Editor’s Note: From the CAC to the ‘CAC is proud to welcome Alex Henrie as a contributor. He is a junior goalkeeper at Bates and will be offering his opinion on a variety of topics. His work here is unedited by me and he is free to opine as he wishes. -Swank
Looking forward to the long-anticipated fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather? You might want to get comfortable and find some snacks, because this one might be on hold for a while. Despite the fact that each fighter stands to make enough money to start a colony on Mars, there has been little to no progress over the course of the last two years, and there is no reason to believe that will change any time soon.
In my opinion, most of the problems that have led to the constant delays in the negotiations have come out of the Mayweather camp. In just the past year, Mayweather has accused Pacquiao of taking steroids (and been taken to court by Pacquiao in a subsequent defamation lawsuit), appeared in an online video in which he demeaned Pacquiao by using racial slurs, and was arrested for a myriad of offenses, including felony coercion, grand larceny, and robbery, as well as misdemeanor assault and battery. While the issues not related to boxing such as the video or the arrests serve to show that Mayweather is, simply, put, an idiot, the boxing-related issue of steroids seems to show Mayweather’s true intentions about the fight. Mayweather has been dogged in his accusations against Pacquiao, repeatedly accusing the eight-division world champion of using steroids and of being a cheater. Mayweather used that accusation as an excuse to demand Olympic-style drug testing, which not only requires standard urine testing but also includes random blood tests before and after the fight. Mayweather’s demands come despite the fact that Olympic testing isn’t required by any boxing commission (outside of the Olympics, obviously), and despite the fact that no other boxer or analyst has ever raised the suspicion of performance enhancing drugs in relation to Pacquiao.
What appears to be the case is that Mayweather was looking for a way to avoid fighting Pacquiao. Even when Pacquiao did agree to Mayweather’s demands midway through 2011, Mayweather changed his mind and said his offer wasn’t good anymore. Although Mayweather has one of the loudest mouths in sports and is known as a relentless self-promoter, his actions during the negotiations for the proposed super-fight expose him as a paper tiger whose bluster covers up what seems like a kind of nervousness. As he is quick to remind anyone within earshot, Mayweather is undefeated and has never even been knocked down. Mayweather sees himself as the greatest of his era and one of the greatest of all time, and points to his unblemished record as obvious proof of that. His career is marked by dominating performances, including a brutal KO against undefeated Diego Corrales where he scored five knockouts, wins against titleholders Arturo Gatti and Oscar de la Hoya, and a total demolition of lightweight champion and world-ranked #2 Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao, however, represents a different challenge. Mayweather is used to being the favorite and has always enjoyed the confidence that comes with being expected to win. This is not the case in the hypothetical Pacquiao-Mayweather fight; as many, if not more people think that Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and would beat Mayweather. This creates a conundrum for Pretty Boy Floyd, who gets that nickname from the 1930’s mobster by the same name. Although on the surface he is brimming with confidence, one has to assume that an enormous debate rages in Mayweather’s mind.
While a win would cement him beyond a doubt as the greatest of his era and one of the greatest of all time, his place in history is already assured even if he doesn’t fight Pacquiao. A loss, on the other hand, would destroy everything he has worked for. His proudest achievement, his undefeated record, would be gone, as would his aura of invincibility. His proclamations of greatness and his loud, public insults of his opponents would no longer seem like they were made out of confidence, but instead of unfounded arrogance. In short, Floyd Mayweather has a LOT to lose by fighting Manny Pacquiao. While he is an insufferable loudmouth, he understands boxing history. Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Liston, Robinson, Leonard, Tyson, and all the other greats all lost at some point in their career – Mayweather hasn’t.
