Mayweather still needs Pacquiao for legacy
Sean Held @seanheld77
No man divides opinion in the sport of boxing quite like Floyd Mayweather Jr. Just the mention of his name can spark a bar brawl from Michigan to Manila and several stops in between.
A world champion at five different weights and unbeaten in 41 bouts, no fewer than nine different versions of world title belts hang on the walls of his ostentatious Las Vegas pile. Yet Pretty Boy Floyd’s legacy as a genuine hall of fame fighter is far from secure.
One man stands between Mayweather and the recognition he craves, Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao. But Floyd Mayweather needs Manny Pacquiao more than the Filipino needs him, even if the flashy American can never admit it publicly.
If the man born and raised on the unforgiving streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan, retires without ever facing his nemesis, the Mayweather Wikipedia entry will for ever need an asterisk and a photograph of the man they call Pac-Man, and he will be remembered as a phenomenal talent, but no sparring partner for the likes of Roberto Duran, Willie Pep or Sugar Ray Robinson in the great gymnasium in the sky.
True sporting legends need victories over other super-human rivals to define their extraordinary careers. Roger Federer’s epic tussles with Rafael Nadal have cemented both their places in the tennis history books.
Boxing is littered with such rivalries. Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier captivated audiences across the globe. The names Thomas Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard still exhilarate those who saw them fight live.
Bolton’s Amir Khan is being talked up as a potential Mayweather foe in 2012, after enhancing his burgeoning reputation on Saturday night with a near-flawless five-round demolition of accomplished New Yorker Zab Judah.
Khan’s astonishing progress since arriving at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym has not gone unnoticed Stateside. The 24-year-old Brit will secure a lucrative shot at Mayweather if he can defeat Kell Brook and Erik Morales in the next 12 months.
But Khan’s training compadre Pacquiao is the man who master trainer and tactician Roach really wants by his side, if he ever gets the chance to plot Mayweather’s demise
Fight fans, starved of top-quality, evenly matched world title bouts, are desperate to see the ultimate super fight. The cable television conglomerates and casinos are ready to bankroll it and sporting venues across the globe would love to play host. A team of Far Eastern tycoons are even rumoured to have offered the star duo $75m each to tangle in Singapore.
So often are the names of Mayweather and Pacquiao mentioned in tandem they could be mistaken for an American law firm. Unfortunately, a 2012 courtroom meeting seems more likely than a sporting face-off as Pacquiao has sued Mayweather and his camp for defamation after being repeatedly accused of using performance-enhancing drugs by the latter.
Pacquiao has never failed a drug test and is happy to obey the doping rules as set out by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and world sport in general.
Mayweather and his promoters will not sanction the fight unless Pacquiao bows to their will and agrees to stringent blood tests. Why Mayweather feels he is in a position to make extra demands is beyond most observers. There is not a shred of evidence in the public domain to suggest that Pacquiao has ever touched the banned human growth hormone, yet the mud-slinging continues.
The defensive, counter-punching, risk-free style the American has inherited from father Floyd senior and which has been fine-tuned by his uncle Roger, a former world champion, is slickness personified. No one can question the talent, ring acumen, speed and athletic ability – he has all that in spades.
When motivated and switched on, he is arguably the most mesmeric boxer many of us will ever see in the flesh. No opponent has ever found a way of really troubling Mayweather, who remains unbeaten as a professional. It all makes his reluctance to secure the marquee match-up infuriating.
Are we witnessing a potential waste of a unique God-given talent?
Floyd’s previous bout with the veteran Shane Mosley took place over a year ago and was only his third outing since a controversial split decision victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007. Can we really believe the 34-year-old when he says he wants to face Pacquaio in the ring? Boxing has taken a back seat.
Business ventures, including his Philthy Rich record label, sports gambling, celebrity television dancing, and a burgeoning friendship with controversial rapper 50 Cent have all appeared more important to the star than the sport that gave him his money and fame.
Mayweather did recently announce a September 17 comeback against Victor Ortiz for the WBC welterweight crown. Is it a warm-up for a genuine crack at Pacquaio or just another opportunity to swell his bank balance? Ortiz, a heavy-handed southpaw, fits the bill as a Pacquiao clone, but talent-wise they are in different stratospheres. Ortiz has little or no realistic chance of troubling the linear champ.
Pacquiao is so revered in his native Philippines that the people of the Sarangani province recently elected him to congress. The presidency is thought be a formality when he decides to hang up his gilded gloves. Every credible opponent from 112 lbs up to 154 lbs, bar one obvious admission, has been defeated.
Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito – all top-level world champions – failed to live with his astonishing hand speed, stamina and punching power. His remarkable ascent up the weight classes is unheralded, with word titles in eight different divisions.
Respected and almost universally loved by the fight fraternity, Pacquiao has little to prove. His record is not perfect, as Mayweather and his father are quick to remind us. But Pacquaio’s astonishing feats and the manner in which they have been achieved, in the six years since his most recent defeat, to Erik Morales, have erased that points loss in most people’s minds.
Morales was subsequently stopped by the Filipino in two rematches. So green and raw was Pacquaio when losing twice on Asian soil in the 1990s it feels like those defeats occurred in a different lifetime.
Bookmakers can hardly split them, with Mayweather a marginal betting favourite should the pair ever meet. Pacquiao keeps improving with every outing, but no one has even come close to solving the riddle that is Mayweather’s defence and many an expert thinks the American would win at a canter.
Pacquiao’s loyal promoter, Bob Arum, thinks his man would triumph with relative ease. “Manny would beat Floyd, I guarantee it,” Arum said. “He is unstoppable now. You are watching the greatest fighter I have ever seen. Floyd understands this business and this sport. If he really wanted to make this fight he would call us.”
Arum even joked that Floyd’s pro record should read 41-1, for avoiding Pacquiao so shamelessly.
Mayweather’s legal problems could yet scupper the fight once and for all. Pretty Boy’s hectic lifestyle has always been questionable. Eight felony charges relating to a domestic battery report filed against him by a former girlfriend hang over his head and, if he were convicted of all them, talk of a Pacquiao fight will be deemed irrelevant. San Quentin or Rikers Island are hardly suitable venues for the ‘Fight of the Millennium’.
Younger fight fans are turning away from boxing in their droves and into the arms of mixed martial arts. The heavyweight division, especially in the United States, is in the doldrums with college and professional football gobbling up most of the XXL sporting talent. Boxing needs this fight.
Pacquiao meanwhile, is cementing his position as undisputed pound-for-pound king. He has signed to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a third time on November 12 at the MGM Grand casino in Floyd’s home town. The breathtaking young Mexican Saul Alvarez could follow next year, in front of a monster 100,000 crowd in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium.
Mayweather, quick to show off his vast wealth in front of the cameras and to his followers on Twitter, could do worse than listen to the words of the man who adorns the $100 bills he is so keen on flaunting.
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else,” Benjamin Franklin said. The time for talking has long since passed. The excuses will not wash. If Mayweather fails to step in and make the Pacquiao fight, the stigma of ducking the planet’s most popular pugilist could haunt this generation’s most gifted boxer for ever.
If you enjoyed this, then check out Sean’s illuminating darts feature “Boardwalk Empire”