By John Lumpkin: There is a lot a press out there bemoaning the fact that the Mayweather Pacquiao fight did not happen and will not happen. Don’t believe it for a second. This fight is too big to let go. It might not happen immediately, but as long as the fighters get past their respective opponents, it will remain a viable fight. You have to keep in mind that while there has been growing speculation about the possibility of this fight, it is only recently that the public demanded it. Is it really reasonable for us to assume that once the demand is made clear that a fight would immediately materialize? Folks, this is boxing. It rarely works that way.
This is the type of fight where every little potential advantage needs to be explored. Think back to Ali’s torment of Foreman, Leonard’s mental games with Hagler or even Hopkins’ against Trinidad. All of these fighters used a variety of tactics to get under the skin of their opposition and give themselves an edge. This is hard to do if you jump at the first chance to fight. Even fighters who are not sure about their ability to win want time to access and find the upper hand.
There are lots to discuss about a fight of this magnitude. Things that rarely matter is common fights are critically important in big fights like this. Ring size, the brand of gloves, location, purse, and in this case, the method of drug testing. Some of this is about making sure the fighter feels comfortable and some of it is about imposing one’s will on the opponent. If you can make them bend to your will just a little bit, maybe you will have an edge. Of course, they have to care.
You have to hand it to Mayweather though with the drug test idea. Cannot recall a time another fighter has brought this to the equation. Despite the timing and the purpose, it is a reasonable question to ask. As fans in this day and age, it would be nice to know for certain that a fighter we are all proclaiming to be an all time great is doing so without the aid of some substance. We would almost certainly have an entirely different attitude towards Pacquiao if it turned out that he was not playing fair. This is not to say that he is or that we should even think that. He has passed every test required of him and never provided us with a reason to suspect otherwise. One would hope that this refusal had more to do with the aforementioned gamesmanship than avoidance.
It is interesting in itself that drug testing plays such an important role today. It is a good thing and a sad fact of life. If the tests are performed on both fighters and either one of them turns out to have an issue, their reputations will be ruined. No one will dare compare them to the fighters of yesteryear. The funny thing about this is that the rules exist today because of the antics of those fighters. We often think of drugs as a modern today problem, but really we are just a lot better at detection and recognition. You have to wonder just how many of the all time greats were aided by the system’s lack of ability to test or even consider that something might not be as it seems. It is the type of question we like to ignore and just wish we did not have to think about.
There are a lot of interests at play in the sport of boxing. This magnitude of fight is likely to shatter the previous record for pay per view buys of 2.15 million for $120 million set by the De la Hoya – Mayweather bout in 2007. The only thing that might hold it back is the state of the economy. Waiting could actually improve those figures and it may be worth the risk of doing so. There is no guarantee that the actual fight will be entertaining. If it is a stinker or a blowout, there will be no rematch. Folks on both sides have to assume this is a onetime deal and that market forces will play a large role in determining their respective paychecks. Nothing else these parties do in their lifetimes will likely equate to these kinds of earnings, so there is every incentive to maximize their take.
Many people have jumped on Mayweather for this fight not happening. One of leading accusations is that he is afraid to risk his zero against a live contender. There is a truth to the notion as his record indicates, but this is a different story. Before Pacquiao came into the picture, Mayweather was the unquestioned pound for pound king and had people thinking about where he ranked against the all timers. He even put out the idea that he was the best that had ever been – not that any of us took that seriously. Nevertheless, as long as he remained unbeaten and dazzled us with his stellar performances against every opponent put in front of him, he could argue the case.
Pacquiao’s ascension to the top of the pound for pound ranks during Mayweather’s absence from the ring changed things. He may not have fought the toughest fighters in all the weight classes he attempted on his way up, but it was obvious that he was facing challenges as he progressed the could have derailed him at any point. Just as importantly, he was crushing the opposition and then he capped it off by knocking out the toughest guy in the highest weight division he fought.
The problem for Mayweather is that Pacquiao has raised the bar. He has set a modern standard for what an all time great looks like. Mayweather’s record simply does not compare. It will not matter if Pacquiao loses three of his next five fights, his accomplishments are greater and Mayweather does not have the time to do anything about it. If Mayweather finishes his career undefeated without facing Pacquiao, his reputation will suffer tremendously and no one will consider him to be amongst the best of all time. If that claim means anything to Mayweather, it is a fight he has to take. And if he is serious about the ‘Money’ moniker, well, duh.
January 17, 2010