Guard-changing, liberal America and closure
If any high-profile members of the GOP attended or watched the myriad of combat sporting events from this past weekend — Mitt and Ann Romney were actually ringside at the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, for some reason — they likely found themselves looking into a mirror of sorts. In the interest of a more extended metaphor, they likely found themselves gazing into an abyss that not only gazed back, but also pointed and laughed, Nelson-style.
See, our nation recently turned a corner, and I’m not just saying that because Obama — i.e., the dude I voted for — won. Candidates win and lose hundreds of offices every year, and the world turns as per usual. The outcome of this presidential election, however, perhaps more than any in the past few decades, hinged almost purely on social issues. Yes, the economy was front and center, but burgeoning (if covert) class and gender warfare were at the root of it.
This election saw issues like abortion rights, Planned Parenthood funding, gay marriage and tax hikes on the wealthy inextricably intertwined with the state of our nation’s bank account. In essence, it was a clearly delineated victory, a snapshot of a nation moving gradually, though inexorably, in a certain direction.
When BJ Penn, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Manny Pacquiao entered the ring or cage for their respective fights this past weekend, they did so as living, breathing legends. The term gets thrown around quite a bit, but consider the facts and figures: BJ Penn, nicknamed “the Prodigy” for his early, preternatural grappling and striking ability, is one of only three fighters in top-shelf MMA history to win belts in two weight classes (lightweight and welterweight), separated by 15 pounds, no less, and has been competitive across an astonishing four weight classes, spanning 50 pounds.
Shogun, a whirling dervish of Muay Thai bloodlust, was only 24 when he won the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix, running through a murderers’ row of top-flight 205-pounders, including future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson, Alistair Overeem, Antonio Rogerio Nogueria and Ricardo Arona. Later, in the UFC, he became the first man to definitively solve the puzzle of karate stylist Lyoto Machida, first losing a controversial decision, then scoring a first-round KO in the immediate rematch, and winning the LHW championship.
I’ve gone on and on about Pacquiao before, so I’ll just remind you that the man has won titles in six weight classes, retired Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and was ducked by Floyd freaking Mayweather for two years.
It had to have been sobering, then, for these three men, this trio of finely tuned, battle-tested badasses — who, by the way, will be able to tear any lay mortal apart no matter how old they get — to each wake up on Sunday morning, just having had the tar thrashed out of them. Granted, for Penn and Rua this is a less-alien sensation. Penn has been beaten up, even TKOd before, and Shogun has been in more knock-down, drag-out brawls than I can remember.
For Pacquiao, however, this is jarringly unexplored terrain. He’s been knocked down a time or two, roughed up here and there, but never been truly rocked, and certainly never been knocked out cold. Promoters are already talking about a fifth fight, because you can apparently never have too many tiebreakers, but I doubt we get it.
This past weekend, and this past November, we saw inevitability laid bare, come to fruition. The outcomes of each fight, in varying ways, reflect and sum up the results of the election, the way they transpired, and the GOP reaction.
Penn and Rua were in similar positions. Fading yet still potent veterans, they were matched up on Saturday night with well-rounded killers in their athletic primes: Alexander Gustaffson, coming off several straight dominating wins, was tapped to fight Rua, while Rory MacDonald — wunderkind training partner of current welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre — welcomed Penn back from a brief retirement. The promotional angle was clear: give the up-and-comer a marquee win in order to fast track them to a title shot. In combat sports, a tale as old as time.
And you know — just like conservatives last month — everyone saw it coming except those that had it coming. Rua had a few moments, but was otherwise picked apart, his cardio gradually failing, by the bigger, younger Gustaffson. Penn, on the other hand, was destroyed. MacDonald landed massive body shots, peppered his jab at will, controlled Penn against the cage and on the ground, and just generally turned the former champ’s entire body into hamburger. It would have been hard to watch if Penn wasn’t such a dick.
The signs were there. About a year ago, Penn, who had otherwise demonstrated an impressively high fight IQ coupled with ridiculously dangerous hands, was lured into an ill-advised slugfest-at-distance with Nick Diaz. Just a few months back, Brandon Vera — who came into the fight with zero expected of him — gave Shogun all he could handle, even floored the onetime phenom a time or two, until he was finally finished, exhausted, at the end of the fourth round.
These were not men that Penn and Rua were supposed to, should have, struggled with. They were, in fact, tailor-made for victory. Conditions, it seemed, were perfect.
While neither man was finished this past weekend, they were gradually broken, and bore witness to their own dismantling, painfully conscious of it all the while. So it went during the last month of the election, as Obama battered Romney in the latter two debates, public opinion of him soared, and the best Romney could do was pretend to give a damn about Sandy victims.
And yet it seemed, as more and more states swung blue, and as each punch landed with more and more force, the soon-to-be-defeated couldn’t bring themselves to believe it. Penn and Rua stayed on their feet, bewildered, and Romney refused to concede until the late hours of November 6, late hours that finally saw the GOP ticket pick itself up off the floor and begin to come to grips with reality.
True fighters — those who have been in the game long enough to know the score — are harder on themselves than anyone else. They’re also, in general, smart, and know when to get out. That, I’m afraid, is where these fighter-to-conservative comparisons end. Pacquiao, Penn and Rua all will have sobering decisions to make in the coming weeks. And they will make them, according to the evidence at hand.
According, as I say, to the evidence at hand. At least I hope. Penn, for his part, failed to see the writing on the wall last year, and paid for it in the extreme. Shogun’s shelf life is dwindling. And poor Manny Pacquiao — if you can generate sympathy for a man who commands $40 million purses when he fights — after three incredibly problematic fights with Juan Manuel Marquez, finally ate the punch that had been in the making for nearly a decade.
It’s sobering, to question one’s place in the world, a world you previously, greatly impacted. You can either adjust and evolve, or live in a state of perpetual denial. Those who do the former live to see their legacy intact. For those that choose the latter a footnote, the refuse pile. You Might Also Like: