Friday 28 October 2016

Ever get the feeling you were cheated?

Eamonn Sweeney

Published 10/05/2015 | 02:30

What was billed as the Fight of the Century turned out to be a landmark of a very different sort, the Most Disappointing Major Sporting Event in Living Memory
What was billed as the Fight of the Century turned out to be a landmark of a very different sort, the Most Disappointing Major Sporting Event in Living Memory

The promoters of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight missed a trick by not flying John Lydon in from LA. Had they done so the Rotten one could have taken to the ring after the final bell and recreated the final Sex Pistols gig on their American tour by laughing sardonically and asking the crowd, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated." That would pretty much have captured the general mood.

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What was billed as the Fight of the Century turned out to be a landmark of a very different sort, the Most Disappointing Major Sporting Event in Living Memory. For 12 tedious rounds Mayweather stayed out of Pacquiao's reach while cuffing his outclassed opponent sufficiently often to win a convincing points victory. This particular Pac Man proved to be as ineffective as the one I controlled when first playing the video game back in the early 1980s.

There were those who, like a man who's brought a date to an unexpectedly boring Iranian movie at the Irish Film Institute, tried to make the best of things by rubbing their chins and going, "Look at what he did there, that was very subtle wasn't it?" But the vulgar majority who expected something approaching entertainment were left gobsmacked by its absence.

Suggestions that Pacquiao was robbed can only be explained as deriving from disappointment at the tedious nature of the spectacle. Mayweather deserved his victory and the statistics are there to show the extent to which he outpunched the Filipino, even if at times he appeared to be intent on proving that rowing isn't the only sport you can win by moving backwards faster than the opposition.

Perhaps Pacquiao really was hampered by a shoulder injury. And perhaps David Haye would have beaten Wladimir Klitschko if he hadn't suffered the foot injury which was also offered up as an excuse after that fight. Who knows? But the suspicion lingers it may merely be part of the PR campaign for 'Fight of the Century Part II: This time it's for real'.

Mayweather has little to lose by granting a rematch. He remains a marvellous athlete and also a puzzling one, a model of crudity and ignorance outside the ring who is all sophistication and intelligence within its bounds. Five years ago Pacquiao might have troubled him. Back then Manny looked almost as invincible as Mayweather but since then he has been knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez and lost a points decision to Timothy Bradley, neither of whom are in the same class as the latest man to prove there is no contradiction between being a great athlete and a pretty terrible human being. At 38, Money's only serious remaining challenger is Father Time.

He has earned the right to win the fight any way he likes and it's not his fault that so much of the build-up looked like a rap video with the song taken out and that the hype left you longing for the urbane and low-key savoir faire of Conor McGregor. The purse, the ticket price, the TV audience numbers and the celeb count were all magnificent.

It was just the fight that stunk.


Castlehaven loses one of the greats

Michael Burns, who died on Tuesday at the age of 54, was one of the finest West Cork footballers of his generation. One of those big, rangy, naturally athletic rural lads who seem born to play Gaelic football, he was a prodigious underage player, winning All-Ireland under 21 medals with Cork in 1980 and 1981 and captaining the team to a Munster title the following year.

He was catapulted into the Cork senior team for the 1982 Munster final against a Kerry team seeking a fifth All-Ireland title in a row. Going up against Jack O'Shea at midfield while still under 21 was a tall order but Burns acquitted himself admirably, kicking two points as they held Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before losing the replay.

If his inter-county career did not subsequently reach the heights, this had a lot to do with the situation where Cork were doomed to meet Mick O'Dwyer's Kerry every year in Munster. But he was good enough to play Railway Cup football for Munster and was on the bench in 1989 when the Rebels broke through to win a first All-Ireland in 16 years.

His finest hour, however, came with his native Castlehaven where he was outstanding at centre half-back when they defeated St Finbarr's in 1989 to win a first ever county senior championship before adding a Munster title the same year. In a golden era for Cork club football, Burns was one of the toughest competitors around, the harder the going got the more he liked it.

On a personal level, I knew the man and liked him a great deal. Whether meeting him in Union Hall on the night after a big Castlehaven match or, more often, encountering him in Batt Maguire's shop in Castletownshend, the club's unofficial nerve centre, for a slightly more measured post-match analysis, I always felt the better for it. There was an infectious verve and vigour about him which inspired a lot of affection locally.

He'd kept himself in good shape after quitting football, didn't look to have aged a year in the past decade and was immensely proud that his son David had followed in his footsteps by winning an All-Ireland medal with Cork, at minor level, and a senior county title with Castlehaven. Mick Burns was just a very nice guy.

It's very hard to believe a man so full of life has been cut down in one fell swoop. And it is very hard to think of Castlehaven without the great Michael Burns. He'll be badly missed around the place.

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