By Jason Pribila: On Saturday night Floyd Mayweather Jr. again showed that his ring brilliance is showing no signs of slippage at the age of 36. Fighting for the second time in a calendar year against his most formidable foe in years gave even casual fans an excuse to open their wallets. For myself, and a few of my boxing die hard friends this date was circled on the calendar since the fight was announced. I used some vacation time on Friday afternoon to tidy up my apartment, pick up a few items for my ice box and freezer. My work was done in time for me to enjoy the rock concert atmosphere of the weigh in. I was just about to order the fight on my remote when I received an invite to go watch the fights on the big screen at the local Carmike Cinemas.
For the many people that know me personally and those few who have followed my contributions to the boxing world know that my first love was motion pictures. I once declared that I would be at the Sundance Film Festival by the time I was 30. Several screenplays started and stopped. Many seemed to run simultaneously with how long a particular muse lasted in my cross hairs, before inevitably veering off into the “friend zone”. They say one should write about what you know, and all I knew at the time was that there were not too many happy endings that inspired putting pen to paper. And while the stories would entertain co-workers on a Monday morning, I was pretty sure that a loose autobiography would not translate well to the big screen.
In 1997, I wrote an email to Thomas Hauser after I read his ringside account of the Mayweather – Hatton fight. He encouraged my writing, and since then I’ve been blessed to have an outlet to share my words.
Although I still feel that a great film is head and shoulders above any other art form, I have become a bit of a movie snob. Being critical of films is why I rarely find myself spending my weekends in the movie theater between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That may explain why I did not realize that “The One” would be showing live at my go-to movie theater.
When I received a text message from my good friend Jay Short suggesting that we watch the fight at the Carmike, my mind was not on boxing. San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner had just given up 2 runs to the LA Dodgers. After dominating the second half of the season, I was facing elimination from the LCS of my fantasy baseball playoffs. I exhaled, cleared the lump from my throat, and gave Jay a call to discuss the pros and cons.
My first thought was that I still wanted to host the fight at my apartment. Eats and treats are always enjoyed by all, and there is usually enough spirits left over to get me through a Sunday full of NFL football. I also wanted to record the fight so I could go back to watch the fight during the week hoping it would inspire me to write an article. And finally, I had never watched a fight in a movie theater, and I was hesitant about the unknown.
On the plus side, Jay and I watched the Pacquiao – Mosley on closed circuit at the MGM Grand and had a blast. Although this would be a much smaller venue, the fact that there would not be alcohol served would most likely eliminate much of the asshole factor. Also, I was curious about what the turnout would be like, and was hopeful it would be successful enough so that we would have another option of where to watch future pay per view shows.
By the time the call was over, I was excited about trying something different. It helped that the Giants scored 3 runs and my baseball team was still alive.
It was officially fight night when I locked the doors at my family’s deli, Deja Brew at 6pm. I spoke with Jay, and he was set to pick up fellow fight fan, Brian Fentress. We agreed to meet at the Red Robin’s restaurant for our pregame. The pints began to slide despite the lost soul who sat to our right, and felt the need to explain to us how his wife left him and moved to Texas. I tuned out Captain Obvious, and focused more on the lovely Amanda, who was pouring glasses of personality 16 ounces at a time. We were approaching 9pm, and my mind was momentarily drifting from boxing to a favorite film of mine. I was moments away from sliding my ticket across the bar and telling my cohorts that “I gotta see about a girl”. Luckily, before I made a bold move I’d surely regret, Jay decided to make a friendly wager. He asked me to guess her age, and then he asked her how old she was.
It turned out it would not be the only time I fell short on a prediction. We paid our tab, and we were off to the theater. I was happy that I did not give up my ticket for a gal who was in AM kindergarten when “Good Will Hunting” was winning screenwriting awards.
