That Ninth Round: A Boxing Historian Struggles to Maintain His Interest

Juan Manuel Marquez is one modern fighter who brings to mind warriors of the past. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Need a little late-night reading? Ted Sares is back at Bad Left Hook.

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"There's only one way you can lick [Tony] Zale-you gotta kill him."

--Rocky Graziano

"I'll get you, you son of a bitch!"

--Rocky Marciano

"When I go out there, I have no pity on my brother. I'm out there to win."

--Joe Frazier

"It was a tough fight, but that's the way I like to win them ... I said I was going to introduce new blood to the sport, and I guess you saw a lot of new blood."

--Michael Katsidis

Recently I have had a hard time getting excited about the sport for which I have such a passion. It's not exactly writer's block; maybe it's because I have been spending an inordinate amount of time on a book project in another genre. But it's never been a problem before.

Listening to endless debates about performance-enhancing drugs and related testing, Pacquiao and Mayweather, issues associated with Antonio Margarito, and whether James Toney has it in him to take the measure of Randy Couture in a "boxing versus MMA" contest have drained me. At this point, I don't care if Manny and Mayweather ever get it on. And if the Toney-Couture affair turns out to be a farce, the entire deal will be a loss all the way around.

Watching the Super Six World Boxing Classic begin to fall apart because of injuries hopefully can be remedied by having new tournaments in other weight classes. The concept is both creative and sound.

But listening to guys like Maurice Harris and Timur Ibragimov call out the Klitschko brothers tests my patience. And I suppose we will have to suffer through Tomasz Adamek versus Lance Whitaker in the not-so-distant future. I understand the need for a big payday as much as the next guy, but seeing these guys line up like sacrificial lambs to take their inevitable beat down has become almost farcical.

There is a pattern here and I don't like it. Thankfully, we still have a Marquez-Katsidis fight, and a Marquez-Lopez one to look forward to. These men do fight with a fury that is reminiscent of warriors from a different time -- warriors who defined fury. Guys like Diego Corrales, Gatti, Ward, Julian Letterlough, a prime Tyson, Nigel Benn, and before them, Tony DeMarco and Carmen Basilio, and back even further, Zale and Graziano. But that kind of special "leave it all in the ring" style is now the exception and certainly not the rule. Vasquez and Marquez showed it in their first 3 fights. But when was the last time you witnessed it in a major heavyweight fight?

Now then, when I review my video footage of some of these older fights, I am astounded by the manner in which punches were thrown. The third Zale-Graziano fight should be witnessed by every serious fan for its sheer ferocity, not to mention one of the worse refereeing jobs in history. I wince every time I think of the ending.

This leads me back to my initial thought; namely, that I am having an atypical degree of difficulty getting excited about what I see on the current boxing landscape. More PPV fights are on the horizon, but their prices will begin to reflect revenue rather than quality. Aside from the Klitschkos, the heavyweight division is quality-challenged. Good grief, when "The Nordic Nightmare" Robert Helenius starts to make waves, you just know things are not as they should be.

Maybe I am too nostalgic and miss the old school stuff more than I should, but that's never been a real issue with me. I have always taken care to avoid falling victim to generational or era prejudice and know full well that looking through the prism of nostalgia makes everything seem better. In this regard, I have always tried to be thoughtful and objective when making comparisons between the past and the present.

A few weeks ago, I watched Tavoris Cloud get past an aging Glen Johnson (who re-hydrated to a whopping 190 pounds) over 12 grueling rounds. But in the ninth round of that fight, Cloud simply stopped fighting while Johnson threw 105 punches. And right there and then, my current malaise set in. Men who fight for a living do not stop fighting when the outcome of a championship fight is one the line. That ninth round troubled me, because back in the day, I never saw much of that. You left it in the ring; you did not take it back to the corner with you.

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