A vanished America came out last night, in case you weren't paying attention. Two men of whom you've likely never heard -- two American kids, friends from their teenage days -- climbed into a boxing ring and threw leather for 10 sizzling rounds, and one of them won a unanimous decision to keep his welterweight title. Everyone agreed it was a great thing.
And why is this worthy of mention, considering it's boxing and boxing hasn't mattered in America since the sport voluntarily took itself out of the public consciousness?
Because this was boxing putting itself back into the public consciousness.
Keith Thurman successfully defending his title against childhood buddy Shawn Porter, see, was aired in primetime on CBS. No pay-per-view. No hiding the product. Put it right out there where Mr. and Mrs. America can see it.
It was the first main event televised by CBS in prime time since Feb. 15, 1978, when Muhammad Ali lost a split decision to Leon Spinks in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. And if this wasn't Ali, it was at least an attempt by boxing to regain a piece of the audience it's lost due to its own greed and the emergence of MMA, whose popularity has put boxing in the shade.
"To have a fight with that kind of anticipation, the best against the best, and you wind up with that kind of fight?" said promoter Lou DiBella. "A fight that lived up to the expectations, and you didn't have to pay 75 bucks for it? I love boxing tonight."
But did America love boxing back?
Hard to say. That Thurman and Porter put on exactly the kind of show the sport was counting on -- a rollicking slugfest straight out of the Friday Night Fights days -- was one thing. That most of America had never heard of either was, of course, another. This wasn't Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard, after all. It was two fighters who've unfortunately come up in an era in which America doesn't know its fighters anymore. There are almost no household names in boxing these days, precisely because the sport has abandoned those households.
Instead it charges absurd pay-per-view fees and severely restricts ticket sales to the public for its marquee events, something we saw in the extreme for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. And so Porter-Thurman didn't have the appeal it could have had, and which it deserved.
I know. I watched it.
But I only watched it because I happened to stumble onto it while channel-surfing. And, no, I'd never heard of either fighter, either. Or of any of the alleged big-name boxers who attended and showed up on the set to be interviewed about what a great night it was for their sport.
"I love boxing tonight," DiBella said.
If only they all loved it enough.