When we arrived at the Carmike, we walked into exactly what one would expect to see on a typical Saturday Night. Families, friends, and first dates were all in line for tickets and their concessions of choice. I was a little disappointed that I was not hearing chants of “Hard work, Dedication” as we approached our theater. Like many of the films I choose, we were in one of the smaller auditoriums located down the hall, and to the left.
When we walked in the opening bout was in progress. Jay got in line for food, and Brian grabbed a seat up front. I surveyed the audience and realized that there were a few subtle violations taking place. I asked for an usher, who arrived promptly. I asked him if people were allowed to “reserve” seats, which of course they weren’t; and soon we were sitting in the center of the theater.
Before leaving, I asked if I could possibly speak to the manager on duty. I identified myself as a boxing scribe who had hoped to ask a few questions on why they chose “The One” for their first venture into the sweet science.
A few rounds later, Melissa Ross called me into the lobby. She was the manager on duty, and was nice enough to answer a few questions. She informed me that they had previously shown a UFC fight and that because of the theater’s location; corporate often chooses that location to gauge interest in posting live events. She informed me that they did not need to add any extra security, but asked that the guard on duty begin his rounds in and around the theater that was showing the fight.
The theater had a capacity of 108, and much of the crowd that turned out bought tickets the night of the fight. She seemed pleased with the turnout, and was hopeful that the evening would continue without any problems.
When I returned to my seat the fight between Ishe Smith and Carlos Molina was in progress. To be honest, I’m not sure what round it was, as there was not a memorable round that stood out. These are the kind of fights that I usually spend instructing my guests which wings are hot, which drinks are cold, and where the bathroom is located.
The evening again began to pick up when Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse were getting set to trade leather. There were cheers from the audience when it was announced that Garcia was from nearby Philadelphia. Even at $25 a ticket, this crowd was clearly there for the main event.
The crowd gave golf claps in support of Garcia during the early rounds of the fight. They moaned when the swelling under Matthysse’s eye was magnified on a movie screen in HD quality. They applauded for both men when they traded at the final bell.
As much as I like Danny Garcia, I had to eat a little crow as I felt that he was too hittable to withstand the powerful punches thrown by “The Machine”. Better technique, preparation, and guts earned Garcia his biggest win to date.
It was a fun fight, but it was even more fun watching a crowd that is so trained not to talk in a movie theater.
I was able to hit the rest room before the main event. Again, it was surreal to be at a “sporting event” with so many people that had no idea that a big fight was taking place down the hall.
On the way back to the theater I walked behind some late arriving fans. Yes, there are even late arriving fans in non-casino settings.
The fighters and Justin Bieber were in the ring. There was a feeling when the fighters touched gloves unlike many of Mayweather’s previous fights. There was some question as to who would be victorious.
For me, the suspense lasted 11 minutes. Following the third round there was no doubt that it would not be Canelo’s night.
As Floyd painted another masterpiece, there was a little grumbling from the crowd.
“I paid $25 for this?” asked a pro-Canelo fan.
There was some boasting from the pro-Mayweather fans.
“For 12 rounds he kicked your ass!”
And in the end, CJ Ross’ scorecard gave the entire crowd a common villain.
“The One” was history. Mayweather proved he was not only second to none, but he was so good he left us wondering if there was anyone that could be a worthy enough B-side to inspire the decision makers at the Carmike to reserve one of their theaters in May 2014.
Overall, it was a memorable night. The staff at the Carmike did an excellent job of making everyone comfortable, and the theater is a beautiful alternative to watch future sporting events. The fact that the concessions do not include alcohol is also comforting. For example, when I went to get my soda and popcorn refilled I did not have to look over my shoulder to hear someone telling me that I was paying for their “ju-ju bees”.
For me, I would say that the fight card would dictate where I watch my next fight. A card worthy of $65 will almost certainly cause me to hit the order button my remote. I like hosting fights, and it is the one sporting event that my friends know that they usually have a place to go. However, a card like Bradley – Marquez, would be the kind of fight that I would highly recommend looking in the morning paper to see if it is playing at the movies.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing