The Superfight Without a Heart

The question often asked in the buildup to Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was whether this richest of all prizefights could give a boost to boxing’s future by living up to the glories of its past. As May 2 approached, the anticipation reminded many of the 1980s, when the mega-million “superfights” got started with a series of bouts between the so-called Four Kings—Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler.

Leonard and Hearns fought each other in two cliffhangers eight years apart; Hearns vaporized Duran with a right hand that looked like it could have killed a man; Hearns and Hagler fought the most celebrated short boxing match since Dempsey and Firpo; Leonard and Hagler waged a tense battle, culminating in a decision still debated today. And in 1980, Leonard and Duran got it all started with the celebrated Brawl in Montreal, a 15-round struggle fought at a breathless pace, and then a rematch, five months later, that gave us the most infamous moment in modern boxing: No Mas, when Duran threw up his hands and quit. Taken together or separately, these fights aren’t easily forgotten.

Only in 1989, when Duran and Leonard met for a third time, did these matchups result in a bout that slowed the pulse. Duran, supposedly out for revenge, fought like a man looking for his paycheck. Taking a safety-first approach, Leonard won easily, but for the only time in his career on the big stage, he failed to inspire.

Unfortunately, Leonard-Duran III is the bout from that past era that most closely resembles what we saw this weekend, when Floyd Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao by decision in a fight that was about as inspiring as watching a golfer try to get out of a sand trap. Part of this disappointment was inevitable: the massive hype set a steep bar for expectations that only a great battle could have satisfied. And Mayweather’s defensive mastery, on full display once again, is not designed to entertain. But Pacquiao’s lack of fire was the surprise of the event.

Anyone who had not seen Pacquiao box before must be wondering what all the fuss was about. He seemed almost resigned to his fate 60 seconds into the first round, when Mayweather started getting over with his right leads. But for a few brief flashes, especially in round four, Manny was listless, as if he were enduring a sparring session against his will. He had no answer to Floyd’s defensive tactics, none of which could have come as any surprise. His corner gave him no sense of urgency, even as the fight clearly slipped away. There is no dishonor in losing, but the collective strategic effort of Team Pacquiao seemed bafflingly inadequate, a point HBO’s Max Kellerman tried to get at in his post-fight interview with Pacquiao (and for which he has been attacked on Twitter, for the crime of committing journalism).

The Pacquiao camp now says that Manny competed with an injured right shoulder. Given the dramatic drop in his usual punch volume, the injury excuse has merit, but it still doesn’t explain the absence of passion. Nor does it excuse the Pacquiao team’s sending him into this half-billion-dollar extravaganza as damaged goods, cheating the paying public and creating an impression, whether true or not, that they cared most about getting their hands on that $100 million purse.

As for Mayweather, he fought as he had so many times before, with strategic and tactical genius that makes even vaunted opponents look pitiful. Still, Floyd can’t escape blame for his soul-less approach to performance, his complete disregard for the notion of an audience. With two rounds to go, Floyd had things well in hand; might he have come out, just this once, and gone for the knockout, or at least tried to put an exclamation point on his achievement? That’s what Ray Leonard would have done.

Instead, it was left to a fighter from Ray’s generation—Floyd Mayweather, Senior—to throw the most memorable punches. Working his son’s corner, the elder Mayweather showed more intensity than the two combatants combined. He kept urging Floyd to be more aggressive, warning him that offense-minded judges could score against him. For his urgency alone—not a small factor in such bouts, as Angelo Dundee proved more than once—Floyd’s father earned his paycheck on an evening when everything else was overpriced. At one point, trying to demonstrate what he wanted, Senior let go with a combination in the air. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour, but his hands seemed to move with blinding speed. It was a rare sign of passion on a night that boxing staged a superfight and the fighters forgot to care.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin / SHOWTIME.

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COMMENTS

-Matthew :

Good point about Mayweather Sr. While I strongly dislike his personality, I give him credit for showing a sense of urgency and trying to inject some passion into his son's performance. He urged his fighter to close the show, but Floyd Jr. is not wired that way. He is risk-averse, and while he is strategically superior and supremely talented, I don't find him compelling to watch. I got what I expected from Mayweather Jr. I expected more from Pacquiao and Roach. They looked completely befuddled.


-leon30001 :

I find it difficult to blame Floyd Mayweather; he fought like he always fights and, apparently, that is sufficient to satisfy a larger proportion of the public than any other active fighter (given his PPV numbers). So...why should he change? He also comfortably beat his only rival for contemporary P4P supermacy...ergo, credit "must" be due. As for Manny, I just don't think he could cope with Mayweather's all-around game. Don't think there's much else to it.


-Radam G :

I find it difficult to blame Floyd Mayweather; he fought like he always fights and, apparently, that is sufficient to satisfy a larger proportion of the public than any other active fighter (given his PPV numbers). So...why should he change? He also comfortably beat his only rival for contemporary P4P supermacy...ergo, credit "must" be due. As for Manny, I just don't think he could cope with Mayweather's all-around game. Don't think there's much else to it.
The actuality of the reality is what it is. And it matters. The corrupted crooks of NSAC sabotaged Team Da Manny plain and simple. USADA was running the testing and cleared Da Manny for using medicine but like always the evil numbskulls of Sin City interjected and rejected the use. And now they come with bullsyet that it is da BobFather and Da Manny's fault. Listen to Alex Ariza. In this video, he blames Ready Freddie Roach for the lost and da whole 9:
->http://www.rappler.com/sports/by-sport/boxing-mma/pacquiao/92023-Ariza-pacquiao-Mayweather-loss. Holla!


-kidcanvas :

i sense that something was and is up , all of what you said i said myself few days ago but i would bet my life that there was a deal before hand for them to make a few more zillion...hate to say it but another 200 mil? who wouldnt ?


-kidcanvas :

i was baffled that Freddie didnt say anything at all so how clear does it have to be that the fix was in for the rematch and the pot of gold


-ThatGuy :

The story of the tale is: the majority of people that brought the fight expected an entertaining fight, a large portion of which picked pacquiao. A minority of boxing fans got what they expected, a strategic technical boxing lesson by floyd mayweather jr. although some believed pacquiao could "do something" to cause an upset. With the majority not getting what they wanted or expected, a massive whiplash surfaced Mayweather sr proves that he's the best trainer, always wanting more out of his fighter. Roach is a great trainer.


-Radam G :

Money May did not do syet. Da Manny got shafted. And could not do syet. The NSAC should have let the man take the meds. It has been letting bytch-arse Lil Floyd take meds for years. Holla!


-Radam G :

The NSAC was looking out for Lil Floyd, but not Da Manny:
->https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lqlk_fJXOtc. Holla!