Floyd Mayweather Jr outlasting Manny Pacquiao to win the “bout of the century” proved once again that “defensive” is a bad word in sport. In boxing, the sight of a fighter retreating into corners is deemed unworthy. That Mayweather was in reality most relaxed against the ropes and tactically in absolute command of the world welterweight title fight when parrying the offensive of Pacquiao, was lost on those who groaned and called the defensive genius a big bore.
As the MGM Grand rooted lustily for Manny, Mayweather’s humble tough chin — central to his defensive game — wasn’t getting the due it deserved. Defensive got roundly booed in another sport this week. It took all of Jose Mourinho’s irreverence and verbal counter-punching for cranky Arsenal apologists to be told that the Blues’ super-effective style of play is what brings home the silverware. In the real world — even if supporters at Nou Camp or the Emirates can’t stop sulking, calling his bunch negative and boring — Mourinho’s teams can do the needful to win matches and collect the titles.
Blinded by the beauty of threaded passes and magical midfields, it’s easy to forget that the business-like Chelsea juggernaut still managed the all-important statistic of scoring the most goals, conceding the least, and that is all that mattered. International sport will also continue to reward the monotony of the baseline bull-headedness of Nadal and Djokovic, even if Federer gathers all the gasps and gush. And Italian football teams will always attract the cult that’s drawn to the Back Four in front of the keeper, defending the 1-0 scoreline as if their life depended on it. The masses might be unkind to he who stays determinedly defensive, but Floyd Mayweather Jr proved once again this Saturday that when perfect, defence is an art to savour.