Shane Mosley waits in his corner for the verdict after battling Manny Pacquiao… (Steve Marcus / Reuters )
A problem with boxing is that the punches you don't see are often more significant than those you do.
Such was the case with Saturday night's Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight in Las Vegas.
If you were there, in the crowd of 16,412 at the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena, you saw Pacquiao do pretty much what he has for the last four or five years. He beat up the other guy. He is too fast, too well trained and too strong — despite usually being smaller than the other guy — to lose.
If you paid your $59.95 and watched at home, you probably got an even better look at the dominance of Pacquiao and the stunned submission of Mosley, who had uttered one of the silliest prefight efforts at hype in boxing history. "My only concern about this fight," Mosley had said, "is that I have no concerns."
Mosley's current concern should be finding meaningful employment after his upcoming retirement from boxing.
What you also saw, either in person or at home, was a failed gamble on the part of one of the leaders of the sport, Top Rank Promotion's Bob Arum and his stepson, Todd DuBoef. Their attempt was to take the sport from the static world of HBO cable to Showtime and the additional exposure lent to the fight by Showtime parent CBS.
Boxing on network television has been gone for decades. The exposure on HBO, while substantial, pales in comparison to an over-the-air network such as CBS. It has the potential of reaching hundreds of millions of additional people.
Arum and DuBoef got tired of the growth-ceiling HBO represented. HBO, often distinguished by its arrogance, sniffed and assumed it would prevail in the bidding for this Pacquiao fight because it always had. Arum had Pacquiao, the only thing that really matters in boxing right now. HBO assumed it had Arum.
So, when Showtime landed the Pacquiao-Mosley fight, much on the strength of a CBS commitment to the additional exposure of a rip-off of HBO's "24/7" series called "Fight Camp 360°" on the mothership network, the grand gamble had begun.
Much was at stake. The challenge for all niche sports, boxing certainly one of them, is to capture larger pieces of the mainstream sports fan pie. If you can turn a sliver into an eighth, you have taken your sport to a new level.
Give Arum and DuBoef credit for a good try. For a man about to turn 80, who has seen it all and done it all, Arum is amazingly, and refreshingly, anti status quo.
But when you draw for an inside straight, the cards seldom fall right.
The weeks of buildup went well. CBS kept its part of the bargain in network exposure. The pay-per-view buys probably went well, too, with anything more than 1 million enough for CBS and Showtime, as well as Top Rank, to rationalize success.
DuBoef and CBS even seemed to extend an olive branch to fans of the competing mixed martial arts events by putting on a prefight show that was part rock concert, part eardrum buster and part Disneyland parade. Its apparent appeal to that demographic could also bring with it a marketing opportunity for others not in that group.
Still, credit should be given for seeking new fans, no matter how many decibels and laser lights were unleashed on unsuspecting sensory systems.
The failure was not in vision or production. It was in execution. Pacquiao's execution of Mosley.
It was a bad fight. The drama landed with a thud about the same time Mosley landed on the canvas in the third round. It would have been better had he not gotten up. But when he did, and when he managed to drag the proceedings on for nine more uneventful rounds, all merely exercises in the obvious and inevitable, the grand gamble had failed.
CBS/Showtime must be wondering why it got itself into all this sound and fury, signifying nothing. Boxing's best (only?) hope now is Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr., and you'd probably have to dress Pacquiao up in a security guard uniform to make it competitive.
Fans want good fights. Even fans who had never seen one before could see Pacquiao-Mosley wasn't. All the music, bright lights, noise and CBS infomercials can't change that. Lousy tasting chocolate cake can't be fixed with extra frosting.
Arum and DuBoef tried, but neither can get in the ring and do the final work. CBS/Showtime got stuck with a clunker.
Then, both Mosley and Pacquiao added to that with their honesty. Mosley, who had exuded confidence well beyond the normal boxing hype, said in the postfight interview in the ring that he was outmanned, that Pacquiao hit too hard. Pacquiao, with the pie-in-the-sky Mayweather fight always hovering about, said, "For me, I don't care about that fight. I'm satisfied with what I've done in boxing."
That almost sounded like a retirement speech for Philippine Congressman Pacquiao. Not what CBS/Showtime wanted to hear.
And then there was the sign-off essay on the pay-per-view telecast by CBS' star sportscaster James Brown, who basically apologized for having bought into Mosley's prefight swagger and for expecting a good fight.
Good effort, boxing, but you took one on the chin this time.