Monday, September 04, 2006

:boxing: Deja Vu All Over Again & Again...

It is the biggest fight in either man's career in a long while. The young upstart boxer with a lot of promise, but not a whole lot of polish, versus the aging, yet wily, veteran who wants to show the critics that he can still take this young'n to school. They engage in a tight, physical brawl, unyielding to either's barrage of attacks. The veteran fighter, confident that he would have a field day with the "little boy," finds that the tactics that he has mastered for over a decade are being challenged by the skills of that very same kid. The young upstart, usually reliant on his innate power and physical prowess, begins to get a taste (and perhaps too much of a fill) of what it really means to be a "boxer." The early rounds appear to clearly go in his favor, but as the bout presses on, the elder fighter seems to be landing more shots and looks to be the more energetic of the two. Undaunted by the presence in front of him, the younger fighter still tries to go for broke, counterpunching with each volley flung at him by the master boxer, even coming up with a few new attacks and tactics in his arsenal . The years of ring-hardened, round-by-round savvy, however, has helped turn the tide of the fight towards the man that has been through the toughest of battles and the longest wars. After the chime of the final bell, both fighters raise both gloves above their respective heads, knowing for sure that they won the fight. The ring announcer reads off the three judges' scorecards to the nervously awaiting crowd and the studious corners. To the many shocks and awes, the young upstart fighter is handed the victory, leaving the wily old veteran in a state of disbelief, knowing that despite giving him all he could handle and more, he could not obtain the win in their eyes.

This very same scenario is one that could be aptly ad-libbed with the names of Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright respectively, however, this script was actually in use for last Saturday's (Sept. 2nd) bout between Samuel (Sam) Peter and James Toney. An entertaining battle between the future and the present/past, Peter came out on top in somewhat controversial fashion (that later...). Toney, the brash and quite outspoken man that he is, stood still as a stone in his corner as the results were read. A cameraperson from Showtime perfectly captured the image of what was going through his mind, which needed no added words or commentary from the observers' table. From behind, you could see–feel–the amount of dejection steaming off of Toney, and a movement to the front of his face showed not that of him jawing to people at ringside about him "getting screwed," yet instead gave a glimpse into the thoughts and mind of a man that had not lost a fight since the late 90s and surmised that he did more than enough to extend his streak and his pathway towards a future title shot. Rather, the victor was the anointed future of the staid heavyweight division, Sam Peter, who had to bring out more than his trademark power punching to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of a lock-in Hall-of-Famer of Toney's stature. Jubilant in the outcome of his task, it is the young Peter who will be looking forward to a ring dance with current title-holder Oleg Maskaev.

This instance of lightning striking twice is not totally deja vu. Toney, though at one time appearing to go after a former manager of his (now in Peter's corner) and speaking like any fighter did after they lost a fight, did not go into a full-blown diva meltdown like Wright succumbed to after his June bout (and Taylor did not have to be whisked away in the midst of celebration in avoidance of spillover violence). In the true fight itself, the combat was perhaps not as close or as hard to score for as it was in Taylor-Wright, as Toney had about a round or two, the most, above the game Peter. This aspect brings in the odd judge scoring for this fight, with two of judges giving Peter 116-111 (to the other's 115-112 Toney card), and that includes a -1 point penalty incurred by the former for losing his cool in one of the later rounds. It would not be out of the range of acceptability to consider Peter the winner, but it would be closer to a one round difference rather than two or three. Additionally, the ever-dreaded "hometown decision" (or at least the apparent one) was in reverse Saturday, as Peter beat Toney on his own turf, an accomplishment he was sure not to let interviewers forget about. And, moreover, Toney did no back-peddling in the final moments of the twelve & final round. However, in the end Samuel Peter deserves credit for taking the fight to Toney and not backing down (which surely helped him get the win, along with his power punches), and Toney, as well, for taking some nasty hits from him and showing that even in defeat, he is still among the best heavyweight contenders out there.

The recent string of "present/past vs. future" have ended in contentious manner (see Taylor-Hopkins I & II, Juarez-Barrera; which was a draw until the youngster Juarez was told in his dressing room that, due to a judge's error, he actually lost the fight by something like a point or a round), but they have been nothing but consistent, non-stop, crowd-pleasing brawls (see the all of the above, plus Hatton-Tszyu) that have showcased contrasting styles and served as learning experiences for the young combatants in the ring. In many ways, it is a sort of rite of passage for them to see whether they truly are capable to hang in the game as long as the person in front of them has, and for that certain body, it allows for a chance, whether intentional or not, to pass down the skills and ways of boxing to the new generation in a way that gym training and practice simply cannot teach them.

By beating it into them.

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