Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why It’s Impossible To Decide Who's “TBE”

Spike TV used to run a show called "Deadliest Warrior” where famous warriors from various times and places would be pitted against each other in a hypothetical matchup. I have to be honest here – I really enjoyed that program. It was fun and relatively accurate in its assessments of its subjects (at least that’s true of the ones I was familiar with). One particular episode, however, still stands out for me above all others.

For on that particular broadcast, Joan of Arc did battle with William the Conqueror. I remember discussing the impending episode with a coworker beforehand. On the surface of things, the fight was William’s to lose. He was a big, aggressive guy, after all, one who took what he wanted and who somehow always seemed to find a way to win (just ask the hapless Harold Godwinson).

Yet, being familiar with both William and Joan’s stories (I did some extensive writing on both subjects, particularly on Joan), I knew full well the teenage girl from Lorraine was going to mop the medieval floor with William. She wasn’t going to be gifted a win because she was a woman, either. Nope.  Contemporary social niceties would have nothing to do with it.

Joan, I knew, would win for one simple reason – she had operated about a full half millennium AFTER William did. That meant she had employed artillery (for the record, Joan was a far more gifted tactician than she’s been given credit for). William had no idea what artillery was and, if he saw it, wouldn’t know what to do with it. Needless to say, Joan won the battle that episode. How could she not have? The whole thing was apples and oranges. 

Which, of course, leads me to a larger point. There is no way anyone can tell who the “The Best Ever” in the sport of boxing is or was. That’s obvious, of course, since some of the obvious runners up are long dead, but even if there was a time machine to transport people to and from various ages, the truth would still be impossible to discern. Modern fighters, simply put, employ gunpowder.

Pondering will get one nowhere.

I’m not referring exclusively to PEDs here, either (though they’re obviously and unfortunately a part of the contemporary boxing scene). Nutrition, training methods, scheduling, lessons from the past, all those things would give modern fighters an edge. Yet advanced technology could act as a double edged sword in this case, too.

Sugar Ray Robinson, for instance, had fought as much as Floyd currently has when he was still only in his twenties. Seriously. The guy ended up battling on two hundred occasions. That’s three digits. With a 2 in the first slot. How well, one may ask, would Mayweather hold up if he fought about seven times a year? What if he fought Manny Pacquiao around, say, five times – would he still have a perfect record? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Some perspective, however is in order.

Or not. Hype always rules supreme in boxing, after all. That’s not always a bad thing, as it can keep the sport alive. Yet it has its obvious limitations, as well. Still and all, it’s fun asking ourselves who the best really is or was. It’s generally harmless and keeps the sport alive, via discussion. With that in mind, though, it’s good to note that the answer will never be truly known. Pointless pursuits can indeed be fun, but they will always remain essentially pointless. Even if you’re William the Conqueror.

Or a guy who calls himself “Money.”  

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