Manny Pacquiao failed to deliver two promises on Saturday evening at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The first was that he would hand Floyd “Money” Mayweather his first defeat in 48 professional fights. The second was that he would give fans an exciting fight. While he could blame Mayweather for failing the first promise, Pacquiao was just as much to blame for the second. And so after five years of speculation, close calls, failed negotiations, name-calling, lawsuits and serendipitous meetings at Miami Heat basketball games, the so-called Fight of the Century turned out to be one huge stinking dud.
Before the Fight
The atmosphere before the fight lived up to the hype. Just about all the biggest names in sports and entertainment were there (see this link for a full list with pictures), either due to their connections (ie, Floyd’s buddy Justin Bieber, Showtime stars like Claire Danes, boxing royalty like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, or sponsor-related celebs like Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s there to promote his new boxing flick Southpaw) or their huge wallets capable of paying the exorbitant ticket prices (Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Andre Agassi, etc). It was the richest gate in sports history (ticket sales alone generated US$74 million), with even the shittiest ticket in the nosebleeds section costing just under US$3,000 according to StubHub.
The PPV numbers are not yet available, but they are expected to blow away the record of 2.48 million buys from the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight in 2007. The actual money amount will be astronomical, considering PPV prices are also significantly higher than for other bouts, with people paying US$90 for the fight (and US$100 for it in HD) in the United States and slightly cheaper prices in most other places on the planet (only a handful of countries such as Mexico, China and the Philippines aired it for free).
The demand was so high that the start time of the actual main event was delayed by approximately 45 minutes due to troubles encountered by people trying to order the PPV from their providers.
I was rooting for the Filipino and predicted a Pacquiao victory not just because he apparently possessed all the tools on paper to give Mayweather trouble (southpaw, speed, power, footwork, stamina, high work rate, awkward angles), but also because the American seemed to be genuinely spooked by the occasion. Mayweather appeared nervous at all the public events and even told reporters he no longer had the passion for the sport and was looking forward to retiring after one final fight in September.
He was uncharacteristically polite and passive, a far cry from his old ways of trash talking and acting brash and disrespectful towards opponents, and he continued to be plagued by reports that dredged up his history of domestic violence. It seemed like Pacquiao, who acted relaxed and confident throughout the promotion, had won the psychological battle, and I felt the Mayweather camp was rattled judging from the last minute reports claiming that it had tried — unsuccessfully — to block Pacquiao from using his commission-approved gloves for the fight. It also didn’t help that reports surfaced today alleging that Mayweather attempted to block certain female journalists who harped on his domestic abuse charges.
Pacquiao also appeared to land the first blow — figuratively speaking — when he entered the ring smiling and with plenty of confidence as his coach Freddie Roach snapped a selfie on his phone. He even allowed talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to take an unsubtle jab at Justin Bieber, who is part of Mayweather’s entourage and infamously crashed the introductory press conference a couple of months ago.
Everything I said above may have been true, but none of it mattered once the two fighters got into the ring. I hate to break it to those still in denial, but the fight wasn’t close. You can hate on Floyd Mayweather Jr all your want, but you can’t deny his skills. Tonight, Mayweather proved he was the best boxer of his generation. Five years ago, who knows what the outcome would have been, but all that matters is what actually happened. For the record, I believe the outcome would have been the same because Mayweather’s just that much better and his physical advantages are too difficult to overcome.
Freddie Roach claimed that he had the perfect game plan — one he had been honing and perfecting over the past five years — and that Pacquiao was probably going to win every round. Well, it became clear after round one that Pacquiao had an uphill climb ahead of him. The Filipino needed to get off to a good start and probably should have rushed Mayweather from the opening bell to assert himself, but instead he was overly passive and spent too long posturing and feinting. Mayweather won the first three rounds, or at least two of the first three, with his accuracy, counterpunching, and ability to dictate of the pace.
Pacquiao had his moments in the next three rounds, but only when he managed to trap Mayweather against the ropes so he could launch his patented flurries. Most of the heavy blows, however, were either blocked or deflected. In terms of jabs and single shots in the middle of the ring, however, Mayweather dominated. It was simply a master class in how to control distance and range. Mayweather perfected using his 5-inch reach advantage to keep Pacquiao at bay, and clinching or arm-locking whenever Pacquiao got too close. Having referee Kenny Bayless, who typically allows Mayweather to get away with a certain amount of holding, didn’t help matters. It was frustrating and boring, but it was a brilliant strategy.
