close want to see his comeuppance. He is the villain and that is not just a bias from Roach. It is being affirmed in the Las Vegas betting line where Manny, called as if known on a first name basis by his fans, are keeping him from being a big underdog as have most of Mayweather’s opponents. Many are going with their heart or the law of averages that even the greatest lose eventually. Mayweather is perfect in record, but Pacquiao seems to be perfect in person. Plus except for Mayweather, no other father has accomplished more in the past decade.
Those PPV numbers are betting you will purchase from your local subscriber something hovering around $99 to see if Mayweather will stay perfect or if Pacquiao puts the go in his 0.
In this space over the last month that theme has been frequent for we are seeing a string of perfection unlike any other sports period. For all those who who cheer the dominant UFC champion Ronda Rousey, it can be assumed there is almost equal number who want to see if this is the time someone can finally beat her. It puts Rousey in a unique spot for she is not a villain, but she is bold and confident and unapproachable in the cage. Maybe “she has too much going for her” would be the only logical argument for those who won’t praise her. After demolishing Cat Zingano in record 14 seconds time, there were speculations galore from the absurd—Will she fight a man? to the far reaching—What if former boxing champ Laila Ali came out of retirement (though never showing any interest in MMA) to fight her?
We want and we don’t want it. Members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the last NFL team to go unbeaten, gather every year to pop the cork on a champagne bottle when the last NFL team that season goes down in defeat. The 2007 New England Patriots were the biggest threat with a perfect record entering the Super Bowl against the New York Giants, a win away from a historic 19-0 mark. The Giants upset them, the cork popped loudly in Miami. It wasn’t that the old Dolphins necessarily had anything against the Patriots, but they covet being the last perfect team.
That’s an interesting question about perfection now in this era. Those Dolphins went 17-0, the Pats had already eclipsed the most wins, but with more games played in a season now the bar of perfection has been raised.
Kentucky enters the Final Four this weekend as the only team to ever be 38-0, but again there are more games to be played than when Indiana went 32-0 in 1976 as the last perfect NCAA champion. The country seems about 50/50 on wanting UK to set a 40-0 mark, and seeing them lose. Again, it would be special to see something never been done, then again Kentucky is a perennial college power with all these players sticking around for a year or two going to the pros, so why not someone else? That is the argument for the divide between perfection in sports.
When a popular fighter loses on a controversial decision there is outrage from their followers that the loss, though on the record, shouldn’t really count, they should still really be perfect. When Fedor Emelinenko was in his prime at 31-1 there were those who argued fervently the illegal elbows that led to a TKO loss in 2000 to Tsuyoshi Kosaka should be stricken from the books. The same for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones who delivered an illegal elbow and lost on a disqualification to Matt Hamill in The Ultimate Fighter 10. “That doesn’t count,” say his ardent supporters.
See, perfection is the goal and we cheer for those getting close to it, even to the degree of throwing in an occasional asterisk if they don’t make it. However, we love the upset, they make movies about movie-like Rocky teams and individuals. Such a quandary.
If Mayweather wins, if Rousey remains unstoppable, if Kentucky defies the historical odds, there will be ovations like never before. There will also be the Internet chatter of the hypothetical, those near misses that would’ve derailed unprecedented greatness. The ” What If’s” as opposed to the “What Is” of achievement.
Perfection is prominent for this fleeting moment with some extraordinary individuals and a team. They are villains to some, heroes to others, and they all make us watch whether to see if we want it or we don’t want it.
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