With pigs preparing for flight, comes the news that Floyd Mayweather Jr. (47-0) and Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2) have finally come to terms in order to give boxing fans what they have long awaited.
May 2nd 2015 will be the culmination of nearly six years of fight-ripening drama that has driven revenue projections for this event to levels never before seen.
In historical context, this bout is considered a once per generation sports happening; a modern day equivalent to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s first fight in 1971.
It might not be everything to the sport, but from the day it was first conceived in 2009, Mayweather/Pacquiao has been the only thing - the only boxing-related topic that has crossed over into the mainstream.
As detailed in a previous article, public interest in this fight has been unrelenting, and through multiple failed negotiations, countless controversies, courtroom battles and years of torturous waiting. The long and winding road to May 2nd has had an almost cold war-like quality, to where fans and media are stunned by something as simple as the two men standing face to face.
Aside from the, at times, interesting build-up, there has been some sentiment, among fans and media, that the fight itself is less compelling than would have been the case five-plus years ago. All of this begs a very important question: are fans interested in Mayweather/Pacquiao simply because they have been deprived for several years or because it truly has the potential to be a great fight?
Yes and yes.
Mayweather vs Pacquiao: Then and now
As most know, Mayweather and Pacquiao were originally slated to meet in March of 2010. Before a disagreement over drug testing protocol scuttled the fight, all other contractual terms had been settled. Most notably, the fighters agreed to split revenue equally.
At the time, odds makers at Wynn, Las Vegas saw Pacquiao, who had been obliterating hall of fame caliber competition in the years preceding, as a 9-5 favorite.
Five years later, Mayweather will take home 60%, albeit of a much larger pie, and odd-makers have installed him as a greater than 2-1 favorite to defeat Pacquiao.
The 100% swing in odds is likely to anticipate tendencies of bettors who have had Manny’s knockout loss to Juan Manual Marquez etched in their memory. Following the money, in this case, is probably more telling. In terms of where the fighters stand from a competitive perspective, the 10% purse swing (from 50/50 to 60/40) more accurately reflects the degree to which this fight has evolved.
Will it live up to the hype?
This is an unfair question for obvious reasons. Over the years, the sheer volume of media and fan discussion on this topic has created a monster in the form of unrealistic expectations. At the end of the day, it will be 12 rounds of boxing.
It won’t cure cancer and it won’t solve world peace. That said and hyperbole aside, Mayweather/Pacquiao is still the best fight that can be made in boxing today, according to most pundits.
Floyd will be 38 and Manny 36 years of age on fight night, but each still ranks atop most pound-for-pound lists. Stripped bare of all hype, this will be a contest of the best offensive fighter in the world and the best defensive fighter in the world.
It is the ultimate contrast in styles and should produce a fascinating tactical battle.
The school of thought espousing that Mayweather will dominate Pacquiao is short sighted and lacking in factual, historical support. The reality is that Floyd has had difficulty with left-handed fighters and has never fought an elite southpaw. The few middling lefties that Mayweather has contended with, particularly Demarcus Corley and Zab Judah, have forced Floyd to fight differently.
Because of the change in punching angles when facing a left-handed opponent, Mayweather is less able to employ his hallmark shoulder roll defense. Against Judah, he spent a number of rounds fighting behind a high guard, which was game-changing for the first half of the fight. Mayweather’s defensive foundation relies on shielding with the lead shoulder, thereby leaving his hands free for snapping left hooks and counter-right hands. When he has to guard with both hands, his defense and counter attack are significantly impaired.
Let’s also not forget that this will be a rare occasion when Floyd will not enjoy a hand or foot speed advantage over his opponent.
Pacquiao may not be the dominant knockout puncher that he once was, but he is still the preeminent combination puncher and pressure fighter.
While Floyd is rightfully the favorite, there should be no doubt that this is the most challenging style matchup of his career.
As far as living up to the hype, boxing historians will draw comparisons to the 1971 Ali/Frazier “Fight of the Century” and the 1987 “Super Fight” between Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler. Both events were several years in the making, but the former lived up to the billing and the latter disappointed.
We can be certain of one thing, however - much has changed since 1971 and 1987. The information age has resulted in orders of magnitude differences in demand. In 1971, Ali and Frazier each pocketed $2.5 million. In 1987, Hagler and Leonard split an approximately $25 million purse. The revenue for Mayweather/Pacquiao is expected to approach a staggering $400 million, with the fighters likely to see 70-75% of this total between them.
Let’s hope that the fans get what they pay for.