Before the fight, I thought Pacquiao had a decent chance because of his volume punching. I believed if he kept punching and overwhelmed Mayweather’s output he would be favoured by the judges. But against Mayweather, his punch rate suddenly came crashing down. It’s not an anomaly because it’s happened to every volume puncher Mayweather has ever faced. It goes back to Mayweather’s ability to control range, because Pacquiao knows there’s no point in throwing punches that have no chance of landing. It also says something about Mayweather’s underrated power. If those counterpunches didn’t sting, Pacquiao wouldn’t have grown so reluctant in coming forward. He knew he couldn’t be reckless and try to walk through Mayweather’s punches in order to land his own because he knew those shots could hurt him.
Mayweather’s not the same type of counterpuncher as Juan Manuel Marquez, the man who gave Pacquiao fits in their four fights and brutally knocked him out in their last matchup. JMM takes huge risks and gambles on his counters, which is why Pacquiao’s had success against him too, but Mayweather is a counterpuncher who plays it safe because he can.
The result was as one-sided as many of Mayweather’s other fights. 118-110 one one scorecard and a generous 116-112 on two others for a unanimous Mayweather victory. I had it 117-111 on my sloppy unofficial scorecard. Here’s how the judges scored each round.
Anyone claiming that Pacquiao won — including himself — or that it was a close fight is deluding themselves. Your eyes or heart may deceive you, but the stats don’t lie. Compubox is not a perfect science, but in this case it’s an accurate indication of what took place.
Mayweather landed 67 more punches than Pacquiao at 15% more accuracy. The most startling stat is that Mayweather ended up throwing more punches than Pacquiao did overall. In a fight where just about everyone thought Pacquiao would need to throw 800 punches to win, he ended up throwing barely half that. Full credit to Mayweather for turning the usually tornado-like Pacquiao into just another fighter who thought he could outbox the master.
I mistakenly predicted a Pacquiao victory partly because big boxing matches usually turn out to be unpredictable, but the it ended up being one of those rare fights where everything pretty much went according to how fight experts predicted it could go. Pacquiao would have his moments early, when his best chances were available, but Mayweather would eventually figure it out — as he always does — and dominate the rest of the way. The only thing unexpected was that Pacquiao would be so passive to start the fight and allow Mayweather to claim those precious early rounds.
Unfortunately, Mayweather’s dominance — and Pacquiao’s reluctance — turned the Fight of the Century into a total bore. Brilliant performance? Sure. Exciting? Hell no. I can appreciate technical skills better than most, but for a fight of this magnitude the fans deserved more. A lot more.
Boos rained down on Mayweather when he proclaimed victory at the end of the fight and when they announced the decision, and while some of them were aimed at him as a person, I believe a lot of them were directed at the way he turned the fight into a snoozefest. There was no genuine action, no serious exchanges, nothing close to resembling a knockdown, and no one was ever in serious trouble or hurt from a big shot. Mayweather danced around, held, and ran some more, not just avoiding action but actively preventing it from happening. There may have been some natural tension early on, but even that evaporated as Mayweather’s tactics became a predictable pattern.
Mayweather deserves the bulk of the blame because that’s his style, but the typically exciting Pacquiao isn’t fault-free either. Perhaps it was his brutal KO loss to JMM a couple of years ago that made him so wary, but when the fight was clearly getting away he didn’t exactly go for broke either. With US$100 million-plus heading into his bank, Pacquiao probably decided it wasn’t worth risking his health for glory. I would have much rather seen him get knocked out trying to score the knockout himself rather than trying to feint Mayweather to death. And that’s what 80%-90% of the fight was: feinting and posturing. It was a chess match that was more boring than watching actual chess matches.
After the Fight
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) May 3, 2015
Everyone was disappointed. “Underwhelmed” was an extremely popular word on Twitter. I may have rooted for Pacquiao but the thing I wanted above all was an exciting fight that would come at least 70% to meeting expectations. This fight was about a 15%.
