Friday, October 17, 2008

Pavlik-Hopkins: Hopkins wins, Hopkins wins

This weekend Bernard Hopkins will earn another significant pay-day participating in a fight he probably can't win, but also is not likely to get hurt. On top of that, a loss to 26 year-old Kelly Pavlik won't tarnish the legacy of the 43 year-old Hopkins. And lastly, a win by Hopkins really shouldn't be considered an upset.

The last time we saw Hopkins, he was out-hustled by Joe Calzaghe en-route to losing a decision and his light heavyweight title. However, Calzaghe is a veteran of 20 plus title fights, was a south-paw, and is more versatile than the bigger punching Pavlik. This will be Pavlik's fourth title bout, and it's a fact that he's never been in the ring with another fighter like Hopkins. That said, Pavlik's strength and youth should be enough to get by Hopkins, who can fight no more than four or five rounds out of a 12-round bout.

Pavlik's punching power will no doubt keep Hopkins focused, and fighting more to make Pavlik look bad, instead of beating him up. Most likely Hopkins attack plan is to bring Pavlik to him, while making himself to appear to be right there, but hard to reach. Hoping to force Pavlik into over committing and leaving him vulnerable to Hopkins counters. Pavlik is pretty vanilla style-wise, which is a big tactical advantage for Hopkins.

I expect Pavlik to win the fight, but I do believe because of styles, Hopkins will get more clean shots at Pavlik than he did Calzaghe. I just don't think it will be enough. Bernard Hopkins is just too smart and good to get his ass kicked by Kelly Pavlik. He's just not good enough in 2008 to beat him. Having said that, I wouldn't bet on this fight unless it was with someone else's money.

Regardless of the out-come, Hopkins wins. If he loses, he'll leave the ring with another big pay-day along with his legacy. If he wins, he'll leave the ring with a bigger legacy, and set up for another huge pay-day against a fighter who will be favored to beat him, but one he's capable of beating.

Hopkins Wins, Hopkins Wins!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

What's So Funny?

Several weeks ago I went to see Tropic Thunder, the big-budget action-comedy Ben Stiller vehicle that topped the box-office charts for a while this summer. I confess that I laughed fairly often throughout. (What’s not funny about black-face, retards, flatulence and Tom Cruise in a fat suit? And, honestly, Robert Downey Jr. is pretty amazing.) But I can’t say the movie exactly stayed with me. Then this past week I happened to watch (again) W.C. Fields’s 1934 masterpiece It’s a Gift. I laugh every time I watch it and what’s more I always come away with a sense of wonder and fulfillment. It just occurred to me that there is a very clear parallel between the state of film comedy today as compared to the films of earlier eras and the state of boxing now compared to the past.

Consider Stiller. Isn’t he essentially the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of comedy? Stiller grew up in the business, schooled by a family of old pros. He’s got a fine record and is producing astronomical numbers at the box office. But is he a bona fide all-time great? I’d say no. The stumpy, simian Stiller has undeniable comedic chops (think of him battling the little dog in Something About Mary, or his self-mockery in the episode he did of Extras) but there’s a hit-or-miss, nothing-subtle, bigger-and-louder-is-funnier approach to most of what he does. Put him in a bare-budget, scratchy 80-minute black-and-white film with no sadistic makeup gags or leering T&A and those gaps between laughs are going to feel much larger.

And what of Seth Rogen or Will Farrell? Admittedly, I haven’t seen most of their ouvre, but in my tortured conceit here, these two current film heavyweights strike me as Klitschko-esque: blown up to super-size by big budgets and special effects, but far less complete or resourceful than the smaller-scale champs of the old days. Take a look at this scene from It’s a Gift ( It’s modest and simple, but Fields works with such exquisite control that he invests every moment, line and gesture with great, funny shit. It’s not just about waiting for something to blow up or for the next fart and/or snarky comment, and to me it’s a wonder to behold.

Fields, of course, had spent years on the Vaudeville circuit, honing every move and expression in front of small, demanding audiences (becoming an astounding juggler in the process, by the way, something that gave his physical comedy added punch). It’s the same path that the Marx Brothers, Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton and so many other all-time greats followed in their development. A couple of seasons on SNL is hardly commensurate. The earlier perfomers simply had so many more resources to draw upon, so many more moves, so much more experience. The analogy to boxing is obvious. Nobody in the game today is fighting 100, 150, 200 bouts. What’s lost as a result is something we’ve all written about before.

So, just as the boxing message boards are full of misspelled hyperventilating assertions that Mike Tyson is the greatest heavyweight champion of all time or that Money Mayweather is the best-evah P4P, a whole generation of moviegoers likely thinks The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Knocked Up is the height of cinematic comedy brilliance.

All in all a rather obvious observation, I realize. But at least it gave me something to think about while enduring a commercial recently for the DVD release of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Namely, that I’d like to see Harry Greb beat the shit out of Adam Sandler.