What an exciting battle we had Monday night at the third encounter of the Romney vs. Obama series in Boca Raton, Florida. Here it was, the rubber match. Each of these champions, each of them bruised and battered from their earlier matches, Obama in the first fight and Romney in the second, out for winner take all. It was truly the fight of the century, with over a billion people watching, the largest event of its kind in history, even larger than the “Thrilla in Manila” all those years ago, where Joe Frazier sat on his stool, unable to come out for a 15th round, giving the victory to Muhammad Ali, who afterwards said it was the closest to death he had ever come. That event drew just 700 million viewers.
The two combatants circled each other warily in the early going. Obama threw a few tentative punches and Romney returned them in kind. Then, in the middle rounds, the two opened up. First it was Obama on the ropes, with Romney’s supporters cheering madly as Romney said, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” and then it was Romney on the ropes, with Obama’s stinging remark of “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” Obama’s supporters cheered madly. It was an incredible battle. The commentators ringside yelled so loud into their microphones that by the sixth round they were all hoarse, and still the fight went on.
In the seventh round, things seemed to get rough for awhile. Obama was warned for holding. At one point he threw Romney to the floor. “If we’d taken your advice about the auto industry, we’d be buying cars in China instead of selling cars to China,” he said. He was warned for that. But when Romney returned these indignities with a butt to the head, and then, after a warning, delivered another butt, saying, “Attacking me is not an agenda,” referee Joe Cortez took a point away from him. Things did slow down after that.
In the ninth round, Romney landed some hard punches and had Obama on the ropes, with Romney scoring point after point, talking about Obama’s record on the economy, which he called a disaster, and then Obama’s position on foreign affairs, which he called weak. “Mr. President,” he said, “America has not dictated to other nations; we have freed other nations from dictators.”
But in the next round, Obama rallied, scoring heavily with his implication about the gaffe Romney made when he insulted the British about how the security at their Olympics seemed lax, and then again later in the round when he said, “You mentioned the Navy…and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military’s changed.”
Romney was reeling from this onslaught and just barely made it through to the end of the round, and in the 11th the pummeling continued.
As the 12th and final round began, some commentators said it looked like Obama was going to win, just as he had in their second encounter, but again Romney rallied, accusing Obama of not visiting Israel recently and failing to take a hard enough line on Iran, and soon, as the clock began ticking down, the men stood toe-to-toe, each man not giving an inch until just before the final bell, when Obama landed a blow that knocked Romney’s mouthpiece into the crowd and had Romney holding on for dear life. And then it was over.
Most commentators at the end thought Obama had won, but there were still a few whose scorecards showed Romney either in a draw or ahead by a point.
And so it came down to the judges. One judge, Oscar Dellahoya from New Mexico, had the fight a draw. But the other two, Bob Beres of New York and Carol Oshinsloss of California, scored it for Obama by the same margin, 114 to 111.
So Obama was declared the winner. He would have won even if Romney had not been penalized that one point in the eighth round, although without the penalty it would have been a split decision.
Max Kellerman interviewed both fighters in the ring after it was over. Barack Obama, tired but still proud, said he was the greatest and pounded his chest. It was true, he had won two out of three. When asked if he would give Romney a rematch, he said he would fight him anytime, anywhere if the price were right, but he also thought he had proven he was the winner and he felt he should move on. “There are a lot of other people out there who are waiting to take a shot at me,” he said.
As for Romney, he said he thought he had won the fight, that he thought the referee had stepped in too soon when he had Obama on the ropes a couple of times, and when asked if he wanted them to fight a fourth time he said, “Absolutely. All he has to do is name the time and the place. I’m ready.”
Most of the fans, leaving the arena, seemed satisfied with the decision. It had been a hard, close fight. They had gotten their money’s worth. As people had felt so passionate about one or the other, there had been a fear that fisticuffs might break out in the audience during the fight, but as there was plenty of security all around, nothing amiss happened.
In one sense, the three battles did mirror the Ali-Frazier encounters. Frazier had knocked Ali down in the first fight and had clearly won. But Ali won the second by a slight margin, and in the last of the fights, when he won with Frazier retiring while sitting on his stool coming into the last round, Ali was also slightly ahead on points.
So who is the greatest? Well, with Ali and Frazier, it was clearly Ali, who went on to greater success than did Frazier and, in the end, retired, beloved by all.
In the present case, we have a situation that has never before existed in the annals of sport. The ultimate decision of who was the best will be decided by all the voters in America, who, on Tuesday, November 6, will be going to the polls, and, by pulling levers and poking some hanging chads, will make the final decision.
God bless America.