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NPR's Frank Deford on Manny Pacquiao and the State of Boxing

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Manny Pacquiao's popularity the world over is unparalleled in boxing, and maybe in any other sport. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Manny Pacquiao's popularity the world over is unparalleled in boxing, and maybe in any other sport. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Legendary sportswriter Frank Deford has unquestionably seen a lot. He's had two long stints at Sports Illustrated, written for both Newsweek and Vanity Fair, written acclaimed novels, served as a screenwriter, is a six-time U.S. Sportswriter of the Year, has been a part of HBO's "Real Sports," and so on. Mr. Deford graduated from Princeton University and is chairman emeritus of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

I wanted to know these things so that I had some perspective. Mr. Deford now works for NPR, and he discussed Manny Pacquiao for a few minutes, and had some fairly unkind things to say about the sport of boxing.

This is not a "bashing" or a huge criticism. I just thought this would be interesting to share. Here's a quick quote:

Everything that has grown wrong with boxing was on display Saturday night. Only, of course, it wasn't on display because hardly anybody saw it. Manny Pacquiao, the greatest boxer of the century, an absolute marvel of nature, who has won titles in eight divisions, ranging from 112 pounds to 154 pounds, was in the ring. But of course, per the usual boxing arrangement, while you could watch the Derby and the NBA and the NHL and your local baseball team and golf and tennis and Lord knows what else on TV free, it cost $55 if you wanted to stay up past your bedtime and take a gander at the man who is probably the greatest athlete presently working the planet.

... I've always thought that the two disparate countries that most feature personal nicknames are Australia and the Philippines. In Melbourne or Manila, every man you meet has a cognomen. As for Pacquiao, besides the obvious Pacman, in Tagalog, he's Pambansang Kamao. That translates to: The National Fist.

They don't make nicknames like that anymore in sports. The National Fist.

And I guess boxing is now The National Fizzle.

None of this, of course, is new.

But Manny Pacquiao's fights are not boxing. Neither are Floyd Mayweather's. These events, great in magnitude and the only times per year that most people take note of boxing, are not what boxing looks and smells like to those of us who actually follow the sport.

I am not arguing with Frank Deford's points overall -- Pacquiao vs Mosley wound up a sham, and the $55 price to watch the fight, in the end, a ripoff.

But did he watch the fight between Jorge Arce and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr? It's not even entirely about going out of your way to watch something. That was right there, also as part of the $55 deal on Saturday night. And it was a great fight with an inspiring performance.

Will he tune in on July 9 when Brandon Rios and Urbano Antillon collide in a fight that promises to provide bang for your Showtime subscription buck? Will he watch this Saturday night as Andre Ward looks to continue his rise up the ranks of the sport?

Will he watch any boxing ever again? Was this fight really that offensive to the senses?

Those of us who do follow the sport more than once or twice per year are as quick to point out boxing's problems as anyone, and then we can point out even more that the lookie-loos don't even know exist. But it will never stop paining me when we get another of these endless "boxing is dead" stances from someone who doesn't even care if it's alive or dead.

Maybe I'm a sucker. Or maybe there's more to boxing than just Manny Pacquiao and $55 pay-per-views.