Did I hear right?
In an upscale pet food store in West Los Angeles, two women--sixtyish, stylish, possibly Beverly Hills matrons--were gossiping about, of all things, a welterweight fight.
Eavesdropping, I swear I heard one of them gush:
"I just heard this on the radio. This HBO announcer (Larry Merchant) and this fighter--Floyd Mayweather I think his name is--were screaming at each other about something. The fighter said the announcer should be fired and the announcer screamed that if he were younger he'd fight the fighter. They were screaming back and forth. It was incredible. I couldn't believe what I was hearing."
Neither could I.
These women clearly weren't fight fans. They wouldn't know a welterweight from a paperweight.
But they know a juicy celebrity battle when they hear one.
They were chatting about the interview that followed the title fight Saturday night in Las Vegas between Victor Ortiz and Floyd Mayweather. The bout ended in controversy, with a fouth-round KO. Here's what happened: Ortiz, who couldn't penetrate Mayweather's steel-curtain defense, head-butted his opponent, prompting the ref to briefly halt the fight. A split-second after it resumed and before Ortiz was ready, Mayweather wobbled him with a surprise left and then finished him with a head-rattling right.
Was the left that set up the KO a cheap shot? Without question.
Why would Mayweather, who was in complete charge, stoop to something like that? That's what commentator Larry Merchant--and everyone else--wanted to know.
In the post-fight interview, Merchant tried to get an explanation from Mayweather, who didn't think he did anything wrong. All Merchant got from the champ was venom. Undaunted, Merchant fired back. Turns out the real main event was the Merchant-Mayweather verbal smackdown.
One of the women in the pet store said to her friend: "I can't wait to hear that interview." If these two were talking about the fight, others, like them outside the fight realm, were probably doing the same thing.
Boxing could use some mainstream buzz like this. It's been on the ropes for decades and in recent years has been steadily losing fans to ultimate fighting--a hipper, more violent and more youth-friendly sport. But the next time there's a big boxing match, this current buzz, which seems to be luring some unlikely onlookers, just may translate into bucks.