The Extra Word on … Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

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Updated: May 2, 2015

Welcome to this regular TIW column, highlighting some of the stories and results that have caught the punting eye of our editor-in-chief Sean Callander.

 

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It’s been billed as the biggest fight in boxing history. After years of on-and-off talks, rumours, near-deals and the dreams of boxing fans being raised and dashed on numerous occasions, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao stood nose to nose, squaring off in a publicity pose for what promises to be boxing’s biggest-money event. Nearly a decade after the welterweight duo emerged as the sport’s two biggest drawing cards, Mayweather, the WBC and WBA welterweight and super welterweight champ and Ring Magazine’s No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter, will finally meet Pacquiao, the WBO welterweight champ ranked No. 3 pound for pound by Ring.

When Pacquiao and Mayweather enter the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this Saturday (Sunday AET), it’s estimated that their long-awaited bout will generate around USD $400 million in ticket sales and global TV revenue. The cheapest ticket price was $1500 when they went on sale, but good luck finding one. This fight has also been tagged as the most anticipated in boxing history. The first battle of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier may have been a bigger boxing occasion in terms of global interest.

That fight was for the world heavyweight championship and was witnessed on terrestrial TV rather than subscription channels. But like that legendary encounter, this is a fight that transcends boxing. It is a classic contest between arguably the most talented boxers of the past two decades, even if both have seen better days. The two were hardly spring chickens when this bout was first mooted in 2009 when they were still in their pugilistic prime. Now Mayweather is 38 and Pacquiao 36.

 

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The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, scene for the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight

This will also be one of the biggest one-off betting events in recent history. Estimates for the amounts that could be wagered range from $50-$80 million, but that’s just through sportsbooks in Las Vegas. If so, it would put the amount bet on this fight at around 70 per cent of the figure wagered on the Super Bowl. Once you throw in the figures wagered through offshore sites and other countries throughout the world, the figures become staggering. For the record, Mayweather is priced as a $1.48 favourite while Pacquiao is a $2.65 outsider.

In my earliest days of covering sports, endless nights were spent at amateur boxing league nights both in the UK and Australia before a long stint of covering the biggest professional fights through Europe in the 1990s – from the tragedy of Nigel Benn v Gerard McClellan to the stunning US debut of Prince Naseem Hamed in a bruising victory over Kevin Kelley. Talking with trainers, fighters and promoters who knew I’d never be stupid enough to share the details of whispered conversations gave an incredible insight into what goes on behind the scenes.

We could bore you with endless ‘tale of the tape’ statistics and meticulous detail of the fighters’ style and preparation. Does Mayweather struggle against southpaws? How will Pacquiao cope with the accuracy of Mayweather’s shots? If this fight was held in a gym, with nothing at stake – no crowds, no gambling, no celebrities, no title and no prizemoney – we’d have the price just about opposite. On our assessment, Pacquiao would steadily wear down Mayweather and score a comfortable points’ win. He’s simply a more rounded boxer and time hasn’t weakened his strengths.

 

'Money' Mayweather loves the celebrity adulation, but Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber?

‘Money’ Mayweather loves the celebrity adulation, but Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber?

Floyd Mayweather, of course, has never said he’s getting old, even though he claims he’s “pretty much done” after this. Still, he’s always happy to wow the media with speedy jump rope routines or the intricate padwork that’s tailor-made to show off his mongoose-like reflexes. Seconds into these workouts, it becomes clear that the natural gifts that have allowed him to KO 45 of his 47 opponents over a two-decade career are still present (if somewhat dulled). His 2013 bout against Canelo Alvarez and most recent against Marcos Maidana have shown that he’s still a wily and, at times, unhittable opponent.

Pacquiao has had his ups and downs as well: once the world-beater who battered Oscar De La Hoya, nearly killed Ricky Hatton, and stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th, he was laid low himself by a triumphant Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012. Although he’s rebounded nicely, it’s hard to say that he still exhibits the ruthlessness of his youth. Call it the curse of old age, or the realization of one’s own mortality that comes with being knocked senseless, but he seems to have suddenly realised that he has much to lose.

By taking this fight, the Filipino risks nothing … he’s been beaten before, and he’ll live through it now as he lived through it then

But two things overshadow everything else related to this entire event – Mayweather’s 47-0 record, and money. Logic says that Pacquiao has nothing to lose. By taking this fight, the Filipino risks nothing. If he loses, c’est la vie. He’s been beaten before, and he’ll live through it now as he lived through it then. But if he wins, he becomes a folk hero of mythical proportions, the boy who starved on the streets of Manila only to grow up and slay Goliath.

Conversely, it’s a no-win situation for Mayweather. Should he prevail, his detractors will say that he waited until the once-savage Pacman had already begun to wilt before he faced him, and boxing insiders will say good, he should have won – after all, he’s the bigger, faster, stronger man with the longer reach and better boxing pedigree. But if he loses, his fortress crumbles. He tried to duck Pacquiao for all those years, they will say, and when they finally fought, he was put in his place. A great champion indeed!

 

Manny Pacquiao has been elevated to God-like status in his native Philippines

Manny Pacquiao has been elevated to God-like status in his native Philippines

Pacquiao had won the PR war before it was even fought. Mayweather is as hated a champ as Jack Johnson, and should his extravagant lifestyle and gaggle of hangers-on ever bleed him dry, few will shed a tear for the fallen king. There’s also his appalling record of violence against women. Mayweather has been charged with domestic violence six times, and served 60 days of a 90-day prison sentence in 2012 for assaulting the mother of his children in front of them. The guy should have been run out of the sports years ago.

Our fear is that, with the money now assured (probably $150 million going to Mayweather and a not insignificant $100 million for Pacquiao), he will be focussed on preserving that 47-0 record. And will do everything within his power to do so. Everything. It’s for that reason that we don’t envisage that this “fight of the year/decade/century” will be fought on its merits. It’s a no bet for us. If you must, take the draw at $15 – it’s the result that makes the most sense!

 

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