When Amir Khan fell to the canvas after Danny Garcia hit him, I had never watched a boxing match.
As it happens, I didn't see him lose to Garcia either, but I did watch the highlights on Youtube the morning after. I lived in the UK for a few years, and had been following the whole Haye-Chisora circus with disdain and loathing. I like a good round of fisticuffs as much as the next man, but boxing as an organized sport seemed to me to consist largely of a cross between dope peddling and chest-pounding.
But I digress. While following the whole sorry spectacle over my morning coffee, I noticed this other fight that featured a fighter said to be "chinny". Now, it struck me, even as one who knew nothing about boxing, that while a LeBron or a Tiger might be able to flourish in their respective arenas with a weakness to being hit on the chin, it was particularly disadvantageous for a boxer to possess that trait. And yet - and yet! - he was the favorite. How could this be?
So it was with a warm smugness that I checked the news on Sunday to see that yes, the fighter who didn't handle being hit in the face well had indeed been unable to handle being hit in the face. What was all the fuss about, I wondered, and betook myself to Youtube to see.
Hmm, I thought, he did look good before that counter. Then I googled the fight, came to BLH, and got hooked on the community, but that's not really the point of this post either.
The real reason I wrote this post is because there have been complaints recently about "hypetrains", and nobody has yet seen fit to defend them. I wish to do so.
Now, Golovkin has a hypetrain. Deontay Wilder and Keith Thurman have hypetrains. Even Rigondeaux has his own hypetrain, I imagine. I think it's fair to say that a hypetrain is an irrational projection of victory that is not currently justified by a fighter's record. But what's wrong with that?
(I mention briefly and dismiss the notion that trolls ride in on hypetrains. The truth is that trolls ride in on any train of thought, and have even been known to express themselves when a bandwagon is lacking. Just as annoying as hypetrain trolls, perhaps even more so, are trolls who troll by dismissing legitimate arguments as hypetrains. Also trolls who troll by dismissing legitimate arguments as trolling. Also trolls who troll by trolling. I guess I'm just trying to say that trolls suck, but hypetrains are not the reason why they suck, just a flag of convenience they wave while sucking.)
Let's talk about Jenga for a second. The ostensible aim of Jenga is to build a tower of bricks as high as possible. But that's not why we play Jenga, is it? No, we play Jenga for that one moment when it all comes down, so we can express dismay and shock and say the same things we said the last time the tower fell, and the next hundred times it falls. It would be disappointing to build a tower that didn't collapse.
In much the same way, boxing is ostensibly about winning a fight, but that moment - that glorious moment! - when a fighter you knew, you just knew, was going to fall actually does fall - whether it's like a sack of potatoes, a ton of bricks, or an overeager blancmange - is sheer pleasure. The joy of seeing a prediction come true and the bloodlust all boxing fans dare not deny, combined into an instant when time freezes and you see shock, dismay or just disbelief on a man's face, makes you, for that moment, a prophet.
Like the old-time preacher who calls a lightning strike down on pagan unbelievers, you know that right is on your side. That man lying over there: he is unconscious, and you knew it before that punch had been thrown - before any punch had been thrown! One regular commenter here has a sig which expresses this joy perfectly:
"When I watch a fight, I like to study one boxer's problem, solve it, and then communicate my solution vocally. Some fighters hear better and are more suggestible than others — for example, the pre-television Joe Louis. 'Let him have it, Joe!' I would yell whenever I saw him fight, and sooner or later he would let the other fellow have it."
Of course, this will lead to much inaccuracy in your predictions. If you aim to be an analyst, or even to make money from betting, this is not the way you want to approach a boxing match. No, you want a calm and dispassionate eye. You want to say, this man will probably nick it on points, and that other man might hit him hard enough to win, but then again he might not. You want to hedge your bets. (Alternatively, you can be Skip Bayless, just as a political analyst might choose to be Glenn Beck, but there's really only room for one Skip Bayless, and anyway who wants to be that guy that casual sports fans use in a fanpost for an example of terrible sports analysis?) You will want, in a word, to be correct.
And your enjoyment is derived from being correct, no doubt, which is certainly one way to enjoy sports, but it's not the only way. I'm not going to overextend my argument to claim that everyone should be on a hypetrain. I'm just saying that sometimes it's nice to take a ride and watch the world go by, without having to worry about steering or directions or watch for oncoming traffic, and that it does boxing a disservice to discourage this - as though it were immoral to root for a team/competitor in any other sport.
To come full circle, I guess you could say I became a boxing fan because Amir Khan got knocked out by Danny Garcia, and right now, as a boxing fan, there's nothing I'm looking forward to more than seeing Danny put to sleep by Lucas Matthysse. Bring on September 14!