Pacquiao vs Mayweather: take it to the ring, guys!

As my boss loves to tell me, everything about me makes sense except for one: my love of boxing. I’m smart (highly educated, at least), passionate (no kidding?), level-headed (erhm, sure), and rational (now I’m blushing) — so how is it that I can delight in watching a sport where two guys strip to their skivvies and beat each other to a bloody pulp with giant, plastic oven mitts?

The answer is simple, really. It’s not that boxing is a violent sport (although it clearly can be), it’s that there’s more to boxing than the pummelling. Boxing is actually a thinking man’s sport, as strategic as chess but far more exciting. In boxing, each boxer is armed with nothing more than his (or her) fists and his wits, and he is charged with disarming his opponents defense’s. The boxer must stick to a pre-determined strategy that minimizes his opponent’s strengths while taking advantage of his opponent’s weaknesses (Stay out of  reach? Move in tight to pin him down?) while adapting to minute-by-minute information (for example, determining that the right uppercut has connected most times, so altering the strategy to use that shot as much as possible). Moreover, the fight is more than street brawl; fights go for a pre-determined number of rounds and, in the event that neither boxer is knocked out, the winner is determined by the average score of three judges. These judges award points in each round based on how well each boxer does: this can include how many shots he has landed (vs. how many thrown), how active has he been (how many shots thrown vs. just standing there) and whether or not he looks winded. That means that on top of sticking to a strategy, a boxer must strategically increase activity or conserve energy to ensure that he wins on the score cards but still has the endurance to make it through the entire fight if he needs to.

And on top of having to do all that thinking, you’re getting punched repeatedly on the side of the head by a guy who can probably curl a Backstreet Boy with his biceps. Which means you have to have some serious presence-of-mind to maintain a coherent thought under boxing circumstances, let alone enough intellectual acuity to win a fight. Or let’s put it another way: as smart as I might be, I definitely couldn’t focus on my research if my lab-mates kept running up and hitting me in the jaw between aliquoting.

Another reason to love boxing? Well, it just so happens that this year’s current #1 pound-for-pound best professional boxer in the world (as judged by the sports premier magazine, Ring Magazine) is a Filipino boxer by the name of Manny Pacquiao (pictured above). In what other sport (short of something stereotypical like karate) can you see an Asian guy be unanimously praised to be the most testosterone-fueled, most athletically-built, most hardcore guy there is? Asian Men: 1, Emasculated Asian Man Stereotype: 0.

But, boxing also comes with it’s own kind of drama. Pacquiao, as it turns out, took Ring Magazine‘s pound-for-pound honour from one Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who is probably the best American boxer currently fighting. Mayweather is a flashy fighter, but beneath his over-abundance of personality, he’s amongst the fastest and most skilled boxers the sport has to offer. He boasts an undefeated record, and even wiped the floor with boxing favourite Oscar De La Hoya. Boxing fans and critics have long clamoured for a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, and recently they (we?) were gratified with word of a verbal agreement that the fighters would clash on March 13th, 2010.

With any scheduled fight, there comes an expected amount of hype. Fights generate more revenue when the fighters appear to be settling some sort of interpersonal gripe, and it’s not uncommon for boxers to jab verbally (via the press, who eats this stuff up) in the weeks leading up to a fight. This manufactured “beef” can range from one opponent calling the other weak or diminishing his recent victories… although, unlike in WWE, it’s usually not over a beautiful woman dressed in a blue and red sequinned cat-suit. But, in some cases, the pre-fight back-and-forth can cross a line that makes fans question whether there really are interpersonal issues involved, or if it’s all show business.

In the case of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, the arguments stem from (what I would call) a rather racist charge against Pacquiao by the Mayweather camp. Basically, Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., accused Manny Pacquiao of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs)  in order to achieve the level of athleticism that has allowed him to be the first boxer to earn seven championship titles in seven different weight classes (no easy feat because you essentially have to re-learn how to box, and chang eyour strategy, every time you change your weight).

The basis for this claim? Well, the Phillipines (apparently) make some of the best PEDs around, and Manny Pacquiao is Filipino.

As if the Phillipines are so swamped in PEDs that Pacquiao was walking down the streets of Manila one day, when he tripped and fell into a vat of human growth hormone.

Let’s be clear: that shit is racist. The accusations being lobbed against Pacquiao have nothing to do with any actual evidence that he’s taking steroids (except that he’s a buff Asian dude — ‘cuz like, what, Asian dudes can’t be buff?). Instead, it is equating the actions of criminals in the Phillipines with Manny Pacquiao’s morality and ethics. If Pacquiao were from Southern California, would Mayweather be accusing Pacquiao of having an addiction to frappucinos and surfer shorts? And by the same logic, my parents are from China, ergo my family must make our money manufacturing mercury-laden toys, right?

