Before Saturday, one of the things that made Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao so long-awaited is that they were the two best fighters of their time, the two best fighters of the last decade. After Mayweather defeated Pacquiao by a unanimous decision, we can say this: Mayweather now has the best win of his life, and the best win that either man has on their respective ledgers — and it took them finally facing off for Mayweather to get that honor.
Pacquiao was competitive enough to win four of 12 rounds on two judges’ scorecards, and this writer’s, too. But there was no doubt that Mayweather controlled the bout, doing all the things he usually does against the most accomplished opponent he has ever encountered.
It appeared dire for Pacquiao from the very 1st round. Pacquiao simply couldn’t find Mayweather. Said to want to approach Mayweather from angles, he never did. Mayweather used his length, his jab, his left hook, his counter right hand and his evasiveness to great effect all fight long, beginning early.
Pacquiao came out more aggressively in the 2nd, making matters a little more difficult for Mayweather periodically thereafter. Through the early to middle part of the fight, Pacquiao and Mayweather would trade rounds. Pacquiao would land a big left hand, maybe even hurting Mayweather a handful of times, and crowd Mayweather along the ropes and throw flurries, some landing and some not, but doing enough to impress the judges. Then, usually after cajoled by his angry father, Mayweather would surge forward and re-take control. By the late rounds, Pacquiao was out of answers, and Mayweather was trying to land punches like a man searching for a knockout.
It was a fight with a series of interesting reversals from what we normally expect from Mayweather and Pacquiao. Pacquiao was pretty good countering Mayweather’s big right hand. Mayweather was better when pressing. Mayweather outworked Pacquiao, even, throwing 435 punches to Pacquiao’s 429, according to CompuBox. That final reversal was fatal to Pacquiao’s chances. Fighters who get closer to winning against the still-undefeated Mayweather do so by outworking him.
Another reversal came after the decision was announced. Mayweather was gracious, downright sportsmanlike, while Pacquiao complained that he thought he won. It was a bad look for the happy-go-lucky Filipino.
Pacquiao said he’d talk to his promoter about what he did next. It’s fair to say he’s not a real welterweight, and has been overachieving — Mayweather’s size and reach were another difference-maker in the fight. Had he won, he would have made history as the only fighter with five legitimate divisional championships. He fell considerably short against a nightmare of an opponent, although he had his moments, enough to make the fight watchable until late when Mayweather started burying him on the scorecards.
Mayweather again re-took the welterweight crown. He said he’ll fight again in a bid to tie Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 undefeated record. He clearly has an eye to history these days; he plans to retire after September. There’s no clear opponent who can make him the kind of money, or win him the kind of acclaim, that Pacquiao did in the Fight of This Century, so far.
Whatever Mayweather’s historical place in the sport, whatever caveats there will be about a fight that should’ve happened five years earlier, when Mayweather’s legacy is assessed, when he’s done and gone, the very first name on his list of victories is the one he put there Saturday: Pacquiao.
(Photo: Mayweather jabs Pacquiao, via @hboboxing)