It’s been nearly a week since what was billed as “The Fight of the Century” – a bout seven years in the making between the pound-for-pound king, undefeated Floyd Mayweather, and the Filipino champion, Manny Pacquiao. One would walk away with the WBC, WBA and WBO welterweight titles. It was also meant to prove, once and for all, who would be able to call themselves the best fighter of this generation.
The fight that many thought would remain a fantasy as recently as a year ago, finally went down on Saturday. Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed Superfight would fall short of expectations – on a number of levels.
On top of all that, the man who was deified by the public heading into the fight is now seen, in some circles, as the villain – a contemptuous fraud that lied to the American public.
So, how did this happen? Let’s rewind back to May 2nd, 2015:
It should be noted that, even after the fight was made, a vast amount of experts believed that the undefeated WBA/WBC champion would take an easy decision. After all, Mayweather – the brash 38-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan – was considered the best defensive fighter of this, or any other, era in boxing. He knew how to frustrate with a tried-and-true game plan based on out-pointing his opponents and the art of the counter-punch.
That didn’t stop a number of pundits, celebrities and laypeople from picking the 36-year-old puncher from Northern Mindanao. After all, some believed that his combination of speed, awkward angles and punching power would be enough to neutralize many of Mayweather’s advantages in the ring – he would find his spots, corner the American, and use his flurries to knock him down.
Some even framed the fight as a venerable symbolic matchup of “Good” vs. “Evil” – or, at least, as close to one as there could be in the world of professional sports. On one hand, you had Pacquiao – the likable Filipino superstar that always wanted to entertain the populace. Always with a smile on his face, it is difficult not to enjoy his presence. While his recent conversion to Evangelical Protestantism and his message of God can be somewhat cringe-worthy in some circles, there was little question as to who the more popular fighter was when the bout was finally made.
Meanwhile, it was no secret that Mayweather’s wanton deification of the Almighty Dollar rubbed some bystanders the wrong way. His brazen “Money” persona has been seen by some as obnoxious and unnecessary. Additionally, in the wake of recent high-profile domestic violence cases in the world of sport, part of the narrative focused on Mayweather’s own history of domestic abuse. Combined, you might as well have stamped “villain” on the man’s forehead, as far as anyone without an allegiance to Pretty Boy Floyd was concerned. Pacquiao’s camp certainly did – reports saying that he was especially motivated to knock out Mayweather based on his shady past.
No matter the opinions on either fighter, one thing was certain – the demand that this fight had generated over the years was sure to propel it to new heights in the sporting world. Between endorsements, ticket sales and pay-per-view shares, the “Fight of the Century” was expected to generate around $400 million in revenue. That didn’t include an unprecedented weigh-in that demanded a $10 admission charge – proceeds that would go to charity.
Perhaps, then, it was the mega-hype that ultimately fell this so-called “superfight” as a major disappointment. Because, even after the first few rounds, it was obvious that the experts were right – Mayweather would employ a brilliant game plan of counterpunching and avoiding as much contact from his opponent as possible. The more aggressive Pacquiao was many a boxing fan’s last true hope to neutralize such a game plan. And after four rounds, there seemed to be points in the fight where one would believe that it would come to fruition.
That is, until around the fourth round, when, during a particular flurry by Pacquiao on Mayweather, the Filipino brawler stopped his assault without warning – an assault that seemed to be working on the American boxing artist. From there, it was obvious that something was wrong – he wasn’t as busy as he usually was in previous bouts. He stopped using his jab, and was barely swinging for his patented combinations. At that point, Mayweather systematically picked Pacquiao apart with his counter-jabs and well-placed punches to the head.
By the end of the fight, it was pretty obvious even to the most ardent Pacquiao supporter – Mayweather was going to win his 48th bout, and it wasn’t going to be close.
The immediate aftermath was actually worse than what many Pacquiao supporters had feared: Manny was practically embarrassed by ringside announcer Max Kellerman after the Filipino superstar proclaimed that he thought he won the fight – something that, no doubt, many Mayweather supporters and casual boxing fans alike scoffed at. As gracious as Mayweather was in victory, Pacquiao came out of the fight looking like the sore loser.
After all, considering the lack of aggression from Pacquiao after the fourth round, and what amounted to a Mayweather sparring exercise in the later rounds, you could practically hear the collective eye-rolls around the country and the sporting world.
Then news of Pacquiao’s injury finally came to light. Apparently, he was fighting with an injured shoulder for the majority of his bout with Mayweather. It was a lingering injury that happened in the months before the fight, yet trainer Freddie Roach believed it was still good enough to roll with. That is, despite Pacquiao getting rejected by Nevada State officials for a painkilling shot hours before the fight.
In any case, one would think that going out to fight, even with a shoulder not at 100%, would have been seen as a brave venture by Pac-Man.
That would have been true, if only he disclosed the injured shoulder. That would have been true if he didn’t leave a terrible taste in people’s mouths. That would have been true if he didn’t cost the betting public millions of dollars by letting them bet on a man thought to be healthy, when really he was stepping into the ring with, essentially, one hand tied behind his back.
For those reasons, people were angry, and they turned on the likable Filipino quick. According to reports, Pacquiao now faces class action lawsuits from disgruntled fans upwards of $5 million – and those are only the initial complaints. Not to mention he is facing a lengthy recovery – some say a year at most – from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
So, now, Pacquiao comes out of this not only with his tail between his legs, but has amazingly become the villain in this whole debacle.
It’s one of the most literal cases of “adding insult to injury” I have ever seen.
In any case, the thoughts of a rematch – Pacquiao injury or not – are probably pipe dreams, at this point. Mayweather briefly offered the possibility in the days following his victory, but only recently reneged. Apparently, he isn’t buying any injury excuse, and ultimately called him a “coward” for not taking the loss with humility. He did, however, offer an undercard fight for Mayweather’s final Pay-Per-View in September. Some speculate, however, that Mayweather – ever the businessman – could be posturing in a “villain” role to hype up a future rematch.
Regardless, the cocky American – at least, for the moment – will not be goaded into another fight with someone he, and most of the boxing world, felt he dominated over the course of 12 rounds last Saturday. Many felt that the fight was so one-sided, even a healthy Pacquiao wouldn’t have been able to find a way to beat Mayweather, under any circumstances.
In their eyes, the debate is over.
So, what of the Filipino superstar? With all of the legal tape he will have to wade through over the coming months, chances of another prize fight of any kind in the near future is practically nil – even after he recovers from his torn rotator cuff. He would likely be best to stay out of the limelight until everything blows over. His many followers will have to swallow the bitter pill of defeat – even if high-profile Pacquiao supporters like ESPN’s Skip Bayless actually still believe he won the fight – and may have to lay low for awhile.
Personally, I don’t think this couldn’t have turned out worse for the fighter I’ve looked up to, and defended, for years. As I said before, Pacquiao is smeared in the eyes of the public: not only as a vastly inferior fighter to the undefeated Mayweather, but as a liar who robbed boxing fans blind by withholding his injury issues.
And, as the cherry on top of this appalling sundae, I had to watch in disgust on Saturday to essentially watch the bad guy win. After all those years of anticipation, the valiant warrior didn’t slay the egotistical tyrant. Instead, the latter was victorious, standing atop his foe shouting, “Is that the best you can do?!”
While I don’t want to admit it, and as much as I want to believe the outcome could have been different if the Filipino superstar walked into the ring fully healthy, it really doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that the better fighter won. Perhaps not the better man.
But, that’s really up to the public to decide, now, isn’t it?