The really frustrating part of it all is that Pacquiao is willing to prove he’s not a druggie, but he’s not willing to jeopardize his performance to satisfy what he insists is a bogus charge. Mayweather’s camp has insisted that both fighters submit themselves to random blood and urine testing before and after the scheduled March 13th fight. Pacquiao agreed to random testing, but drew the line at random blood testing leading all the way up to the fight. He was concerned (and rightly so) that he could be woken up in the middle of the night a day or two before the scheduled fight in order to have blood drawn. Instead, Pacquiao wanted Mayweather to agree that testing be stopped a week before the fight to give both boxers a chance to rest and prepare for the big day.

And, that’s where we’re at. The biggest fight that boxing has ever seen — one that could generate obscene amounts of money — is being derailed over a racist accusation and a butt-load of drama.

Personally, I’m normally not one to spend money on HBO pay-per-view boxing (each fight costs something in the ballpark of $50 to watch!) but I would shell out for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Why? Mainly because I’m really not sure who would win that fight. Mayweather has a reach advantage (which he always uses to supreme advantage), lots of power behind his punches, an undefeated record, and lightning fast speed. Yet, Pacquiao is also an agile, active, and adaptible fighter who fights southpaw, which can often throw boxers in a conventional stance for a loop.

Which is my long, round-about way of saying that Mayweather and Pacquiao need to quit with the threats, the ultimatums, and the interpersonal drama. Stop with the posturing, and yes, even the racism — and take the fight to the ring, guys!

Balloon Boy Parents Go To Jail

Do not pass “Go”. Do not collect $200. Sure as heck, do not get a reality TV show deal.

After executing an ill-conceived plan (that involved lying to cops about their 6-year-old son supposedly being in a weather balloon floating hundreds of miles above ground) to garner sufficient publicity to get a reality TV deal, Richard and Mayumi Heene are facing some jail time.

Larimer County Judge Stephen Schapanski, who chose to adhere to a plea agreement, sentenced Richard Heene to 90 days in custody, to begin January 11. Heene can spend the last 60 days of the sentence in a work release program but must return to the jail at night, the judge said.

Heene will be on probation for four years and must complete 100 hours of community service each year during that period.

Mayumi Heene was sentenced to 20 days in jail — less than the 60 days sought by prosecutors. The judge said her term would begin after her husband’s jail sentence ends, so at least one of them can be with their children during that time.

She was given the option of serving her time over 10 weekends. She also received four years’ probation and must perform 120 hours of community service.

The couple also must pay restitution, but no exact amount was announced in court. The judge ordered that they not benefit financially from the incident.

Cue all the people complaining that they should be punished more severely. After all the monetary damage done by “Balloon Boy” ($47,000 for the search as well as delaying air traffic at the Denver International Airport), as well as the fact that the whole thing was kind of a painful, embarassing train wreck, people are understandably pissy.

“In summary, what this case is about is deception — exploitation of the children of the Heenes, exploitation of the media, exploitation of the emotions of the people — and it’s about money. This was all done for the purpose of making money,” Schapanski said.

The Heenes pleaded guilty last month. Richard Heene was charged with the felony of attempting to influence a public servant, and his wife faced a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities.

Richard Heene’s attorney, David Lane, said his client has expressed remorse and accepted full responsibility for what happened. He tried to convince the judge that Richard Heene didn’t deserve jail time because there was no violence involved.

On his client’s behalf, Lane asked that Mayumi Heene not go to jail.

“That is his primary concern. He has taken full and complete responsibility. Do not send his wife to jail. That is his plea,” Lane said.

According to the wife’s attorney, the couple is hated because of what happened. “It’s nothing that anybody should wish on anyone else,” he said.

But, personally, I think being labelled — forever, pretty much — as being amongst the worst parents in history, we should just call it a day and end the Heene family’s 15 minutes.

And meanwhile, the question that I keep wondering is this: if the “Balloon Boy” hoax was a botched publicity stunt, exactly how was the whole thing supposed to work? Were people supposed to go “Whew, thank God Balloon Boy didn’t fall to his death! Gee whiz, I was so entertained by that big silver balloon, that I want to see this whole family regularly, every Thursday night at 7pm on TLC, right after Jon and Kate”?

Can you get jail time for stupid?

