Baseball will always be the favorite diversion here at Plate Coverage, but boxing… well, boxing is something else.
Boxing can’t be classified as a diversion, or entertainment; the stakes are just too high, the risks too great for the participants. Boxing is the most fascinating, harrowing, awe-inspiring athletic endeavor we have. Fighters sacrifice everything--everything--to pursue glory, to build a better life for their family, or to simply test their resolve or ply their trade (a trade that reserves as its price the health of those who participate). The courage, skill and athleticism displayed during a prize fight is unique in all of sport--elite fighters are the best conditioned, best trained, and, unquestionably, the bravest athletes in the world (and because of where they often come from, and where they strive to go, they are among the most interesting athletes in the world).
It's too bad the sport has self-sabotaged itself out of cultural relevance with “sanctioning bodies” that serve as little more than organized extortionists (or legal cartels, if you prefer); meaningless rankings and “titles” (those repellent sanctioning bodies again); promoters and managers who prioritize internecine squabbling over the interests of fighters and fans; and television networks that refuse to work with one another, content to lock away their scraps and starve the sport rather than create and share a banquet. Mismatches, fixed fights, rampant doping, incompetent judging… boxing no longer even attempts to mask its transgressions.
Despite the incompetence, corruption and greed that cling to the sport like the stench of a gym, boxing persists – supported entirely by a stalwart core of aficionados (count Plate Coverage among these self-loathing masochists) who seem willing to endure any amount of disrespect and condescension, any amount of disappointment and frustration, for the chance to witness the savage poetry that is a competitive bout between well-matched, elite fighters. The most special night in sports is Fight Night, when a contest becomes an event. This Saturday is Fight Night.
The bout between Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KO) and Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KOs) presents one of those irresistible--and increasingly rare--match-ups that years ago would have captured a share of public imagination and attention: Two undefeated fighters, in their physical primes, headlining a national broadcast; two of the five best welterweights (147 lbs.) in the world battling to unify a title,[i] with the winner likely to ascend to the top of boxing’s most talented and glamorous division (at least until Manny Pacquiao and Amir Kahn conclude their business April 23); two young, brash, tough fighters with skill and will and personality (and, because this is boxing, at least one outrageous, racist trainer).[i]
Thurman is favored by odds makers, primarily because of his advantages in size and power (and the nagging fact that Garcia hasn’t faced a worthy opponent in nearly three years). We tend to agree: The prediction here is Thurman by unanimous decision in a compelling, entertaining bout. You should tune-in—the bet here is that it will be worth your time.
RIP, Ned Garver
Ned Garver, a fine pitcher saddled with terrible teams his entire career, died this week at the age of 91. As we noted here, 379 pitchers have logged at least 2000 innings in the majors; only one ended his career with exactly the same number of strikeouts and walks. In 2477 IP, Ned Garver both walked and K'd 881 batters.
Garver finished with a career record of 129-157, despite an adjusted ERA that was 12% better than the league average (Garver, in fact, makes our Unluckiest Staff of All-Time, where he keeps some excellent company). Garver pulled off quite the magic trick in 1951, compiling a 20-12 record for a pathetic St. Louis Browns club that went 52-102. Garver became the first pitcher to win 20 games for a team that lost more than 100. May he rest in peace.
[i] Well... kind of. Sort of. Maybe not. As ESPN's Nigel Collins writes, "Technically, it's a semi-unification, which is a bit like that pizza commercial in which the guy behind the counter hands the customer a pie with a slice missing. Only in this case, it's a couple of slices. Kell Brook... also holds a belt. And then there's Manny Pacquiao, who has a trinket of his own and also happens to be ESPN's No. 1-ranked welterweight."