YOU had to rub your eyes to make sure what you were seeing was actually real. At long, long last, after years of frustrating posturing and disheartening dead ends, the world were witnessing Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao stare at each other from opposite corners of a boxing ring, primed for battle.
Feverish anticipation and frenzied excitement filled the air at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The electricity was palpable, the cries of the 16,507-strong crowd deafening. “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” the journalist seated to my left uttered, although it was hard to hear him over the incessant noise. I turned to my right and saw another reporter marking the sign of the cross on his chest, perhaps thanking the heavens above for finally bestowing the Fight of the Century upon us.
With such unprecedented levels of expectation attached to this world welterweight title unification bout, it was always going to be difficult for the two superstar protagonists to produce an encounter to live up to the extraordinary hype. Some reports suggest that revenue from the clash could reach a record $400m, rendering the event an unparalleled success in financial terms. Nevertheless, from a sporting standpoint, a sense of disappointment pervaded the atmosphere in the arena following the fight, and no doubt the feeling was the same for the millions of people watching in bars and households across the globe.
The overriding consensus leading into the contest was that WBC and WBA world welter titlist Mayweather would triumph on points, as he had done in his previous five outings. However, the majority of observers had been hoping, many even expecting, that the blistering speed and southpaw stance of Filipino whirlwind Pacquiao – the WBO 147lb champ – would provide masterful Mayweather with his toughest test to date. As it turned out, Floyd’s outstanding and unrivalled defensive skills neutralised his great foe’s attacking threat with relative comfort, which subsequently meant that the momentous matchup failed to catch fire, and that suited Mayweather down to a tee. He was able to compete at a pace he was content with, which he did so superbly to box his way to a clear unanimous 12-round decision and cement himself as the undisputed pound-for-pound king of his generation.
Although Floyd was a more than worthy winner, Pacquiao was well in the fight during the initial six sessions. As the opening bell rang, the legendary pair and eternal rivals respectfully touched gloves and began to swap jabs. Mayweather connected with the first notable punch – a swift counter right – before Manny aimed for the stomach with a straight left. A left-right landed on “Pac Man”, who reacted by harrying his opponent into a corner, leading Floyd to clasp onto his foe in order to nullify the attack, which he did successfully.
Wearing shorts adorned in the yellow, red and blue of his country’s flag, Pacquiao scampered across to Mayweather at the beginning of the second, who elusively slid away along the ropes, his gold and black trunks fluttering as he whistled by. Manny, who was employing a lot of head movement, scored with lefts to the body and head, which generated an almighty roar from his swathes of fans in attendance. Ear-splitting chants of “Manny, Manny” were soon quelled when a smooth right from Floyd found its target, but Pacquiao’s constant forward surge was forcing Mayweather to duck and wiggle his way out of tight spots.
Floyd, who was on the receiving end of jeers throughout, failed to endear himself to the pro-Pacquiao crowd further when he struck a borderline low right hand at the start of the third. Whenever Mayweather’s back was on the ropes and Manny attempted to unload, the Las Vegas resident would respond by wrapping Pacquiao up. An overhand right from Floyd hit the spot, and the two combatants glared at each other as the bell sounded.
The roof nearly came off the building in round four, as Manny’s famed furious flurries were brought into play. Bouncing on his toes, Pacquiao drove Mayweather into the strands with a left hand, before peppering his nemesis with blistering lefts and right, mainly to the midsection. Floyd wisely covered up and regained his composure to connect with a right, yet the audience had been lifted by Manny’s shower of shots.
Pacquiao tried to track Mayweather down in the fifth, but he was having to stretch with his punches as “Money”, with his chin tucked firmly into his shoulder, sidestepped around the perimeter of the squared circle to evade danger. In between a couple of clinches, Floyd speared a right to the solar plexus, and also popped out some scoring jabs.
After swallowing a piston-like right, Manny stabbed at Mayweather with a straight left, followed by an overhand strike with the same mitt. Floyd found himself backed up on the ropes again, and Pacquiao needed no invitation to unleash a supersonic selection of blows from both mitts, peppering his opposer’s upper-body. Mayweather shook his head in defiance, but the two-fisted assault had undoubtedly been eye-catching.
At the halfway stage, the three scoring judges had tallied identical cards, with Pacquiao earning the fourth and sixth, and Floyd taking the rest. I also had Manny winning frames four and six, but also had him ahead in the second, meaning the contest was level for me moving into the seventh. From this round onwards however, the bout became a Mayweather masterclass in the art of defence, as Floyd boxed and moved, smothering Pacquiao’s work and dishing out accurate jabs.
A check hook from the American’s lead left hand nestled into the Manny’s temple in the eighth, yet prior to this, Mayweather received a verbal warning from referee Kenny Bayless for a left that strayed low.
Floyd started to pull away in the ninth. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native was staying out of the pocket and dictating proceedings with his jab and single shots. Pacquiao managed to land a right-left, to which his vociferous followers bellowed their appreciation, but the General Santos City icon just could not pin Mayweather down.
