by Damon Ealy
I know Showtime didn’t broadcast Vitali’s high-tech ring entrance last week in Berlin, but just as a bit of a contrarian voice to everyone who saw it and thought it was all that and a sack of spätzle:
Yes, it was technologically impressive. And yes, it was kind of fun. It might mean I’m dim-witted, but seeing George Foreman smile makes me smile. (Hell, seeing him frown makes me smile.) And having Evander Holyfield pass the mic to Tyson, as it were, with a friendly sort of “Hey, Mike? What do you think about this one?” was either a stroke of genius or strikingly tone-deaf.
But really, if that’s your idea of the “best ring entrance ever” (Google it; someone does), you probably prefer New York New York in Vegas to the actual New York. You probably think Apollo Creed as Uncle Sam was tactful and understated. You probably wear a Speedo to the beach. (Ahem. Germans.)
I’m just saying. Isn’t a less-is-more approach more true to this sport? Think vintage Tyson. (Or even
late-’90s Tyson. Just don’t think the pudgy holo-Tyson of October 2008.) Vintage Tyson, accompanied only by a Public Enemy track, bass-heavy and distorted over the P.A. at the Atlantic City Convention Hall, didn’t want your well-wishes. He knew what he was going to do, and he didn’t need a bunch of has-beens encouraging him. Or messing up his corner. (And that bad look on your face–you think Vitali’s going to knock it off?)
Back to the subject. The Vitali Klitschko pregame show was neat. I’ll concede that. It was cutting-edge. But it was as much a pre-fight face-slap as anything Naseem Hamed or Hector Camacho ever pulled off. So if you’re loving this one but thought Hamed was a twat for riding the magic carpet, stop. Imagine that you’re Samuel Peter. You managed to dump Vitali’s brother, almost his doppelganger, three times on a night three years ago and still lose a decision. Since then, you’ve won five in a row, picking up the WBC title along the way, while Vitali Klitschko, voluntarily out of the game, still reigns as WBC “champion emeritus.” (A phrase that will always go in scare quotes because it’s so stupid.) Now you’ve come to his backyard to fight him. You’ve endured being made the underdog by the books and being treated as the pesky challenger at the press conference. And as he enters the ring, you’ve got five of the greatest heavyweights ever, who’ve been talked into making little recordings for the event, wishing him luck. Him–the favorite!
In a perfect world, Samuel Peter gets fired up and ruins everything for the home team, dumping Vitali and moving on to a rematch with Wladimir next spring. In an imperfect world, Samuel Peter, looking listless and unmotivated, gets hit with straight punches on repeat, barely touches Vitali, and surrenders when open scoring brings the fact that he can only win by knockout to stark clarity.
In a cruel world (the real one–the one that we know and live in), Sam Peter finds out that Vitali Klitschko jabbed his way to victory with hands that had been soaked in baby piss (“Power of Pee Keeps Klitschko’s Fists Pounding,” Deutsche Welle):
“Baby wee is good because it’s pure, doesn’t contain toxins and doesn’t smell,” the 37-year-old boxer told the paper after winning the title bout on Saturday.
“I wrap diapers filled with my three-year-old son Max’s wee around my fists,” he said, adding that the idea originated with his grandmother. “The nappies hold the liquid and the swelling stays down.”
All of those guys represented in hologram were underdogs at some point, and they all took losses somewhere in their careers, all probably more dispiriting than what Samuel Peter experienced that night. It’d have been a nice touch for them to drop by Peter’s dressing room after the fight with some encouraging words.