'Left-Hook Lounge': Vivek Wallace's Mailbag feat. Pacquiao, Wlad Klitschko, Dirrell/Abrahams, Jones/B-Hop, and Julaton!
Chester L. (London): I'm a huge fan of Manny Pacquiao over in the U.K. and I find him to be a global icon, but I don't think mainstream America has respected him as such. Why do you think Americans haven't taken to him as much?
Article posted on 23.03.2010
Vivek W. (ESB): I think there are a couple of ways to dissect this question, but each of those other ways may only lead to other questions....many of which surround us as Americans more so than Manny Pacquiao himself. One neutral perspective is that when you measure the strength of Pacquiao as a 'global icon', you have to really ask yourself what has Pacquiao done to move beyond the shadow of the sport itself. He has done a few concerts here and there, but lets be honest here.....the reason his concert in Hawaii was canceled despite the huge Filipino fan base was because his talent outside the ring simply doesn't parallel that inside of it. So, for those who don't follow the sport, there's very little reason to find him to be iconic. Now, on a deeper level, there's a cultural concern that alters the way many in America receive him that you probably won't read every day, yet no one can truly question the validity of it..
America has long been known as the land of the free. Maybe too free. Part of the freedom that many outside the country love is the fact that it breeds an element of what I would call invisible contempt, which allows our citizens to do things immorally without normal levels of concern. Where this all comes into play is the fact that this 'invisible contempt' also breeds a certain feeling of empowerment, giving the perception that no one on the outside could ever be any better. This limb of egoism partly explains why Americans have been able to take their act on the road and be celebrated, yet rarely give that same level of interest in the foreign acts of others.
The bottom line here.....similar to the egos in which they possessed, both Ali and Tyson (American fighters) were accepted global icons because aside from what they did inside the ring, they had typical brash American personalities and they hailed from a land that everyone seems to love. The sad part is that regardless of how great their modern day contemporaries are, plenty from their homeland simply have too much ego in the head to find enough kindness in their heart to ever truly marvel the act of many others outside of it. Bruce Lee was the last Asian to conquer this territory. Pacquiao is just as great a fighter, but due to the fact that his appeal outside the ring is not on par with what many Americans would find top-tier, don't look for his movies in a theater near you any time soon. Sad but true.
Alex R. (Berlin, Germany): After seeing him defeat Eddie Chambers, what are your thoughts about Wladimir Klitschko, in regards to him being a potential G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) in the sport of boxing?
Vivek W. (ESB): For starters, I think you have to give Wladi-K his just due - as it relates to his effort against Chambers. He controlled the fight from the beginning to the end, and never let up until his man went down. That being said, the discussion of him being the greatest-of-all-time comes with a totally different set of obligations. A much steeper set of obligations. In my personal opinion, that legendary status comes with unequivocal greatness that transcends all bounds, and technically, should also bear a certain level of fundamental brilliance as well. When you try to analyze Wladi-K's relevance to that level of greatness, it's a bit difficult. From a supportive standpoint, you simply can't deny a man who has absolutely destroyed practically every opponent he has ever faced.
He has been as dominant as dominant can be, and without question, many of the best of his era knew that they never really stood a chance well prior to squaring off against him. That being said, the operative words in that last sentence were "the best of his era"....as many would truly question how deep that talent pool really was. To his benefit, a lack of depth can't really be held against him, but where the problem lies is that any legitimate G.O.A.T. contender is someone that unequivocally owns not only his era, but several of the past, with a claim for many more in the future. Where the weakness of this era comes into play is the fact that I truly don't know how well Wladi-K would handle himself in the midst of certain contenders like a prime "Iron" Mike Tyson, or Lennox Lewis, or even Muhammad Ali.
A telling stat of his that really highlights the question relative to his chances against men of other eras is the fact that aside from the Samuel Peter showdown, he has rarely overcome strong adversity in a fight that resulted in a knockdown. The flip side of that is that he has never lost a fight in which he finished on his feet, but for the man lucky enough to test his chin and find success, he has never shown the resolve to get back up and complete the mission. When I think of all the warriors of the past, that statistic alone would stop ME PERSONALLY from calling him a G.O.A.T. At the end of the day, I think Wladi-K is a great fighter, but technically, I rate his own brother to be a bit better fundamentally and an somewhat a better overall competitor. If he is questionable when measured against his own brother, I certainly don't think it makes sense to even begin to measure him against all the other greats in the history of the sports once most prized division. Good? Yes....Great? I think you'd have to say yes, based on the success of his resume....A G.O.A.T.? Nah, I don't think so!
