On February 27, Complex Sports contributor Doug Sibor published "Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao Are Washed", an essay arguing that, in the end, boxing's long-awaited super fight would only leave fans with "a nagging feeling that the idea of Mayweather-Pacquiao was far more enjoyable than the actual fight." Arguing otherwise is long-time Complex reader Homer Richards.
Boxing has been on a roll this spring. To shake up the industry, Roc Nation signed two big name fighters, namely super middleweight champion Andre Ward and middleweight Miguel Cotto. With the help of PBC, Adrien Broner brought the sport back to NBC's airwaves in early March. Spike, CBS, ESPN, and more are getting back into the fight game. The heavyweight champion of the world (and Hayden Panettiere’s baby daddy) Wladimir Klitschko, is making his return to the U.S. after a seven-year absence. However, the biggest boxing news overshadowed the rest, and in the words of Floyd Mayweather Sr., there is no contest.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his groundbreaking deal to fight Manny Pacquiao a few weeks ago following a five-year spat between the parties. This fight likely is the sports story of the year. However, despite the $400 million it's expected to generate and the great style matchup, one comment about the fight has been ringing louder than anything else: This should’ve happened five years ago.
Most of the criticism is directed at the Filipino congressman. Pacquiao solidified his place in mainstream sports culture by YouTubing Ricky Hatton in spring 2009. But by fall 2012, he was put to sleep by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth encounter. Despite talking to Pacquiao on multiple occasions, Stephen A. Smith is still asking if Pacquiao “woke up.”
However, Pacquiao’s résumé after the loss shows that he still has it. In his three fights, Pacquiao has faced Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley, and Chris Algieri. These names don’t ring a bell to the mainstream sports fan, but they are no scrubs.
Rios was undoubtedly picked to fight Pacquiao because of his reputation as a brawler. Coming off the rematch loss of 2012’s Sports Illustrated Fight of the Year with Mike Alvarado, Rios was viewed as the guy that would battle with Pacquiao to show us whether he could hang, or if the knockout loss would diminish him and lead to being steamrolled by Rios. Pacquiao responded by pitching a shutout over the top ten junior welterweight contender.
In his next fight, Pacquiao fought a rematch with Bradley, the slick but stubbornly tough boxer who won a controversial decision over Pacquiao in 2012. Fifty-two of 55 boxing insiders scored the first fight for Pac-Man, but Desert Storm got the decision from a 74-year-old judge and another that was shamed into retirement partially because of her scoring in this fight. Pacquiao was equally dominant this time around without three blind mice sitting ringside.
Most recently, Pacquiao fought 5’11” WBO junior welterweight champion and former kickboxing champion Algieri in Macau, China. Algieri won his title by surviving an onslaught from pressure fighting/Pacquiao stable mate Ruslan Provodnikov. Pacquiao toyed with Algieri, dropping him six times, and making Algieri’s trainer Tim Lane one of boxing’s best memes of 2014 for not letting Algieri “out of his cage."
Those fighters had a combined record of 82-1-1 (43 KOs). Many of the critics point to the fact that Pacquiao hasn’t had a stoppage since his domination of Cotto in fall 2009, but the naysayers fail to acknowledge the dominance in Pacquiao’s wins. Fighting larger men, elite fighters, who decided to survive rather than face the fate of Pacquiao’s 2008-2009 victims.
Mayweather, on the other hand, has faced less criticism because of his pristine record. As the Money Team likes to say: “Forty-seven have tried, and 47 have failed!” However, critics have pointed to some tough fights for Mayweather since the fight with Pacquiao was a possibility in early 2010.
In early 2012, Mayweather again ventured to junior middleweight to challenge Cotto for his WBA championship. Don’t be fooled by the wide scorecards. Mayweather was in a fight; nose bloodied, and forced to dig deep to beat a fighter that was dominated by Pacquiao. Money cites Cotto has his toughest fight, and boxer-analyst Paulie Malignaggi and the LA Times scored the fight seven rounds to five for Mayweather, and Sports Illustrated had it eight rounds to four.
