Welcome to the Free Preview Week for Let's Make History! Today I'll show you guys what you get for that three-dollar donation every week, as we pull back the curtain and look behind the scenes into the making of what turned out to be one of the longest Historical Fight Night cards I've yet written.
This week was a tale of two style matchups. In one corner, you get Manny Pacquiao-Salvador Sanchez, a fight which, at featherweight, would be an instant classic if it could actually get made. When considering how to work the action, I kept the pacing curve in mind, coming out with a big open, slowing down to let the audience catch a breather, then turning the blender to liquefy in order to deliver a big finish. The ending may have been a bit of a contrivance, but it had the weight of history behind it, and what's more, it kept the fight from overstaying its welcome. I think on the whole it's one of my better pieces as far as balance and flow are concerned.
The main event was just an old-school big read, lots of twists and turns, plenty of misdirection, a little bit of uncertainty thrown into the skip-ahead points (I'll go into why I do this when we get down to the bottom line; many of you probably already sussed this out, but it'll tell the story for the less media-savvy in the crowd), and what I think was a satisfying and solidly plausible account of the finish.
It's also important to note why I choose the fights I do to put fighters into the time machine. In three of the four cases tonight, this was done with greater deliberation than usual and served the story (the fourth, the second Leonard-Duran fight, is a more prosaic choice based entirely around capturing Leonard at his absolute apex, although I turned the concept on its ear this time.) We'll get there as we go.
Salvador Sanchez W-TD8 Manny Pacquiao
The PhilBoxing crowd is going to have me ritually slaughtered for this, but the way Sanchez snapped out that overhand right against Danny Lopez gave me an opening for how this fight would ultimately go. Plus, Sanchez was a better counter puncher than he's often given credit for, due in no small part to the fact that he so often overpowered his opponents that he didn't need to fight defensively to quite the same degree as, say, Floyd Mayweather.
Pacquiao simply can't handle a crisp, clean power shot on the counter. Juan Manuel Marquez arguably beat him four times, and definitively beat him once, all thanks to that counter, and Floyd used it in May to take all the offense away from Manny by the end of the fourth round.
Still, that was just my rationale for the outcome. When I looked into how I wanted to set the tone for this fight, it was less Pacquiao-Mayweather and more Salido-Kokietgym or Matthysse-Molina, two more recent fights that had a bunch of knockdowns and an ultimately thrilling finish.
I didn't want this to just turn out as “Sanchez knocks Manny out” if I could help it, though, and that's where the scar tissue over Pacquiao's right eye comes from—-looking through Boxrec, I found my opening, as Pac had been cut in a previous fight badly enough for it to go to the scorecards.
So I had my setting and I had my exit, all in one package. All that remained was to decide how to pace it, and a fast start and wild finish with a bit of a breather in between to settle the audience down was the obvious choice. The cut in the eighth round existed mainly to prevent me from having to divide the action into thirds and take it to a decision that way---when you've already had six knockdowns, it's implausible to suggest it goes the distance.
This was also the first demonstration of my use of uncertainty to create suspense when people read a decision. Any time I use “and this went on for three rounds”, it's not just to spare myself describing blow-by-blow of repetitive action. It serves the dual purpose of creating wiggle room on the judges' scorecards so that, if I set mind to it (like in the Foster-Jones fight), I can add some cinema verité to the proceedings insofar as boxing is often a sport rooted in the suspense of the announcement of the scores.
Add it all up and that's how Salvador Sanchez wins this fight. This is also a bit of vindication for people who thought I was an idiot for suggesting Edwin Valero would knock Sanchez out back in an earlier episode.
Sugar Ray Leonard W-SD12 Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Here is an example of why I choose the fights I do to put fighters into time machines. Floyd's fight against Ricky Hatton was a different style from the usual Mayweather fight. On the various discussion groups to which I belong on Facebook, the consensus is that Floyd would have to press the attack in order to beat Sugar Ray, and Leonard always got frustrated if anyone had the balls to try and cut down the ring against him.
Therein was the root of Leonard's mental difficulties in the first seven rounds of this fight. I think Floyd could get to him and legitimately piss him off, to the point where he could force Ray out of his fight plan and into either fighting dirty or getting dragged into a dirty fight.
Leonard may have been overconfident after the Duran fight, and being brought back down to earth by Mayweather might just have been enough to rattle him. The rabbit punching and the subsequent drawing Floyd into throwing a cheap shot was predicated on that idea.
But at the same time, Sugar Ray was no fool. Emboldened by getting back into the fight but shown that he couldn't intimidate his opponent, at some point he had to wake up and get down to business before the fight got away from him again, and that was the motive force behind the “screw this, I'm going to go get this guy” writing that I did in the last five rounds of the fight.
Part of this was Rule of Cool, as I think Leonard would, in a straight-up fight, be able to get the better of most of the exchanges, and that wouldn't make for very entertaining storytelling. I had to put Leonard on the back foot in order to set up the big finish while keeping things close enough to set up a split decision. That was the other reason I set the wake-up call in round eight. It suited the narrative to make the fight a 6-6 or 7-5 in rounds type of fight, but I didn't want a draw, so that's where the point deduction came in. Read the scores again...it's a 7-5 each way and a 6-6. I'm not so sure Leonard wins that close---I think in a fair fight he carries it 8 rounds to 4 at least---but it made for a better story.
I hope those of you who may have been on the fence about donating get a chance to see what you've been missing---hopefully the prospect of having everything explained takes some of the “what was he thinking” out of the equation, and remember, your donations are what makes it possible for me to turn my writing into more than a paid hobby and into a true career.
To everyone who's donated so far, thank you so much for your support---you make the dream possible so I can put everything I have into my work. Please do share the campaign with your boxing-fan friends, get them reading Historical Fight Night every week, and help grow the community.
Next week is Fan Week, but if you want every week to be Fan Week, consider donating at the ten-dollar level here on Patreon, where I will periodically put the weekly matchups up for donors to control---you're the customer and I'm here to give you what you want. The main event is Terry Norris and Thomas Hearns, with a couple of tasty heavyweight co-features to whet the appetite. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!