Jason R. (Washington, DC): Who do you like in the Abraham/Dirrell showdown this week and why?
Vivek W. (ESB): The trend so far in the tournament is that the hometown fighters have each gotten the nod. The reason that I don't think this 'hometown victory' trend will continue in this fight is because the man who will be on the road this time will also be the only one of the group with the ability to remove judges from the equation, taking things into his own hands....literally. Abraham has a strong defense, great stamina, and thunderous power, but considering that it took 12 rounds to knock Jermain Taylor out, I'm not so sure that he'll KO Dirrell. That being said, Dirrell has shown stamina issues at points in the past and that could place him in immediate danger against someone like Abraham. The wildcard here is that Andre Dirrell has great speed and sufficient power himself. If he can find a way to penetrate that defense of Abraham and get him to open up a bit, things could get interesting.
In the end, I like Abraham to win, but I think Dirrell is a very live underdog, and if he finishes the fight on his feet, I wouldn't rule out his chances of a points win. I'm looking forward to this fight more than any other this week coming up, and I don't think fight fans will be disappointed when it's all said and done.
Marcus E. (Sunny Isles, FL): Despite the age of the two fighters, I'm very pumped about the Hopkins/Jones showdown because they have a long standing history. Will you be watching, and what are your thoughts on the showdown?
Vivek W. (ESB): Personally, I can think of a few things that make both men dangerous. I won't go out on a limb and predict at this point, but what I will do today is take a brief look at these two men and the chances they'll have against one another. In Bernard Hopkins, he will enter the ring knowing that of the two, he's clearly the 'fresher', by far. Jones hasn't looked himself lately and after getting KO'd in one round, many have openly wondered why he's even taking part in this affair. Now....there are a number of other things that I think we can scope to display how bad a predicament it would appear Jones is in, but the reality here is that he comes into the fight with a few strong points, as well. For starters, Jones will enter the ring knowing that this is a man he has not only defeated, but soundly defeated. That could serve as the boost that he failed to gain against other opponents in recent times.
Secondly, Jones will enter this ring knowing that despite the debacles against Tarver, Johnson, Green, and others, a solid performance and subsequent victory over an aged but talented opponent places him right back in the thick of things. In a sport where words like "exposed" and "washed up" reign supreme, it's a bit telling that a man who is perceived to be a shell of himself is now one solid performance away from regaining it all. Well, sort of. But, in the end analysis, will it be a fight of the year candidate? Probably not. Will it be entertaining? I think so. This is 17 years of bad blood rewinding the hands of time. Not only that, but it's two legends, and potentially a swan song for one, if not both men. I'll be tuned in, and I think it's worth a watch for any one that considers themselves a fight fan.
Mario A. (Covina, CA): I saw an article you did with Filipino Ana Julaton a while back. What are your thoughts on the way she's changing the face of female boxing?
Vivek W. (ESB): A unified champion in less than 10 career pro fights! That's all that needs to be said in regards to how good Ana really is! I have watched the career of Ana Julaton evolve as both a friend and journalist for years now, and I think what she's doing for the sport of boxing is totally unparalleled, to say the least. I say it that way because not only is she a great for female boxing, but she embodies a personality that transcends the sport itself. When you hear about the great names of the sport, you hear Mayweather, or Pacquiao. When you hear about great Filipino fighters, you hear Donaire and maybe one or two other fighters beyond Pacquiao. Why her name isn't mentioned in these sentences is a huge question mark to me, as never before in the HISTORY of the sport (men or women) have we seen a person unify a particular weight class in less than 10 pro fights. In Kelsey Jefferies, Ana defeated a veteran for the IBA strap with well over 50 fights who had both seen it all and done it all. In Donna Biggers, she defeated the WBO champion who was also a solid veteran with nearly 30 fights under belt at the time.
For whatever reason, promoters and fight fans alike have somewhat forgotten how intriguing women's boxing could be, but I can say one thing unequivocally.....watch Ana fight, and I guarantee you return to watch more. She's hungry, she has intensity, and she has heart. Unlike several others in the game today, she's far more than a smile and a pair of gloves. This coming Saturday night she'll be back in the ring again for a shot at the WBA super-bantamweight strap. A victory in that fight and I will personally lobby to get on her a major network card. How much do I think she's changing the sport? With another successful victory Saturday night, I'd like to think some promoter and TV exec will jump on the bandwagon and finally give her a chance to show you that for herself! Stay tuned.
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, and Myspace).
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