For all his stalling, recent events may force Mayweather to pursue the fight. First was his controversial fight against Victor Ortiz in September. In the midst of a flurry of punches near the end of the fourth round, Ortiz leaned in and headbutted Mayweather, and was docked a point immediately. What followed was one of the most bizarre ends to a fight in recent memory. Referee Joe Cortez brought the two together and stepped back without giving a true signal to restart the fight. While Ortiz was reaching with both arms outstretched to either embrace or apologize, Mayweather wound up and clocked him with a sucker punch left and finished him with a straight right. Ortiz went down and would not get up, and the controversy started. While it was technically a legal punch, Mayweather’s knockout was a disgusting display of poor sportsmanship and dirty fighting. The boxing community immediately recoiled, and Mayweather was blasted for the way he won the fight. We as a society have a short memory; the most recent thing is often the thing we remember the most. With the bad taste of the Ortiz knockout still lingering around Mayweather in the eyes of many boxing fans, fighting Manny Pacquiao would be a foolproof way to refocus public opinion on his boxing, and not on his dirty tactics.
A far more important reason Mayweather has to pursue the fight is because of a bout he wasn’t even involved in. Last Saturday, Manny Pacquiao fought Juan Manuel Marquez in what was supposed to be a dominating performance that would prove that no other boxer could stand toe to toe with him, and that it was time for Pacquiao and Mayweather to finally decide who was the best boxer alive. Instead, Marquez refused to play the part of gallant loser. For 12 rounds he denied Pacquiao’s combinations and kept him on his heels; unlike the first two fights between the greats, Marquez was not knocked down. Although Pacquiao won by judge’s decision, Marquez (as usual) felt he won the fight, as did many who watched in the arena and around the country. While Marquez’s incessant whining about the judges makes it hard to take his case seriously, he did put a serious dent in Pacquiao’s status as the best fighter in the world. In the eyes of many, Pacquiao lost that unofficial crown by failing to even knock down a fighter who he had knocked down four times in two previous fights, and who he was expected to dispatch within six rounds (according to ESPN’s prediction).
So where do we stand now? Despite Pacquiao looking shakier than he has in a while, and Mayweather looking in top form in his recent beatdown of Victor Ortiz, it doesn’t appear that the fight of the century is any closer to being finalized than it was a year ago. This week, the Mayweather camp came out and said that Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum told Mayweather that he was not interested in organizing a fight between the two; instead, Mayweather alleges that he was told Arum is more interested in putting together Pacquiao-Marquez IV. While yet another matchup of two of the most evenly matched fighters alive would certainly be entertaining, it is a fight that no one wants to see. We already know that neither can figure the other out, as none of their three fights have ended in knockouts. We already know that they are about as close as possible in terms of skill level; all three of their fights have been controversial judges’ decisions. Putting it plainly, there is nothing else that Pacquiao and Marquez can show us. Mayweather, on the other hand, is the last frontier for Pacquiao, and vice versa. The winner of that fight would surely be the undisputed best fighter alive, and be able to lay claim to the title of best of his era.
This fight is far too important to pass up, not just for the two boxers or their respective promoters, but for the sport of boxing itself. What used to be the ultimate spectator sport has been reduced to also-ran status. While upstart UFC is now appearing in primetime on Fox, boxing has long occupied the pay-per-view market on HBO. It is true that this undoubtedly drives revenue (both fighters would be expected to take in over $50 million and perhaps as much as $75 million – yes, $75 million – from the fight), but it hurts the overall popularity of the sport. Boxing fans will always be there to pony up the hefty $50-70 charge to watch marquee fights, but outside of that minority, no one is going to pay that much money to watch a maximum of an hour of TV. As a result, boxing suffers from severe underexposure. Great fighters, and even average ones, fly under the radar of the average sports fan, simply because they don’t appear on cable TV in America. Pacquiao and Mayweather are the only two boxers on the planet who have the capability to singlehandedly revive the public’s interest in boxing. We won’t return to the days when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier commanded the attention of the entire nation, but perhaps we will see a new age of boxing. Either way, this fight needs to happen, and soon. Otherwise, we might miss out on what could be the greatest and most important fight of our lifetimes.