Daily Grind

Dowbiggin: The sweet science gets rare night at the centre of the sports world

The Globe and Mail

Juan Manuel Marquez, from Mexico, right, lands a right to the head of Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, during their WBO world welterweight fight Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, in Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

“Hey, it’s Rocco from Woodbridge. Could you talk about something other than the frickin’ NHL lockout, please? I’ll hang up and listen to your comments off-air.”

Sure. While the NHL owners wait to see if their demonizing of Don Fehr gets traction, let’s try to have a life, shall we?

Let's go from one sport committing hara-kiri to boxing, another doing the same. Everything about Juan Manuel Marquez’s devastating KO of Manny Pacquiao was old school. The crowd - GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson - harkened back to the golden age of the ‘80s and ‘90s when boxing was the place to be seen in America.

Story continues below ad

(Romney visited Pacquiao’s dressing room before the fight to say, “"Hello Manny. I ran for president. I lost." Honestly.)

An inert Pacquiao lying flat on his belly beneath the ropes reminded us of the days when we whooped and hollered at vicious knockouts instead of fretting about the effect of the crushing head blow to Manny’s cognitive skills. (Who didn’t think for a brief second that Pacquiao might be dead from the way he lay on the canvas?)

Aging announcers Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant and “Let’s get ready to rumble” Michael Buffer conjured up the glory days of Tyson and Marvin Hagler and George Foreman. And decrepit huckster Bob Arum looming over everything was a Valentine to the days when he and Don King were puppet masters to the fight world.

The scene in Vegas reminded us of the electricity watching Leonard and Roberto Duran live at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal in 1980. Now, those days are as finished as Pacquiao’s hopes of a jillion-dollar payday with Floyd Mayweather.

Boxing's an anachronism. The heavyweight champions are all from somewhere in eastern Europe. Young people have moved on to the UFA where gore is poured in buckets and you can jump on a guy who’s laid out cold as a mackerel and apply a few more shots to his noggin. Generation Next thinks boxing and Muhammad Ali belong in a museum.

But, if only for a Saturday in December, it was great to see 'the sweet science" vibrant and electric at the centre of the sports world. And not feel guilt.

More NFL tragedy: After his clueless star Ndamukong Suh fell afoul of the Michigan traffic cops for the umpteenth time this week, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz suggested every NFL player should have a driver to avoid legal problems.

Apparently, Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent didn’t get the memo. An allegedly inebriated Brent killed teammate Jerry Brown in a spectacular crash after consuming a few too many cocktails. He could face up to 20 years for the crime. But driving while bubbled is a Brent specialty.

In June 2009, he was sentenced to two years probation and 60 days in jail as part of a plea deal from a DUI arrest in Illinois, where he went to school.

Making Brent’s alleged manslaughter more pathetic is that the NFL Players Association has a program where players can call a 1-800 number to get a drive home if they’ve had too much Cristal at the men’s club. Sin in haste, repent at leisure.

Costas chooses discretion over valour: NBC’s Bob Costas (Scold To The Stars) was back on Football Night In America for a dissertation on Brent’s idiocy during halftime. After the firestorm he ignited the Sunday past with comments about America’s gun culture (see Saturday’s Usual Suspects), Costas chose discretion over valour this week.

After joking about his own travails pregame (“How was your week?” he asked his fellow panelists), Costas made a few pithy comments at halftime then quickly lateraled the ball to Tony Dungy, former Indianapolis head coach and now NBC’s analyst. Presumably, Costas felt any flak from this episode in social engineering would fall on Dungy.

Dungy dodged the minefields, and told a compelling story about how, as Colts’ coach, he'd brought in a guy who’d spent seven years in prison for vehicular homicide to talk to his players. “I said, ‘You’ve got to tell this story to my team, because I’m looking for different voices, different ways to get that across.”

That sombre story relieved Costas of any duty to finger wave. He escaped to a commercial break, his e-mail account saved from being inundated a second week.

Broadway Joe weighs in: We now know who Joe Namath thinks should be the QB of his New York Jets.

@RealJoeNamath I don't care if Jacksonville is Tebow's home town, I believe we have a better chance of winning with McElroy replacing Sanchez.”

Just to make Broadway Joe happy, the Jets head coach Rex Ryan didn’t even dress McElroy for the Jags game. Postscript: the Jets won anyway.

Best off-season ever: Things keep getting better and better for the mighty Toronto Blue Jays. The Kansas City Royals, who’ve built up a fine farm system, hocked a major part of it to Tampa for starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. The Rays get some fine prospects, but the deal is not going to make Tampa better for 2013, at least.

Which is good for Toronto, which has pushed all its chips into the middle of the table.

By the way, what’s the matter with those Kansas City Royals? Don’t they realize that, under baseball’s economics, they can’t win as a small market? Don’ they understand they need a salary cap to be competitive? Gee, Gary Bettman could have told them that. In a sneering voice.

Follow us on Twitter: @Globe_Sports

Topics: