LAS VEGAS — The Fight of the Century will not even be the fight of the year.
Neither Floyd Mayweather nor Manny Pacquiao came close to the knockout which the Money Man desired so desperately and the PacMan ended up needing so badly on Saturday night.
The bright start ebbed into a game of cat and mouse, Mayweather dodging and countering, Pacquiao charging and probably missing too often.
The richest fight of all time will be remembered for the mega-millions, the gigantic hype, the hordes on the Strip, the most manic media coverage of all time… and a physical chess match between two old masters.
Mayweather proved himself once again the grand master of the noble art of self defence. It was enough to settle the argument as to which of them is the greatest boxer of his generation — the man who is unbeaten in his 48 fights as a professional.
The judges may have done Pacquiao less than justice with scores of 118-110 and 116-112 twice. But although I had it a draw there can be no complaint. Pacquiao protested: “I thought I won the fight. I hit him more times than he hit me. I hurt him more than he hurt me.”
But in reality, so many of the rounds were so close that a preference for a style of boxing would have been enough to sway the outcome. Floyd is a clever chap, Manny a fun fellow. Pacquiao expressed surprise at the width of the decision, but in truth he left himself at the mercy of the judges by not throwing his usual volume of punches. Had he done so it might have been different.
So in the end it came down to who connected with the more of the few meaningful punches thrown.
The score cards and the punch statistics gave that advantage to Mayweather and although I thought it more marginal than they did, there is no whiff of scandal or controversy. Mayweather did what he does best and he will head to his next and last fight in September with his legacy as an all-time great secured.
Pacquiao will go back to helping the people of the Philippines regretting that he did not do more in the ring. The original PacMan would have blitzed Mayweather with relentless combinations.
Trainer Freddie Roach admitted: “I asked him to give me a few more combinations, but I still thought we pulled it out.”
The judges disagreed and theirs was an honourable opinion.
There will be no clamour for a rematch.
Whatever our view of the result, there was none of the drama, excitement or thunderous exchanges which would encourage the pay-TV networks, the sponsors, the advertisers, the rest of the corporate juggernaut or the public to commit another half a billion pounds.
The 16 507 crowd in the MGM Grand Garden Arena went home booing. Most of them unhappy with the result. Some of them disappointed with the spectacle.
They will come out for Mayweather one last time in September and the man himself confirmed that will be that: “It’s time to hang them up. I’m almost 40. I’ve been doing this for 18 years.”
It will be a farewell hurrah on the Strip and it will be scant consolation for Pacquiao that whoever Mayweather chooses as the partner for his last waltz is unlikely to give him as much of a fight as the Philippines congressman.
Although this minor cameo in the desert may not even be the fight of the month.
And it may not give the super-charged boost to boxing for which the hard old game was hoping.
The biggest pay-per-view event in boxing’s television history was in crisis with the hour of the fight approaching.
The subscription networks appeared to be overloading – even at $99,95 a buy – and there were reports of Time-Warner transmission in New York breaking down. Direct TV, which serves the entire US, was suffering black-outs.
Record sales of more than four million had been predicted, carrying the gross value revenue from the richest fight of all time above half a billion dollars.
That huge sale is needed to deliver the expected record purses, $180 million for Mayweather and $120 million for Pacquiao. At home, Sky Sports Box Office were charging £19,95.
A showboat-load of celebrities were spirited into ringside through a back door. Ten grand is peanuts for the likes of Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Rihanna, Donald Trump et al. Not all the famous boxers in the building are flush these days — certainly not Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield — but even though their tickets had to be paid for the bill for some was being picked up by promoters Mayweather or Bob Arum or private benefactors.
There were so many household names in attendance that the rest of us felt we were in the minority and they were looking around wondering who we might be.
Mayweather’s famous defence was being tested to the full by the PacMan’s pressure. But he could not avoid a crunching left, staggered back on to the ropes and took a pounding. Then a right rocked him again and this was becoming a big round for the idol of the Philippines. — Agencies