Frank Wu to become dean of UC Hastings College of Law

Frank Wu, author of “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White“, will assume the position of dean at the UC Hastings College of Law. Here’s an excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle article on the story:

The Evolution of “Avatar”

In a far-flung place, an alien world has just been discovered by humans. It is a world completely unlike our own, full of bizarre trees, strange fruit, and unnamed animals. Discoverers have yet to fully explore this strange place, but as they encroach, they bring their guns and their best soldiers to tame this foreign environment. 

They have already chosen a name for this “New World”: America.

 

Except that name was taken. So they named it: Japan.

But that name was also taken. So they named this new frontier “Pandora”.

In this wild, untamed world, humans have established an outpost — a small measure of humanity in the wild and rugged edge of civilization. Why has humanity encroached upon this world? Well, it turns out that in this untamed wilderness, there is something precious, something valuable, something truly unobtainable, buried deep within the soil of this world. We could call it something ridiculous like “gold” or “spice”, but let’s call it something like this: “unobtainium”.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter what it is (or even what we use it for), it just matters that we want it. We want it bad.

Enter our protagonist. He is a dangerous but good-looking hero-type. He’s the kind of guy we all can identify with — all the guys want to be like him and all the (straight) girls want to be with him. Yet, recently, he fought in a terrible battle where he was badly wounded, leaving him an empty shell of a person (which we can tell by his excessive facial hair). 

Except our hero’s kind of short…

… and he’s in a wheelchair.

Meanwhile, the native people of this wild, alien place are completely unlike us. They appear to be stronger than us. They ride horses and use bows, arrows, and small bladed weapons to fight. They have long black hair (maybe with feathers or beads in it) but over their bodies they wear almost nothing at all (mostly coarse animal skins shaped into cloaks or loincloths)…

…except let’s make them blue!

Our hero initially distrusts the Natives (let’s call them the “Na’vi”), but through irrelevant plot twists, he ends up being brought to the Na’vi camp. He meets the old Na’vi leader, and the war-like, untrusting, Na’vi prince (who is next in line to lead the Na’vi community). Although they should probably have killed our hero because they are at war with his people, instead (for irrelevant plot reasons) they choose to care for him. And eventually, our hero is taught their ways and their language by the beautiful daughter of the chief Na’vi. This woman is a member of the Na’vi, although she doesn’t quite fit in like the others:

Yet, she knows the ways of the Na’vi. She’s also beautiful, feisty, yet wildly sexy…

… and she’s blue and has a tail!

Underscoring how wild and unusual the Na’vi civilization is, our romantic love interest has a strange, virtually unpronouncable name, like “Taka” or “Neytiri”. But, our hero soon finds that he integrates into the Na’vi civilization, and grows to love their deep spirituality and “one-ness” with their surroundings. He learns about how they are in tune with nature, and grows to find his own deep connection with the wilderness.

He grows his hair, and changes his appearance to look more like his newfound Na’vi brothers and sisters.

He also falls in love with our romantic love interest (and even takes her as a mate), cementing his inclusion into their society.

But then, the people of our hero’s old life, whom he now sees as the wild and untamed ones, once more make an appearance. So hellbent are they on getting “unobtainium”, that they threaten to destroy the peaceful way of life of the Na’vi. Their ferocity is embodied by a villain who represents pure capitalism, and one who represents warlike viciousness.

Our hero is torn between his new life and his old life. Complicating matters, he is initially cast out by his Na’vi brothers because he is still unsure if he remains a part of his old people, yet his old war buddies believe that he has “gone native” and can never return to his old ways.

To regain the trust of his Na’vi brothers and sisters, our hero masters their ways, and becomes a legendary warrior even by the standards of the Na’vi. Perhaps he shoots buffalo better than the other Na’vi…

or maybe he wields a samurai sword better than the other Na’vi warriors…

 …or perhaps he even manages to tame the biggest, scariest bird in the sky (a feat accomplished by only five others in all of Na’vi history).

Either way, he proves that not only is he like all the other Na’vi, he’s actually better than all the other Na’vi. In so doing, our hero becomes the de facto leader of the Na’vi tribes. In that position, our hero wages war on his former civilization, pitting their guns against the bows and arrows (and guerilla tactics) of the vastly outnumbered, underdog Na’vi.

At this point, insert a giant battle scene that consumes 75% of the film’s budget.

Whether the Na’vi win or lose is really kind of irrelevant, but sufficed to say, our hero proves himself a full-fledged member of the Na’vi. At the end of the movie, he gets the girl and the Na’vi, in turn, embrace him as one of their own and he goes off into the still untamed wilderness to live out the rest of his days as a Na’vi warrior and husband.

Cue blackout, roll credits, and watch the ticket money pour in.

(This post aside, ‘Avatar’ is a visually stunning movie, and you should really go check it out.)

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