Starting with this column I'll be doing one article per week, Countdown To Mayweather-Pacquiao, until the fight, examining it from different angles. I'll cover their best fights, what a win or a loss means for each fighter, who will win and why, and more.
Is the upcoming spectacle between welterweight title holders Floyd Mayweather 47-0 (26) and Manny Pacquiao 57-5-2 (38) a legitimate Super Fight? The obvious answer to that has to be yes since it will no doubt be the highest grossing fight in fistic history. And a lot of that has to do with the fact the bout is happening during a time when social media and fan access is exploding. Fans can follow and communicate with star athletes today more than any other time in history via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatever else comes online between now and May 2, 2015. And nobody manipulates and tweaks via social media better than Mayweather.
The standard in which all modern Super Fights are measured by is the first meeting between undisputed heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier 26-0 (23) and former undisputed champ Muhammad Ali 31-0 (25). It was accurately billed the “Fight of The Century” and took place on March 8th 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. And you better believe to those who are fortunate enough to be living through the experience of both events…May 2, 2015 is certainly no March 8, 1971.
The first Frazier-Ali bout along with Leonard-Duran I, Leonard-Hearns I, and Hagler-Hearns were more authentic in that they featured two fighters where it was hard to picture either losing at the time of the bout, something that isn't anywhere near the case regarding Mayweather-Pacquiao.
When Frazier fought Ali in 1971, Joe had succeeded Muhammad during his forced 43 month exile from boxing. And let there be no doubt about it, Frazier looked every bit as impressive going through the heavyweight division as Ali had four years earlier. When Leonard defended his welterweight title against Duran in 1980, Leonard was in the midst of surpassing Duran as the biggest star fighter in boxing who wasn't a heavyweight. Duran entered their bout 71-1 (57) while Leonard was undefeated 27-0 (18). Five years after Leonard-Duran I, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns met for the undisputed middleweight title. Sugar Ray Leonard was retired at the time and the winner between Hagler and Hearns would determine who boxing’s biggest star was.
The fights above evolved through a natural progression, unlike Mayweather-Pacquiao.
The ballyhoo for Floyd vs. Manny was manufactured via Mayweather refusing to fight Pacquiao for five and a half years. Pacquiao really didn't enter the picture as far as being a threat to Mayweather until he knocked out Ricky Hatton in two rounds in May of 2009. It reached a fever pitch six months later when Manny took apart and stopped Miguel Cotto, who at the time was on the list of fighters that most fans and media felt Mayweather avoided. After Pacquiao beat Cotto the drumbeat started for him to fight Mayweather, only Floyd's outward reluctance projected the thought that perhaps Pacquiao is the guy who can take Mayweather down. And the longer the fight was delayed the more Pacquiao became the peoples’ hope and choice to beat Mayweather.
The fact that Manny was out-boxed by Erik Morales and lost, didn't look so terrific losing a dubious decision to Timothy Bradley, and was knocked out cold for two minutes by Juan Manuel Marquez didn't matter. All that mattered was Mayweather won't fight Pacquiao….so he must be afraid of losing to him. And it's that false narrative that made the fight the blockbuster it now is. Had Floyd and Manny fought in 2010 it wouldn't be the monster fight it is today. After five plus years fans are dying to see if Pacquiao is/was the fighter to bring Mayweather down.
The drama attached to Mayweather-Pacquiao is simply because Mayweather's perceived fear of Pacquiao deemed Manny to be the only guy capable of erasing the 0 from the right side of Floyd's record, nothing more. Had these two fought in 2010 when it was a more even match up, it's no more anticipated than De La Hoya-Trinidad was in 1999. But Mayweather, by allowing the masses to think he feared Manny, led everybody to latch onto the hope that he was the only guy who could beat him. Finally, after running out of opponents that the public wanted to see them fight, they're going to fight each other. And with Mayweather agreeing to the fight, the threat of Pacquiao winning lives on.
