Sport is supposed to be clear cut, a winner and a loser, sometimes the loss is unlucky sometimes controversial.
To many Floyd Mayweaher junior’s victory over Mannny Pacquiao was controversial. There are many who proclaim to know boxing who will disagree; but in boxing these days does anyone really know?
To win on points the winning boxer is supposed to land the most clean punches in the eyes of the judges. Of course sometimes their view is blocked by the fighters or even the referee. The more aggressive boxer is also supposed to win favour.
Television can however be deceiving, as the angles often deceive as to whether a punch landed cleanly. Then there are the replays that the television station shows which can influence how you see the fight. Maybe this writer’s view was influenced by these factors. Maybe I was also hoping for a fight that lived up to its billing, and that influenced my view. However I felt that Pacquaio was the aggressor for at least 10 of the 12 rounds. He controlled the centre of the ring. I also felt that despite being hit flush by many of Mayweather’s jabs he managed to deflect just as many if not more. I had it as a very close bout (117-116) with a number of rounds shared as it was hard to see clean punches landing from either fighter. I honestly believed that it was a closer bout than the scorecards gave it and felt that Pacquiao had shaded it. I also expected at least one judge to have seen it the same way. That was why I was surprised at the unanimous decision going against him. Not for the first time or the last I was wrong. Those who were at the fight though are the best placed to judge.
“The Fight of the Century” – even though we are only 15 years into the century – was in boxing terms a huge disappointment as a spectacle. Sadly when such terms are bandied about those of us old enough to remember, recall the true greats squaring off, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and Leonard, or Ali, Frasier, Norton and Foreman. These were fights to remember, entertaining, where men stood and fought each other.
Mayweather has made a career out of staying out of trouble, and he is one of the best at it. Southpaws tend to be boring to watch, but Pacquiao had broken that mould. Yet Pacquiao is no longer at the top and that is why many cynics believe that Mayweather took the fight after five years of avoiding it. There was no doubt that Mayweather boxed clever and did not use his usual shoulder rolling defence on the ropes as he could have rolled into a left hand from Pacquiao, so he boxed clever.
Pacquiao was frequently frustrated by Mayweather closing down his space and holding on. A few years ago he may have avoided that, but the clock is running down on his career. Yet for some reason many expected more from Mayweather.
Mayweather can now rightly say he is the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation. He remains unbeaten, which is again to his credit in a sport where such an achievement is extremely hard and rare.
Sport often likes people to hate, and there are many who dislike Mayweather’s swagger and talk. He will not care, he has the record, and the money.
Yet ultimately has his success harmed the sport? This was the highest paid sporting event. Thousands around the world queued to watch the fight and paid to watch it, many who had not watched boxing for years. Many were UFC fans but who were there to be won over, or coaxed back to the sport, as they finally saw a bout where the best two fighters were squaring off. Many feel that with the money both fighters were receiving they should have served up a more memorable spectacle. That they had a duty to entertain. Certainly Mike Tyson felt that with his tweet “We waited five years for that.” Sadly many will never pay to view a bout again for a good few years.
Many wanted Pacquiao to win as they felt he was a better ambassador for the sport, after all he had agreed to all of Mayweather’s demands to make the fight happen.
Yet in truth was it fair to expect better entertainment? Here were two boxers fighting for their reputations, they had to do what they thought best to win. That was foremost in their minds. Does money now change our expectations? Change what we believe is acceptable in terms of performance? It certainly feels as if it is beginning to, not just in boxing.
Mayweather was the winner, he is the Champion of his era, but as good as he has been, will he be ranked amongst the greats? He believes he should be, his record says he should be, but one cannot help feeling that his defensive fighting tactics will see him sit on the cusp of the true greats. This fight many wanted him to place an exclamation mark on his career. He did not do that, neither will his victory be memorable for reasons that will pull people back to the sport. That is the saddest result for all who love boxing.