The Boston Red Sox, as Jimmy Fallon so eloquently put it in the movie "Fever Pitch," never let you down. They may not win every game, but there's no question that on most days during the summer, that team will take to the Fenway Park field - just like they have for the past 113 years - and play ball.
Boxers though....boxers will let you down. Boxers will break your goddamned heart. Why? Because no matter how good they are in their prime, no matter how talented or special, they've all got to get old. And when they do, and all you see is some timeworn, cement-legged relic lumbering around a ring that he used to dance around on winged feet years before, it's nearly impossible to recall what he looked like when he was that raw maelstrom of violence that once descended on the sport like a Plains tornado.
It's the same cruel trick the fates play on us all, it's true, but for a boxer, it's a much more public and painful decline, one that can arrive with cliff-like abruptness.
At the same time, though, that's the reason boxing is so special. Once that champion is gone, he's gone forever, and while others will follow, some better and some worse, there will never be another just like him. It's why we have to make a conscious effort to appreciate the great fighters while they're still young - while they're still dancing.
Juan Manuel Marquez is one of those fighters.
It's been a long, long career for the old warhorse, one that's seen him take on a who's-who of boxing's finest and beat most of them in spectacular fashion - hell, even his losses were thrilling. Marquez has never shied from the clash of spears, never ducked or dodged any man who wanted a shot, and his 20-year run should be considered the handbook of how a boxer should conduct himself.
Now that it's well-known that he is in the final movements of his grand symphony, I must admit that I was sort of surprised that he didn't retire following his climactic knockout of his arch-nemesis Manny Pacquaio.
After all, what more could he possibly achieve? What crescendo would ever match the grandeur of the one that saw him standing on the ring ropes, fists raised in triumph, while an unconscious Pacquaio lay utterly broken in the corner?
As the saying goes, though, fighters fight, and Marquez is that above all else - a fact he proved once again by picking Tim Bradley as his next opponent.
It's no secret that Bradley doesn't have much power, and the only way he'll be able to hurt Marquez is if his corner throws a bat into the ring. But his style of constant punching and his tremendous heart makes him an easy mark for no one, and he is, after all, (allegedly) still undefeated. In some ways, he reminds me of Juan Diaz, who was once an up-and-coming volume puncher when Marquez faced off with him in 2009.
This bout, I suspect, will unfold much the same way that one did, with Bradley seizing an early advantage only to be sunk later on by Marquez's shotgun-shell right hand and his beautiful chains of uppercuts and hooks. I'm not sure what manner the Mexican will win in, but I am certain that this man, who may be the finest combination puncher in the history of the sport, will collapse yet another thick-skulled opponent on his way to victory.
So be careful on Saturday night. Don't drink too much, and pay attention to the TV even though others aren't - be "that guy" who's absorbed in the fight. Why? Because you're watching history, and Marquez the Warrior will not be around forever.
And when he's gone, others will follow... but you will never see another that does what he can do.
This is boxing's great curse - but also its most precious gift.