Let's be real for a moment. It doesn't take a genius to tell you boxing ain't what it used to be in the US (or anywhere for that matter). The heavyweight division, the golden goose of the sport, is without a true star. Quick, who is the current heavyweight champ? Can't think of it? Me either...A quick search tells me the belts are held by 4 different people, one being a Klitchko, the others being guys by the name of Ibragimov, Chagaev, and Maskaev. Not names that just roll over American tongues very easily. Therefore, interest has moved down to the lower levels where the fighters tend to be more what fight watchers are used to (ie American, Mexican, and Carribean).
In general, there is this feeling of "remember when" about boxing, back in the days when it used to be great, back in the days when it used to be THE sport that garnered media attention in the US, alongside baseball and horse racing. Now the sports scene is too cluttered, parents are too sensitive, and prize fights have been relegated to pay-per-view and week-delayed premium channel broadcasts. Yet, for much of my life, the choice was often to stay in or gather together with a bunch of friends to watch HBO's "Boxing After Dark" on a Saturday night, even if the fight happened a week ago and everyone already knew the result. Boxing, at its best, is still one of the greatest sports to watch.
With that in mind, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to watch the Floyd Mayweather, Jr-Ricky Hatton fight when I found out it would be televised live at the British Bulldog (across from the American Consulate, Wulumuqi Rd) this past weekend. This being a British pub, the crowd was obviously pro-Hatton, though there were some Mayweather supporters, I'd put the split at 70% Hatton, 20% Money May, and 10% neutral, the crowd was also probably 98% non-Chinese.
I like Ricky Hatton, a lot. He comes across as your average guy, the kind of guy who got discovered fighting outside a Manchester pub after a few too many Stellas on a Friday night. Those around him have played up this regular guy image, though in reality he's spent most of his life training as a fighter. That said, he's still your typical Brit, with an unbelievable passion for Manchester City (he's not United, that gives him points in my book) and enjoys a pint or two (when not in training at least). My raging anglophilia means that I was of course hoping for him to pull the fight out, despite logic telling me it would be next to impossible.
I'm going to limit what I say here, just because no analysis, especially mine, could even come close to that of what you'll find at No Mas (regular and Anonymoused, its not a direct link, but scrowl down to "The Electrocution of Ricky Hatton", trust me, its worth it!). For much of the fight, Hatton was hampered in his effectiveness, his "attack" looked brave and impressed the uninitiated, but failed to do damage. It was funny that some Brits claimed American bias due to HBO's regularly showing Mayweather replays after rounds, the difference is that Mayweather's blows were impressive shots, snapping Hatton's head back, where as Hatton's punches were far from punishing. Mayweather's speed was amazing (both feet and hands, but especially hands), if Hatton even gave him a milisecond opening to punch, Hatton would end up getting smacked with a power punch. Hatton fans could be proud afterwords, their man stood tall and took more big punches than most other fighters could.
A word on the venue: It's my understanding the Bulldog doesn't usually open until 11 am, thus the 9 am opening may have been the main reason they were completely unprepared. It was nice they didn't charge the RMB30 cover charge that some expat mags quoted, but if they did, there would have been live boxing. Arriving around 10 am (the main event wasn't until around noon local time), the lower level was packed and so we moved to the 2nd floor. The "bar" on the 2nd floor wasn't up and running and only one waitress was there to serve the large number of patrons causing complete chaos. Despite the expat mag ads talking up the complete English breakfast they'd be offering, the only thing that was available (and it wasn't even on the menu) was eggs benedict, which, in most cases, required at least an hour wait. Being the only bar in the city showing the fight, they should have been prepared for the demand, but it was a complete failure of planning and customer service, not altogether unusual in China. Don't think I'll be going back to give it a second shot anytime soon.