Some hardcore fans would say HBO's 24/7 boxing series has jumped the shark. Some would say the idea of Manny Pacquiao fighting Juan Manuel Marquez again has jumped the shark. Even some of the participants in both seem well aware of how repetitive all of it has become. Early in the debut episode of "24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez 4," airing directly after Saturday's live boxing card, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach quips about the television series, "Manny's going to talk about God, and I'm going to talk about winning the fight... We need a new twist, I'm not sure what we're going to do yet."
For that one episode, at least, the "new twist" HBO came up with for "24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez 4" is a good one -- up to a point. The episode moves away from the introduction of personalities customary for each new 24/7 premier and more toward a documentary-style revisit of each previous fight in the trilogy.
It must be said upfront that I'm biased in favor of Pacquiao-Marquez IV, if Pacquiao can't lure fellow welterweight Floyd Mayweather in the ring; no one else is really as compelling an opponent for the Filipino sensation. I suspect that a large and less social media-visible segment of the fan base feels the same, judging by ticket sales in contrast with the griping you see from the hardcore fans on Twitter and such.
The "24/7 is played out" vibe is common to those same hardcore fans, but 24/7 isn't really for them -- it's more to lure in the casual fan. But even the casual fan has probably been exposed by now to Pacquiao talking about God, and since Pacquiao-Marquez III was just last year, they've probably been exposed to this specific cast of characters.
So: Right on, 24/7, for trying something new. And, mostly, it works. Roach, Pacquiao, Marquez and Marquez trainer Nacho Beristain provide insider commentary on each of the three fights -- things like Roach acknowledging that Pacquiao probably didn't win the 6th round of Pacquiao-Marquez II, or Marquez inadvertently revealing why he keeps giving judges chances to swing the serially close fights away from him with insights like this, on the 12th round of Pacquiao-Marquez III: "I didn't think that one round could sway the decision."
Promoter Bob Arum makes a couple appearances, as does judge Robert Hoyle; I always like hearing from the judges on why they scored a fight a certain way. But it's mostly the fighters and their trainers talking over the trilogy so far.
Through two fights, the format absolutely got me juiced. Pacquiao-Marquez I and II were stone cold classics, and it was great to revisit them in that kind of detail. Pacquiao-Marquez III, though, is where things run out of steam a little bit in the episode. That fight, which had good but not great action, just left a bad taste in my mouth because of what I viewed (and many others viewed) as bad scorecards that gave Pacquiao the win.
Maybe you'll feel the same by the end of the episode, too. Maybe you'll feel (and maybe I'll feel) sick of these characters by the end of the 24/7 run for Pacquiao-Marquez IV. But for the bulk of one episode, it felt like a condensed three-for-one "Legendary Nights," the great HBO series that a lot of fans miss, and that makes it worth watching for fans of all stripes, and certainly far more than if the usual tropes were being trotted out.
(HBO provided a review copy of the episode to TQBR.)