wine by the color

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In my many years as a sports fan, I have seen hundreds of live events. Baseball, basketball, cycling, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, hockey, horse racing, lacrosse, rugby, skiing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field, wrestling. Hell, I've even seen figure skating live. But I had never seen a boxing match. And I'm a long-time boxing fan who often watched heavyweight fights on pay per view back in Tyson's heyday.

Well, I can cross boxing off the list. And I shall cross it off again. And again and again. I sent a text message to the Sandman late last night that read: Live boxing may be my new favorite thing.

I'm hard-pressed to remember a more entertaining, exciting evening.

An old college friend e-mailed to say he was coming to Jersey to see the Pavlik-Hopkins fight in Atlantic City and might I be available to join him and his buddy. Pavlik hails from Ohio, a Youngstown hero who scrapped his way to the middleweight crown. While it would mean skipping the Hunt for the first time in years, it sounded like a potentially good time.

So I drove down to AC Saturday afternoon and watched the Buckeyes manhandle Michigan State while enjoying a few Guinness. We wandered over to Boardwalk Hall and bought tickets, then returned to the casino for a little gambling (which effectively resulted in a decrease of the price of my ticket for the fight, which was a nice bonus) before returning to the hall for the fights. We watched two of the undercard fights, which did a nice job warming up the crowd for the main event, which finally started around 11:30 p.m.

I knew the fight was a fairly big deal but didn't realize just how big until Michael Buffer appeared to do the introductions. Michael Buffer's here? I am ready to rumble!!!

Then the fighters came out amid boisterous parades of fanfare. Unbeknownst to us, Pavlik was fighting a Philly native, who had major support in the crowd given the short travel time down the AC Expressway. Given that Pavlik is white and Hopkins is black and the fans of each seemed to follow suit, there was also an undeniable racial undercurrent in the building.

Half the world seemed to be in the ring prior to the start of the fight...

And then, it was fight time.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the action. Honestly, I was on the edge of my seat for an hour. You know when you're watching a football game and your team is driving and the anxiety of whether they'll score is almost more than you can take? That's what the entire fight was like. Just knowing that at any second, someone could unleash one punch that could put his opponent on the floor was incredibly tense. Would it abruptly end in the second round? Would it go all 12? I could not take my eyes off the ring, waiting for that punch to land.

Ring girls. There were two who swapped every other round. The other one had legs that seemed 8 feet long, but I didn't think to take a picture of the side show until prior to the 12th round, and it wasn't her turn. They both received the obligatory amount of whistles and catcalls.

For reasons I could not understand, a large number of people left at the start of the 12th round. If you've stayed that long, why not stay until the end? Where did you have to go?

Anyway, when the fight concluded, a small melee broke out, as by then the entire world seemed to be in the ring...

In the end, Hopkins was a unanimous victor in a fight that didn't seem as close as it was scored. No one ever landed that knockdown punch. But that was almost secondary for me. I was hooked. I learned a ton about the sport from my friend's buddy, a huge fight fan and Youngstown native who took the loss fairly well.

But just like that, it was over. An hour of unbearable tension, gone. We quietly walked down the boardwalk on a chilly, windy evening and returned to the Trop, calling it a night shortly thereafter.

Now, the fight, it should be mentioned, was only half the show. There was also the fashion show.

First, if you are looking for a well-dressed black man, go to a fight. I'm not kidding. A sea of nattily-attired black men, everywhere I looked. By and large, their white counterparts accorded themselves nicely as well.

But the women...

Let's say the crowd was 95 percent male. That means of the 13,000 spectators in the building, 650 were female. Of those 650 females, 610 of them were dressed like hookers, rap video dancers or Kim Kardashian. I found myself openly gaping at my fellow female fightgoers because I just could not believe what they were wearing. At least 20 times, I found myself wondering, "Where would you even buy something like that?" I could smack myself for not taking a few photos of the outfits. That was just poor planning on my part, and I apologize.

But to my delight, today I discovered Freakgirl is a big fan of boxing as well (you're friends with someone for 25 years and still can learn something new - who knew). So next time I go, I'm bringing her with me. And I assure you we'll properly capture this other part of the experience.


  • At 10/20/2008 10:38 PM, Blogger Brooke said…

    I saw Gotti-Ward III back in 2003 ... it was one of my first outings with Rich and Co. Gotta say, seeing it live totally changes your perspective on boxing. The atmosphere beats that of just about any sporting event (PSU-OSU excluded, of course).

  • At 10/21/2008 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    A Big time horse race is hard to beat. While I have never seen a triple crown race, seeing the Breeders Cup classic last fall was neat. The excitement as they loaded in to the gate is amazing.

    Guess Who.

  • At 10/21/2008 7:46 AM, Blogger jersey girl said…

    What is this Penn State you all keep talking about? :)

    I've never seen a major horse race live. I'll have to add that to the list.

    Along with more boxing, of course.

  • At 10/22/2008 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did I mention Alex runs a bus trip to the Derby complete with girls in big hats...? SHU

  • At 10/22/2008 6:59 AM, Blogger jersey girl said…

    I have made a mental note about that. :)


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