Initial negotiations between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had come crashing to a halt amid insults and vast swathes of rhetoric. Instead the pair signed to fight Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey respectively as a fight that could have changed the course of boxing history was irreconcilably delayed.
Both won but each fight showed hints of issues that would only become more apparent as the years went by. Pacquiao hit Clottey with everything including the kitchen sink but never came close to finishing the enigmatic Ghanaian. Meanwhile, Mayweather was seriously hurt in the second round of his tussle with Mosley, nearly hitting the canvas on two separate occasions before recovering well to win well on points.
In the next few years Pacquiao would continue failing in his quest to finish an opponent within the distance, defeating Antonio Margarito, Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez with varying degrees of difficulty. Mayweather continued to fight at a slower rate – once a year – and knocked out the overmatched Victor Ortiz in four rounds in 2011.
Both were well into their 30s and their opponents were not getting any more illustrious, nor were their performances quite as memorable. Nonetheless, demand to see them fight remained. Negotiations failed once again over the stadium and the purse split in late 2011, however. The path leading them to one another had been diverted, this time apparently by greed.
In a small consolation, Mayweather agreed to another fight people had clamored for before as he signed on to square off with Miguel Cotto.
Mayweather beats Cotto, but not the law
Cotto had already been beaten by Pacquiao as he prepared to enter the ring with Mayweather. There was no real discussion of Pacquiao’s leftovers, though. Since that defeat, Cotto had moved up to junior middleweight, won an alphabet title and rematched and defeated Antonio Margarito. He was seen by most as the top dog at 154 lbs at this stage of his career.
The Puerto Rican was full of confidence and he fought in this vein, using his jab well, pressuring Mayweather and making the contest an enjoyable watch. He was still relatively lacking in hand speed however, and Mayweather ripped through some beautiful uppercuts and right hooks.
By the end of the contest both men had earned respect for putting on a give-and-take duel, with Mayweather deservedly awarded a firm unanimous decision. Although he was gaining plaudits inside the ring, outside it his behavior was far from exemplary.
In late 2011 he had been sentenced to 90 days in prison for domestic violence having been found to have assaulted his former partner Josie Harris. The sentence was postponed until after his fight with Cotto. Therefore, shortly after this significant performance, he was behind bars. At this stage the fight with Pacquiao looked extremely bleak. It was about to get even bleaker.
2012 had been an up and down year for Mayweather. For Pacquiao the same 12-month period would prove arguably the most testing of his entire career. It was a test that threatened to put a close not just to the Mayweather/Pacquiao saga, but Pacquiao’s career entirely.