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A Shocking End to a Great Fight

Yesterday my youngest daughter’s high school hosted an invitational dance tournament. Since we were the hosts, my wife and I both worked the tournament. I was part of the security detail and for four hours wore a black T-shirt that said “SECURITY” in big white letters–a first for me. The home team swept the tournament, happily.

Last night, at my son’s invitation, we watched the epic fourth battle between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez at a boxing gym in Minneapolis. It was a fun evening, featuring a giant screen, excellent Mexican food, and a crowd of local boxers, trainers and fight fans. The three preliminary bouts were rather listless and all went the distance, but the main event was a thriller.

The action was furious from the opening bell. Generally, Pacquiao carried the action and landed most of the punches, but in the third, Marquez caught him with a looping right that Manny never saw coming and that sent him to the canvas. Pacquiao rebounded from that decking with a furious flurry in the following rounds; he knocked Marquez down in the fifth and broke his nose. Marquez hung on as the fighters went toe to toe for the remainder of the round, which one observer termed “one of the wildest rounds in the history of the fight game.” Several rounds, including the fifth, finished to cheers and applause from our crowd at the gym.

Pacquiao wanted to finish Marquez in the sixth. He dominated the round and had Marquez in trouble in a corner as the final seconds ticked down. Then, just five seconds before the bell, Pacquiao stepped into another right hand from nowhere that he never saw, as Marquez delivered one of the most devastating punches in modern boxing history. Pacquiao went down like a sack of flour. The question at ringside was not whether he would get up before the count expired, it was whether he would get up, period. In one of those horrible, yet riveting scenes that boxing sometimes provides, the cameras showed Manny’s wife Jinkee trying hysterically to make her way to the ring and being restrained by Manny’s retinue.

Speculation this morning centers on whether we will see a fifth Pacquiao-Marquez bout. Maybe. I’m not so sure we will ever see Manny in the ring again, and the long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao match has surely gone up in smoke. But it was a great fight with a stunning conclusion, a reminder that, to revise Hemingway, the sports other than boxing are just games.

The evening even had a political twist: Mitt and Ann Romney were at ringside. The television broadcast showed Mitt shaking hands with Pacquiao in Manny’s dressing room before the fight. For what it’s worth–nothing, at this point–Mitt got a generally favorable reaction from last night’s fight crowd.

Snow is coming down heavily this morning, so we will have a white Christmas here in Minnesota. This afternoon it’s off to the shooting range with Mitch Berg and his brother, then it will be time to decorate the Christmas tree.

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