Boxing: the fight game

I suspect the HBO half-hour boxing news show “The Fight Game,” hosted by Jim Lampley, will be the sort of thing that debuts, and has us fight fans thinking to ourselves: why the hell didn’t someone do that twenty years ago?

The program will debut on May 12, and in a phone conversation, Lampley told me the cabler is committed to doing four more episodes after that, till the end of the year. We can presume a level of success will be attained which will result in a more frequent schedule next year, is my guess.

He said that he conceives of the show as being in the mold of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which for you non political junkies is a nightly weekday hour-long show which runs on MSNBC. Maddow is a whip-smart wonky sort who tries to counter the (not incorrect?) perception of cable news shows as being propaganda arms for the big two American political parties or non-nuanced festivals of bloviation , and her executive producer is a man named Bill Wolff, who not coincidentally will help produce “The Fight Game.” For more on what viewers can expect from the Lampley show, read this primer.

While I had Lampley cornered, telephonically, I fired some other questions at him.

First, I wondered if the "Mayweather-Pacquiao Will They Or Won’t They?" fixation is bad for the sport?

“It isn’t the fixation that’s bad, that the fight hasn’t happened is bad,” Lampley answered. “Fans want it, logically, and for some reason their demands don’t get a response from the two fighters and their promoters, and that is baffling to the fans. If you had said three years ago they won’t have found a way to make the fight, I would have said that’s insane. There’s way too much money there.

"I liked what (new HBO boxing boss) Ken Hershman said soon after he arrived, that Mayweather-Pacquiao is not life and death for the sport. It is very important to the psyche of sport but it isn’t life or death.”

Lampley took a look-on-the-brighter side tack, and said he hopes that big fights will coalesce around the 154 pound area, what with Mayweather fighting Miguel Cotto May 5 at 154. The play-by-play ace said Sergio Martinez, the middleweight talent who is willing and able to drop back down to 154, is part of the mix, and that he brings more permutations and possibilities to the table. “He can unlock the puzzle. Step one may not be Mayweather-Pacquiao. Either of the two with Martinez could get the ball rolling. If he beats either of them, that’s an entirely new dynamic. They can use Sergio to break in.”

So…will Mayweather fight Pacquiao?

“Pure speculation, my guess is it doesn’t happen,” Lampley told me. “They keep delaying it. It keeps not being the thing they want to do. It’s sad and painful..I can’t imagine twenty years from now, people telling Floyd or Manny, “That was the smartest thing you did, not fighting Pacquiao, or Mayweather.” He pauses. “Now, I don’t want to sound completely pessimistic. Maybe a better way to see it is like the old grandmas used to say: Don’t hope for the new bicycle, you won’t get it.”

Grandma had that old-school notion of karma. If you hope too hard for something, the universe just might align against you. Best maybe if we all back off, concentrate on other fights, and then, with the spotlight off, then maybe The Big One will get done.

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