There were the Pactards and blind boxing novices claiming that Pacquiao had been robbed, that the sport is corrupt, etc, with some even going as far as slamming ESPN’s post-fight interviewer Max Kellerman for daring to press Pacquiao about how he could have possibly thought he won. Can you imagine the same thing happening if Mayweather was in Pacquiao’s position? Not hating, just pointing out the hypocrisy.
The internets was flooded with the same arguments Mayweather has faced for years — that he ran like a coward and didn’t dare to exchange in a real fight, like a real man. But that’s where his genius and understanding of the rules of boxing come into play. Do you think his career would have lasted as long as it has if he decided to go toe-to-toe with every foe? Do you think there would be as many people hoping that he would get knocked out every time he stepped into the ring?
The biggest flaw with the running argument, at least in this fight, is that Mayweather was actually more active than Pacquiao. Forget that he landed nearly twice as many punches. He actually threw more punches than Pacquiao. If he simply ran, how could he have won? It wasn’t as though the judges awarded Mayweather for evading Pacquiao’s punches. He landed a lot more at greater accuracy in almost every round. End of story.
That did not stop the excuses from rolling in immediately after the verdict. The Pacquiao camp revealed that the Filipino fought with a tear in his shoulder and that he was denied an anti-inflammatory shot before the fight. Not to be outdone, Mayweather claimed that both his arms and hands were injured either prior to or during the fight.
My Facebook feed became flooded with articles slamming Mayweather’s character and his woman-beating tendencies, and claims that he will never be respected no matter how many Manny Pacquiaos he beats. I suppose it comes with the territory of having been a complete prick for so many years, but even I felt all the media attacks in the aftermath of a career-defining victory were below the belt.
I haven’t had a chance to watch the fight again and I’m not sure I want to put myself through the pain for a second time. Big fights often disappoint; I can think of a few I was really amped up for that failed to meet expectations, but none were as disappointing as Mayweather-Pacquiao. Accordingly, my final impression of the fight will likely be Mayweather’s best blow of the fight — when he thanked God first in his post-fight interview. As someone irked by Pacquiao’s repeated “God will deliver him into my hands” remarks before the fight– no offense intended to any of my lovely Christian friends — I kinda liked that final insult to cap off all the stinging right hands and counters he fed Pacquiao all night.
Where to Now
Mayweather insists he will fight just once more, this September, before riding off into the sunset for good. He seems genuine about this, and I believe he will carry through with the promise unless he desperately needs money again in the future — which is quite likely if you’ve heard the stories about his spending habits. Potential opponents include American young gun Keith Thurman, a 26-year-old heavy-handed fighter also with an unblemished unbeaten record (25 wins, 21KOs and 1 no contest — from an accidental headbutt in the first round), as well as Brit Amir Khan, who has a glass jaw but the height (5’9″), reach (71″), speed and boxing skills to potentially give Mayweather trouble on paper. Personally, I’d like to see him take on both guys to erase all doubts and retire at 50-0, breaking Rocky Marciano’s celebrated record.
As for Pacquiao, he said he’ll take a break and leave the rest to his promoter Bob Arum. To be honest, this loss doesn’t affect his legacy all that much. He lost to a better boxer on the night, not because he’s over the hill or a shot fighter. He’s still loved in the Philippines, where he’ll probably become president one day, and people still love to watch him fight. Against the right opponents there’s no reason why he won’t still be a massive PPV draw.
Roach and Pacquiao said they would like to push for a rematch in light of the shoulder injury revelation. There’s no rematch clause in the contract, but considering how much money the two will make (estimates for Mayweather are as high as US$180 million), the temptation must be there to do it all over again. Given how one-sided this fight turned out to be — and especially seeing that Pacquiao no longer has one-punch knockout power to give himself a puncher’s chance — it’s not something I want to see.
PS: The most exciting fight of the night was actually on the undercard. Vasyl Lomachenko, Ukranian amateur star, proved once again that he’s going to be the next P4P best fighter on the planet with his impressive destruction of the game but outgunned Gamalier Rodriguez. It was just Lomachenko’s fifth professional fight and the featherweight displayed an offensive aggression reminiscent of the Pacquiao of old and the technical brilliance and precision of Mayweather. Check out the highlights from that fight.