After a dominant 2013 over Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (ignoring the scorecard that had the Canelo fight a draw from the same elderly judge that had Bradley over Pacquiao in their first fight—a decision that effectively ended her judging career) to kick off his landmark deal with Showtime, Mayweather’s detractors said the boxer showed signs of slippage against Marcos Maidana. Boxing fans knew “El Chino” as a limited brawler, having lost decisions to Amir Khan and Devon Alexander. Surely Mayweather would dominate, right?
Surprisingly, Maidana was able to make Mayweather fight Maidana’s type of fight. The rough (and some would say dirty) tactics of Maidana were enough for Mayweather to grant only the second rematch of his career. But like Pacquiao’s detractors, Mayweather’s critics are ignoring Mayweather’s accomplishments.
Regardless of his loss to Pacquiao, Cotto was still a force to be reckoned with by the time he fought Mayweather, and still is. Last year, two years removed from his loss to Mayweather, Cotto moved up to middleweight to become the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four weight divisions. There is no shame in having a difficult fight with a fellow future Hall of Famer.
And despite Mayweather being roughed up by Maidana early in their first fight, Maidana was a guy that had already knocked out Mayweather victim Victor Ortiz. Also, let’s not forget that Maidana earned his shot by fighting the match of his life and turning Mayweather’s mini-me into a meme:
Pacquiao and Mayweather’s perceived declines are exaggerated because of the high expectations we have for each of them. If they aren’t making us scream “WorldStar!” during the action, or if they aren’t standing in front of the opponent without getting touched, we claim slippage, despite the other facts before us.
Pacquiao had two wins and a draw over Marquez, but the demand for a fourth fight was there because Marquez can compete with Pacquiao. Should we have been surprised that he finally landed the shot that gave him the win after 40 rounds in the ring with Pac-Man? Likewise, Sugar Shane Mosley, Hatton, and Zab Judah had early success against Mayweather before Money adjusted and dominated. Is the fact Maidana made Mayweather fight hard for the victory a sign of decline, or something we should’ve expected based on past fights?
This is our generation’s super fight. Our Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling rematch. Our first Ali versus Joe Frazier fight. Our Sugar Ray Leonard versus Marvin Hagler.
This isn’t to say that Pacquiao and Mayweather are the same guys that they were fives years ago. At ages 36 and 38, respectively, each has lost a little off their fastball. However, this isn’t the unbelievably undisciplined James Toney we’re talking about. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao take boxing extremely seriously, and their domination over opponents has saved them from sustained punishment in the ring.
Before Muhammad Ali retired far from greatness in the early '80s, the writing of decline was on the wall starting after his legacy-defining win over George Foreman in 1974. Conversely, Mayweather and Pacquiao—even in a slightly declined state—are heads-and-shoulders above the competition. They are still the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world (no disrespect to the inactive Ward).
This fight is about more than money, welterweight or pound-for-pound supremacy, or the great style matchup between the stick-and-move specialist Mayweather against the speedy pressure fighting southpaw Pacquiao. This is our generation’s super fight. Our Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling rematch. Our first Ali versus Joe Frazier fight. Our Sugar Ray Leonard versus Marvin Hagler.
All those fondly remembered super fights had the same questions asked beforehand. Louis was knocked out by Schmeling in their first fight, but went into the rematch to score a first round knockout. Ali was undefeated and coming off a government-induced exile from the sport when Smokin’ Joe beat the odds to prove his claim to the title was legit. Leonard came off a three-year hiatus and jumped up two weight-classes to challenge middleweight champion Hagler, and he pulled off the upset!
When Ali fought Frazier for the third time, it was widely accepted that both pugilists were past their primes. But guess what? It was the greatest fight of their trilogy, and one of the best heavyweight fights in history.
Mayweather and Pacquiao may not be at their peaks, but they are certainly not washed. In fact, they might have slowed down just enough to give us the fight for the ages we may not have seen if they fought five years ago.
The idea of this fight isn’t about the Money Team or Filipino pride. The idea of this fight is to continue the generational tradition of a genuine super fight. So debate the merits of each guy, grab some friends and beer, and enjoy witnessing history.