In round 10, Manny saw his jab countered beautifully by a right from Floyd, who bobbed and weaved his way out of trouble whenever cornered, much to the frustration of Pacquiao and his growingly exasperated supporters.
Well aware that the fight was now playing out exactly as he had planned, Mayweather confidently ripped two right hooks into his adversary’s skull, as well as an arcing right and a firm jab. Pacquiao meanwhile toiled when striving to catch up with the slippery hometowner.
Continuing the show of respect they had afforded one another throughout the build-up to their meeting, the two champions shared an embrace as the 12th and final stanza commenced.
Unfortunately, there was no grand finale to come in an uninspiring closing three minutes, as Floyd got on his bike and ran down the clock, while Manny pressed after him, but to no avail.
Although both men raised their arms aloft at the end of the action, it was obvious that Pacquiao had suffered his sixth career defeat, while Mayweather had maintained his precious ‘0’. The judges’ totals inevitably confirmed this, with Floyd being announced the victor by marks of 118-110 for Dave Moretti, and 116-112 twice for Glenn Feldman and Burt Clements. My scorecard matched that of Feldman and Clements.
Before the match, those who were backing Pacquiao generally did so in the belief that he would outwork Mayweather by bombarding the five-weight global ruler with a torrent of hits. It was therefore somewhat surprising to learn that Floyd threw 435 punches compared to Manny’s 429, and
The Money Team chief also outlanded Pacquiao by 148 to 81.
Manny’s decreased punch output could be explained by the fact that he suffered a muscle tear in his right shoulder during training, around three weeks out from the bout. However, at the post-fight press conference, the six-division world belt-holder did not wish to use this as an excuse for his loss.
“I thought I won. I hurt him three or four times, and he didn’t hurt me. I did my best, but my best wasn’t good enough,” Pacquiao accepted. “I don’t want to make alibis or reasons, but I didn’t train well for two weeks during camp because I couldn’t use my right hand due to a shoulder injury. A week before the fight it felt better, but still not 100 per cent.
“From the third round onwards, I could feel pain in my shoulder, so I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. Still, I fought a good fight and didn’t complain.
“I respect Mayweather. He’s fast and a good boxer. I give credit to him. He won, so he’s proved he deserves that.”
While for Pacquiao, 36, the future is unclear, for the 38-year-old Floyd, his next move is already planned out. “As of right now, I’ll retire after my upcoming fight in September,” Mayweather stated.
“I’m almost 40 years old now. I’ve been in the sport for 19 years.
“Every fight has played a major part in my career. This one fight doesn’t define me. Everyone said for years that I was scared of Pacquiao and that I’d lose against him, but I was the more calculated fighter. Manny’s one hell of a competitor, but I always find a way to win. I was constantly keeping the jab in his face, using the check hook, tying him up and roughhousing him – that’s experience. He was applying pressure without landing much. I knew I had him from round one. I’m 10 steps ahead of any fighter. I was born a winner and I’ll die a winner.”
While Floyd asserted that he will hang up his gloves after his 49th outing in four months’ time, he did leave the door open to a potential milestone 50th bout, which could see him surpass heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano’s fabled 49-0 ledger.
When pressed on his plan to retire this year, Mayweather replied, “I’m only human. I contradict myself sometimes. I’ve always wanted to do things my way. It’s never been my intention to try to outdo other guys and break their records. I’m just being me. The likes of Marciano, [Sugar Ray] Robinson, [Muhammad] Ali and [Sugar Ray] Leonard paved the way, but this is my era. I’m TBE [the best ever].
While Mayweather’s claim to being the foremost fighter of
all time would still be hotly disputed by many, it is undeniable that his
historic triumph over Pacquiao has certainly added greater substance to his
– AN array of megastars from the world of entertainment descended upon Sin City to witness Mayweather and Pacquiao collide. Among the many celebrities at ringside were Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, Denzel Washington, Drew Barrymore, Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bradley Cooper, Michael Keaton, Michael J. Fox, Paris Hilton, Sting, P Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé and Jay Z.
Jimmy Kimmel accompanied Manny on his walk to the ring, and Justin Bieber was part of Floyd’s entourage. Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx sung the American national anthem. Sporting luminaries present included Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Tom Brady.
– HALL OF FAME MCs Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jnr shared the spotlight prior to the main event. Buffer introduced Pacquiao, while Lennon presented Mayweather.
– AMERICAN television networks HBO and Showtime, and promotional companies Top Rank and Mayweather Promotions put aside their respective rivalries to stage this landmark event. However, one long-standing feud that continues to rumble on is that between Mayweather’s father and trainer, Floyd Snr, and Pacquiao’s coach, Freddie Roach.
“Whoever you are and whatever you do, the people make you,” Mayweather Snr said after the fight. “People never give me any accolades. I bet they still won’t give me my props over Freddie ‘the joke coach’ Roach, even after this win.”
– UNBEATEN cruiserweight prospect Andrew Tabiti – a member of The Money Team – was scheduled to perform on the bill against Anthony Caputo Smith, but the contest had to be cancelled as Smith was suffering from high blood pressure.