Boxing is dead, long live pugilism.
The funeral is Saturday in Las Vegas, where the sport of gloved knuckles will come to its final resting place inside the MGM Grand, buried on a canvassed plot hard against the sirloin-and-lobster buffet line.
Aged champions Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. will serve as pallbearers. Human tuxedo Jim Lampley will officiate the proceedings. In lieu of flowers, the viewing public is asked to donate $100 of their meal money to Bob Arum’s deepest pocket linings.
Think reports of boxing’s death are greatly exaggerated, Mr. Twain?
Tell me the name of the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. Try again, but this time, without using your hand-dandy Internet search engine.
After Pacquiao-Mayweather, tell me another boxing match you are dying to see. Name two fighters who you would pay to see thrown together in a room to, you know, see what happens.
This is the end of boxing’s road. Mayweather and Pacquiao should have put boxing out of its hospice misery five years ago, when this fight would have been its most watch-worthy.
But no, we’ve had to endure this slow fade to the nethers for years. There is no Ali or Foreman jump roping at the local gym, no Chavez or De La Hoya fighting for a people, no Tyson or Hagler concussing their sparring partners.
No, Fresno’s next Young Corbett III (oh, Google him yourself, kids) isn’t working on heads and hooks at a downtown gym. He’s picking up Brazilian Jujitsu moves to go with his double-leg takedown at an Ultimate Fighting training center on the north side of town.
Fighters today want to show off their body ink inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon, where mixed martial artists and wrestlers and would-be boxers go prison yard on each other.
To watch UFC fights is to remember what boxing used to be — epic in scale, concussive in power, decisive in the final score. To watch a fight end in the horizontal position is to remember that’s why you used to kick in a day’s wages to pack your abuelo’s house to watch a Saturday night boxing match way back when.
You swore allegiance to fighters just because they shared your race code on the Census form, or your flag during the national anthem.
Those days are over, effective Saturday. Time to close the Sweet Science book once and for all.
There is no Big Next Match. There is no Next Great Fighter. To wish for a Pacquiao-Mayweather rematch is to wish for nothing more than year of a sport living on a non-solids diet while on life support.
Here’s the greater idea: Tell all your cousins you’ll meet them Saturday at abuelo’s house. Kick in your fair share, bring some chips and dip, and watch boxing’s last two great champions deliver a eulogy worthy of their vocation.
Then, kindly pass the remote. UFC 187 will be on soon.