The other difference between the Super Fights above and Mayweather-Pacquiao is, everybody was split as to who would win them before the fight. And that's what made them much more authentic and genuine. The fact that it was easy to find someone who would bet you even up that Frazier was going to beat Ali or the reverse fostered the anticipation. And the same was true regarding Leonard-Duran I, Leonard-Hearns I and Hagler-Hearns. If you thought Leonard was going to beat Duran, it was easy to find someone who would be glad to bet you even up that Roberto was the better fighter and would come out as the victor (Leonard was a 9-5 favorite). Mike Tyson was a 4-1 favorite over Michael Spinks when they fought in June of 1988. I had no doubt that Tyson was going to win before the fight, but even as a huge underdog it was easy to find guys who were willing to wager on Spinks even up. The same held true for the Hagler-Leonard bout. Marvin was a 4-1 favorite over Ray, but there were more than a few out there who were picking Leonard to win.
Last week I contacted 14 writers and friends whose opinion I value most when it comes to boxing. I asked them who they were picking to win the fight. Only one of 14 picked Pacquiao, and his reasoning for that was…”Manny would win a gift decision so there would be a rematch.” If Mayweather-Pacquiao is being sold as the can't miss fight of the last quarter century, why do those who know see it so lopsidedly for one side? So much for the anticipation regarding the outcome!
As for national pundits, only Skip Bayless of ESPN so far has picked Pacquiao to win without reservation. However, that shouldn't even count because Bayless is the least objective talking sports head in history. He is blinded by the disdain he harbors for Mayweather. Even if inside he believes Mayweather is going to win, he can't back off of what he's been saying for at least two years that I know of. Also, did you ever hear Skip discuss the sport of professional boxing? It isn’t pretty! I'd say its equivalent to listening to Sugar Ray Leonard instruct Smokey Robinson on how to sing, or Smokey trying to teach Sugar how to throw a punch.
This past weekend I was at a sports bar that has already begun advertising that they're showing the fight. I purposely asked 10 male patrons who they were picking to win between Mayweather and Pacquiao? Nine of them said Mayweather. I asked the one who picked Manny if he was willing to meet me back there on May 2nd and make a wager on the fight where I have Mayweather and he has Pacquiao? He said, “I'll meet you back here to watch the fight, but I'm not sure enough to bet you.” I replied, I'll give you the Vegas line, 2 1/2 to 1. He said, “No thanks.”
Floyd Mayweather dictated the narrative that Manny Pacquiao is the only guy who has a chance to shut him up, and regardless of the anticipation for the fight, nobody believes him. And if you doubt that, see how many pundits and fans are willing to outright pick Pacquiao to beat Mayweather without hedging. Oh, they'll give you the story about how he can win, but their convictions are very brittle as opposed to those picking Mayweather to win.
Yes, from a monetary vantage point Mayweather-Pacquiao is a legitimate Super Fight. And of course Pacquiao has a chance to upset Mayweather. It's not like Manny is some no hope challenger. But for such an historic fight that is so highly anticipated, why is everybody picking the same side to come out victorious? That to me takes away the drama. Unlike the other Super Fights, I can easily envision either Mayweather or Pacquiao losing on May 2nd. I saw Jose Luis Castillo beat Mayweather in the ring and get robbed out of the decision the first time they fought, and Mayweather had his hands full with a wild and crude brawler named Marcos Maidana in his last two bouts……As for Pacquiao, he's been defeated five times previously. What makes it such a big deal if Mayweather is the sixth to accomplish what five others have already done, and did so at a time when Manny was closer to his peak and fighting at his most optimal weight?
Fans clamored to see Frazier fight Ali because it was too tough to pick the winner, and it was hard to picture either of them losing to anybody at the time. Ditto that for Leonard vs. Duran I, Leonard vs. Hearns I, and Hagler vs. Hearns. Today fans are clamoring to see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao because by Floyd never fighting Manny, Manny became the “it” guy. The before mentioned fights were put together quickly as the public demand escalated. And that was even the case for Frazier-Ali I as well. Ali met Joe five months after his boxing license was re-instated after not fighting for 43 months. The Super Fights mentioned here didn't need five plus years of hype. The hook for the upcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao clash was driven by Mayweather stringing the public along, wondering will he or won't he ever fight Pacquiao.
From a perception perspective, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is one of the most lopsided Big Fights in boxing history going in. And a lot of that has to do with almost everyone agreeing on who will win it. The upcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao bout will garner professional boxing its biggest stage in nearly a quarter of a century, and that's because the bout is a manufactured event via team Mayweather and a complicit boxing media. Together, they forged one of the greatest marketing campaigns ever. That said, it does have the making of being a very fan friendly and drama-filled bout regardless of who wins.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com