Today's episode was entirely about pleasing the unpleasable fanbase, and the matchup was a tale calculated to placate one group and deliberately piss off another.
See, there is no such thing as a rational Manny Pacquiao fan, a fact I've learned from years of dealing with the “Pactards” who have torn me a new one every time I haven't treated their fighter like the Second Coming of Christ in my writing---and my writing has tended to lean pro-Mayweather for all those years, especially insofar as I predicted as if I'd been scripting it in Historical Fight Night the way their May 2 matchup ended up going down.
Pacquiao fans bug me. If ever I get the opportunity to tweak them a little, I tend to take that, seeing their hate mail as validation.
But this is Historical Fight Night, and I do need to make sure everything I write is plausible (except for next week's episode, which you'll see when it goes up next Friday), and that's where Roberto Duran came in.
See, I got killed for my assertion that Carlos Monzon would beat Duran until he quit the way Sugar Ray Leonard did. What's more, my experience with Duran came from watching him in the 1980s (I was born in '77), and as such, the Duran I saw was the guy Thomas Hearns destroyed, the guy who hung on way too long, the guy who went 5-5 between Wilfred Benitez and Robbie Sims, whose last signature win was against Davey Moore...when I was a month away from turning six.
This was my opportunity to make amends...and one damn fine excuse to watch a whole lot of Lightweight Duran from the Seventies.
Meanwhile, the co-feature was one of those fun matchups---when I put together co-features, I often like to draw from the ranks of good-but-not-great guys, who were well-known in their time but who don't make the list of the all-time greats. I do it mostly because I want this series to have legs---if I restrict myself to only surefire, undisputed Hall of Famers, I'll end up treading on familiar ground way too often. Any fool can match Muhammad Ali with Lennox Lewis (which I haven't done yet, but I've considered). It takes some imagination to come up with Vinny Pazienza and Donny Lalonde. The co-feature, which I intentionally keep a surprise in the headline, is there for the benefit of the hardcore fight fans who read my stuff and get there via social media.
Anyway, how I got to the results:
Lalonde KO2 Pazienza
I think there's a lot to be learned both from the career of Wladimir Klitschko and from the Hearns-Duran fight. Namely, if you give one guy a big enough size advantage, and he's not a plodding oaf, he's going to win the fight 19 times out of 20.
That's not to say I don't throw some surprises in for the 20th time. Today just wasn't one of those days. I wanted to set the scene for a bit of theming, based on the idea of guys moving up from their natural weight and expecting to contend with the greats of that higher division.
Lalonde was a legit light heavyweight. Pazienza was a puffed-up lightweight. I also noticed, from watching Lalonde fight Mustafa Hamsho and from watching the first five rounds of the fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, that Lalonde had a weapons-grade right hand, so much so that he was often accused of being a one-armed fighter.
I'll pick a matchup and announce it in the “Next Week” section, but I don't actually start working on putting the fight together in my head until after the fight's announced. I want to surprise myself as much as I surprise the reader, and in this case, my biggest theme in my head was “damn, Lalonde could hit like a car.”
So Pazienza got feinted out of position, smacked with a left hook, and finished with repeated application of the right hand. Easy-peasy.
Duran KO6 Pacquiao
Duran was a lightweight who hit like a middleweight---you don't put Iran Barkley on the floor if you can't punch---and Pacquiao wasn't really “Pacroid”, as he is often derisively called, until he got to welterweight, where the argument could be made that he needed “assistance” to be strong enough and big enough to fight those 147-pounders.
You go back and watch the David Diaz fight and see how lithe and lean Pacquiao was at 135, and maybe you end up believing that he got some help to go above that weight. He looked like an overgrown flyweight---and he'd been stopped twice at 112 pounds by pedestrian fighters.
Put those two things together, throw in a little taste of Duran's superior abilities as a boxer and legendary hand speed at the lower weight (seriously, I was blown away by just how quick Duran was when he was fighting at his natural size), stir in one of the basic postulates of this show that fighters will be exceptionally well-trained and in the best shape of their life at the given weight they're contesting the fight at, and Duran was the greatest lightweight of all time.
The counter right hand right at the end of the sixth? Well, that was a tribute to Juan Manuel Marquez. I like making little nods to boxing history whenever I can (which got me in trouble when I invoked “No mas”), and this was a fine opportunity to do so. I do this every week, least I can do is keep it fun.
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.
And if you haven't donated? Welcome to Patreon! Your support makes my writing career possible, and lets me devote more of my time to my passion. So if you like the show, or if you like anything else I do as a writer and want to see more of it, click the button and kick a few bucks my way. You'll have my everlasting gratitude, and you'll even get first dibs on helping pick out future matchups.
Next week, we're going completely nuts, with a Bugs Bunny-Mr. T animated main event and a fun co-feature involving a rematch of the silliest fight to date, the Calzaghe-Benn fight that was a parody of the “Malice in the Palace” the first time around. (no spoilers, but Dana White and Vince McMahon are getting name-checked.)
Thanks for reading, and see you next week!