May 3, 2015 6:30:19 pm
It was supposed to be the “super fight” that would revive boxing. But the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, for all the hype around it, might not have done enough for the sport.
Just before the judges’ decision for the bout was announced. Floyd Mayweather climbed on the ropes in his corner and seem to taunt the Vegas crowd that had been chanting the name of his opponent right throughout the twelve rounds of the fight that many had claimed would revive boxing. The boos that rang out at the champion somehow summed up the night.
For no matter how many adjectives the cheerleading sections of the sport rain down on the bout, the stark fact is that the Mayweather-Pacquiao ‘super fight’ was a bit of a damp squib. Which is a colossal pity, given the fact that the fight had all the ingredients for a classic contest: two very well known boxers, with utterly contrasting styles. While Mayweather has been known for his superb defence and counterpunching, Pacquiao was called the Pac Man for his sheer relentlessness and power punching. There was also a huge contrast in personalities – with Pacquiao seen as the God-fearing good guy and Mayweather perceived as the money-flaunting (one of his nicknames is ‘Money’) ego maniac. It was this set of contrasts that led many to predict a fight on the lines of Mohammad Ali and Frazier, or if one wants to be closer to the Pacquiao and Mayweather’s weight category, Leonard and Hagler.
Alas, it never quite happened.
Superfight in name alone
For twelve rounds, the fight followed a routine pattern – of Mayweather using his reach to tap in accurate and occasionally stinging jabs while Pacquiao kept advancing, trying to get close to land some heavy punches. The former landed more punches, the latter landed the more telling ones, but at no stage in the twelve rounds did one ever feel that either boxer was fighting out of his skin and going for a knock out. Pacquiao deserves credit for greater effort, but at the end of the day, Mayweather threw and landed more punches – 148 out of 435 as compared to Pacquiao’s 81 out of 429. The judges ruled in favour of the American, in best traditions of the sport, while Manny, following another best tradition, complained that he had been robbed. Rounding off the best tradition followers were those who asked for a rematch, hoping for another money spinner.
Truth be told, however, the biggest casualty in the ring at Vegas this night was the sport of boxing itself. The sport has not seen a major bout for a while (the last one to have spurred something close to this level of interest was the Tyson-Lewis showdown in 2002) and the glamorous heavyweight segment has been rendered colourless by a procession of low profile boxers and is almost as fragmented as Android in terms of titles and versions. The Money vs Pac Man battle was supposed to revive interest in it. But for twelve rounds, the most excited people were perhaps some of the commentators who covered the fight. And even they would concede that there was nothing notably memorable about it.
Where were the punches, gentlemen?
Yes, Mayweather gave a great demonstration of defensive boxing and excellent technique but he made it clear from the very onset that he would not quest for boxing’s holy grail – the knock out. It is tough to have a great fight when one of the two fighters does not want to knock out the other – Mayweather’s defensiveness could have been understood if he had been significantly weaker or inferior to his opponent, but that very notion is laughable. The man is one of the best boxers in the world and is capable of fantastic punching. He just chose to play it safe.
If that sounds unfair, let’s compare the bout with the one that was perhaps most similar to it – Hagler vs Leonard in 1987. In that bout, fought out over twelve rounds, Hagler, the man who lost, threw 792 punches and landed 291. Leonard, who won, threw 629 punches and landed 306. The number of punches each of them threw was more than Pacquiao and Mayweather put together today – a very sorry total of 229. In the Hagler-Leonard bout, more than 1400 punches were thrown in twelve, averaging almost 120 punches per round – almost forty per minute. Pac Man and Money threw a combined total of 864 – 72 punches per round, 24 punches per minute. Even the fight between Pacquiao and De La Hoya in 2008 in Vegas had seen more punches thrown – almost a thousand in eight rounds.
All technique, no intent
What was missing in Vegas today was not skill or craft, but intent. There will be those who will hail Mayweather’s display as ‘clinical’ and there is no doubt that the man showed exceptional technique and foot speed to stay out of reach of the ever advancing Pacquiao, but the problem is that Mayweather is not a surgeon but the closest thing one has to a gladiator in the modern world. If boxing was all about winning, Mayweather did very well indeed. The truth, however, is that boxing – like most sports – is expected to be a spectacle. And in this regard, two of the sports finest proponents let it down at Vegas. By refusing to stake their all – they are both capable of much better than this, given their ability and track records. Mayweather’s crowing at the crowd and talking of his watch collection would not have helped matters. Pacquiao vs Mayweather was a “superfight” only in terms of prize money and spectator interest. In terms of quality, it was never quite in there. It will inspire reports and analysis, rather than legend.
In the film Gladiator, Proximo scolds Maximus, a skilled gladiator for finishing fights too fast.
“I am required to kill, so I kill. That is enough,” Maximus snaps.
“That’s enough for the provinces, but not for Rome,” Proximo rebukes him.
We could say that Mayweather was good enough for Pacquiao today, but not for boxing. He remains unbeaten, the sport remains in a spot of bother.
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