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29 NOVEMBER 2014

 

In Demand: Mayweather – Pacquiao




By Matthew Hurley: After dismantling Miguel Cotto in customary exciting fashion the buzzing sellout crowd of over 16,000 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas began to chant, “We want Floyd! We want Floyd! We want Floyd!” And it wasn’t simply the delirious Filipino fans that had just witnessed their hero reach yet another plateau in his remarkable career; it was boxing fans in general. Although there are some terrific bouts coming up in the near future, to paraphrase the tagline that was attached to the Clash during their rock and roll heyday, Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao is the only fight that matters.

The fight simply has to happen, but don’t think for even a second that negotiations for a bout between the two best fighters on the planet will be easy. Although if one were to lay blame for what will surely be a long drawn out process concerning purse distribution Mayweather is not alone in estimating his worth in dollars and cents. He just talks about it endlessly.

Manny Pacquiao is well aware of his position atop the boxing world and he knows that it is he, not Mayweather, who is riding a crest of popularity very rarely seen in any sport. Pacquiao’s crossover appeal has reached an apex – a Time Magazine cover spot in the Asian edition of the magazine (the five page article was in all editions), a successful appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, endorsement deals and a pay-per-view event with early indications of in excess of 1.4 million buys. Pacquiao’s boyish charm belies his intuitive business acumen and whatever naiveté may remain his promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, is always there with his arms folded across his chest, smoke billowing out of his ears and dollar signs blinking in his eyes.

Mayweather has intimated that he deserves 65% of the potential bundle of cash that will be spread out on the negotiating table and that’s where the talks will begin. It’s all about getting the percentages down to purse parity. But the fight is already so big that it will get done, but probably not until May or June, if not even later in 2010.

Mayweather has already tossed a few derisive comments Pacquiao’s way after Saturday’s comprehensive victory and that in itself should be an indicator that the man who calls himself “Money” is steeling himself for a verbal assault to hype the eventual showdown.

As quoted by Sky Sports, Floyd said of Manny’s latest masterpiece, “He’s a good puncher but he’s just one-dimensional.”

Floyd then went on to deride the so-called one-dimensional Pacquiao’s chances against an “all time great” fighter like himself and, in a far reaching observation, questioned Pacquiao’s ability to take a punch, despite nary a wobble under the heavy-handed Cotto’s early assault.

“Whatever I do to Pacquiao has been done before,” he insists. “He’s been beaten on three occasions. And if I knock him out I don’t want the world shouting because he’s been knocked out twice before.”

It’s a specious assertion considering that those two knockout losses came as a weight-drained flyweight over 10 years ago. His other loss was a 12 round decision to future hall-of-famer Erik Morales. Pacquiao knocked Morales out in two return bouts. Strangely it’s not just Mayweather who sees unnecessary importance in an undefeated record. The value of the ‘0’ in the loss column still has validity in the minds of many fight fans. It’s not an antiquated notion, but a relatively new phenomenon. Fighters from decades past fought much more often, rematches were commonplace and a loss meant little if the fighter could put asses in the seats. One of the few recent fighters whose record meant little was the late Arturo Gatti, a fighter his fans adored and supported whether he won or lost.


Ultimately what all boxing fans should embrace is not the record the fighter brings into the ring but his skill set, desire and ferocity. The reason Pacquiao has ascended so quickly to the top of the heap is because he brings all three of those things to the dance every time he laces up the gloves. He’s a throwback to boxing’s last Golden Age – the 1980s when fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor would sign on the dotted line to fight anyone because they not only desired the money that came with the risk, the risk itself was the true test to find out just how good they really were. And each one of those legendary fighters wanted to be great. Manny is just like them.

Floyd’s desire to be great, however, has come into question. His level of opposition, particularly after he left the lightweight division, has often been lacking. His extraordinary skills and untouchable athleticism has served him well, but his ego has slowly deconstructed a once great fighter into a businessman more often looking for the easiest route to a big pile of cash with the least amount of risk. Once he changed his nickname from “Pretty Boy” to “Money” he seemed to become more concerned with possessions outside the ring than the respect he could earn inside of the squared circle.

However, all of that withering disdain from his critics would be wiped away instantly if he simply steps up as soon as possible and demands that Pacquiao meet him in the ring to settle their pound-for-pound score once and for all.

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach who, as of late, loves to get into the minds of his fighter’s opponents is already trying to needle Mayweather’s ego.

“I don’t think Mayweather really wants the fight,” he said at the post fight press conference. “We want the fight, but if Floyd wants a 65-35 split he’s not going to get it.”

The verbal jousts will continue for the next several months, although the more reticent Pacquiao won’t be slinging any mud, he’s just not comfortable with trash talk. Mayweather on the other hand has mastered the craft.

But once all the nonsense is pushed aside and the ink has dried on the contract boxing fans will have an event on their hands that will harken back to the halcyon days of the 1980s when fights like Leonard – Hearns were the norm rather than the exception.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the two best fighters in the sport, two markedly different personalities, with raucous, passionate fan bases have both fought so brilliantly in their careers to get to this point. This fight is the pinnacle for both of them. It’s not simply what boxing needs; it’s what the fans demand.

November 18, 2009


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