Floyd Mayweather controlled his fight against Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night, in front of a packed house of
fans the mega-rich at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fight shattered all kinds of records in terms of revenue generation — although I’m still not sure why I’m supposed to care about that, or why that should positively impact my assessment of the fight and the event.
As each minute ticked away before the main event, with the pay-per-view’s absolutely miserable undercard, along with the nonstop shots of the drunk celebrities who were able to gobble up six figure tickets on the secondary market as fans were left to watch on their couches for the all too reasonable $100 PPV price tag, the more of a sham the entire spectacle became. Sure, this was an aggressive money grab and price gouge from the start, but watching it all unfold was stomach-churning.
But I digress, this column isn’t supposed to be about the insanity and awfulness which surrounded the fight, it’s supposed to be about the fight itself. Mayweather won in much the way that most expected him to — please ignore the hilarious fan Twitter voting which was shown during the telecast. In this site’s predictions round-up, 7 of 7 writers picked a Mayweather decision. Every active boxer seemed to pick Mayweather. The vast majority of unbiased individuals who were picking with their heads, and not their hearts, picked Mayweather to win by decision.
And he did, so kudos to him for doing what he was expected to, and what he was favored to do, and defeating Pacquiao. Yet, the win and the performance did nothing to boost his all-time credentials, which are undoubtedly highly impressive nonetheless.
The Best Ever? Certainly not, although nobody beyond the Money Team is trying to make that claim. Top 10 all-time? Top 20? I’ll save the specifics of that debate once Mayweather actually hangs up his gloves, which could come as soon as September, after his next fight.
But the win doesn’t elevate Mayweather’s historical position. If anything, the performance should hurt his standing.
I know full well that Mayweather is a defensive first fighter. I certainly was not expecting an action-packed fight, or one with high drama. Mayweather shuts down his opponent, takes away whatever it is that he does best, and scores enough points to earn the nod. That’s what he did here, and that’s what I expected from him.
It’s made him the best fighter of the generation — as well as one I’ve been a vocal supporter of for years, even in the face of similar criticism — and it certainly puts him in the discussion with those all-timers. I very much respect the Sweet Science of hitting and not being hit, of ring generalship, of Mayweather’s astoundingly perfect shoulder roll defense.
Yet, wouldn’t nearly every other boxing legend do more to put the hurt on, or try to finish, an opponent whom they outclassed? Fighting within your style is one thing, but there were glaring openings and opportunities against Pacquiao which went unexploited. This is the most important fight of your career, and the biggest showcase, why not dial up the heat just a little bit more? Wouldn’t Muhammad Ali have done so? Sugar Ray Leonard? Sugar Ray Robinson? Henry Armstrong? Roberto Duran? Julio Cesar Chavez?
I wouldn’t expect a stoppage, or a bludgeoning, or a sudden, ill-advised switch to face-first aggression. But a little more of a determined effort would have been nice.
It didn’t help that Mayweather and Pacquiao seemed all too happy to merely go along with the charade. There’s Pacquiao, all smiles at the weigh-in, all smiles walking to the ring, with Jimmy Kimmel bouncing behind him in some apparent long-lost Man Show sketch. There’s Mayweather, repeatedly telling us he’s doing it for the money, and that he’s not really into boxing that much anymore.
There the two combatants are, chumming it up after the fight (pictured above), not in the way that two battered gladiators embrace in a show of mutual respect and recognition of the type of bond that could only be uniquely forged by unleashing shared physical destruction and punishment, but in the way of two guys who knew they would emerge from their record-breaking paydays relatively unscathed. Ha ha! Great night, made some money, didn’t we? Good job, everybody! Let’s play two!
Adding another name to your resume is one thing. And in two decades when people look up Mayweather’s record on Boxrec.com, they’ll see the wide Unanimous Decision over Manny Pacquiao, who’s own entry will tell you he’s an eight division champion, and they’ll have all the evidence they need to justify a lofty historical standing.
The unshakeable impression I’m left with though is that the expected win, with that type of performance, cannot positively enhance Mayweather’s legacy. It justifies it — he is who we thought he was — the best fighter of his era, and one who will stand a slight rung beneath the very best fighters in the sport’s history, not due to a lack of accomplishment, but rather the absence of that extra something special which would have willed him to capitalize on the moment and push himself to go for it.