By Andrew Wake, Media and Online Editor at Hatton Boxing
Six years of haggling, pettiness and what some would even describe as lunacy will come to end under the bright lights of Las Vegas this Saturday night as boxing greats and long-time rivals Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao finally lock horns.
It’s a match-up that has been on the wish list of fight aficionados since 2009, but for such a long time it seemed unlikely to happen. Disputes over purse splits, the taking of blood for drug testing, and promotional issues meant it seemed destined to become the fight that never was.
All that began to change in January this year when a chance meeting at a Miami Heat game set the wheels in motion and by the end of the following month, everything was in place to be signed, sealed and announced to the masses.
Anticipation in the short time since has gone into overdrive despite a lack of promotional build-up. Normally fights of this magnitude are sold to the public with an extensive media tour, a myriad of preview shows, public engagements and what feels like more press conferences than Chelsea have Premier League points. For Mayweather v Pacquiao there’s been very little of this marketing as the fight sells itself.
Indeed, it seems that everyone from hardened sports fans to your office’s cleaning lady is salivating over the prospect of seeing these two superb athletes in the ring, but one senses that the fight probably won’t live up to expectations.
Father Time waits for no man and at 38 and 36 respectively, it is fair to say that neither Floyd or Manny are at their peak. In an ideal world, this fight would have happened around 2010 or 2011 when Pacquiao was blasting his way through opponents with his whirlwind combinations, and Mayweather was at his optimum sharpness.
That’s not to say they aren’t still exceptional athletes, it’s just that the Filipino idol does not appear to have the same menacing fight style any more, while the self-styled “Money” isn’t as quick on his feet.
In the run up to this fight, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has been vocal about what he sees as a deterioration in Mayweather’s skills and he certainly has a point. During his two points wins over Marcos Maidana in 2014 he was made to work harder than usual and at times struggled to keep the rugged Argentinian off of him.
“He (Mayweather) has never wanted to engage because that is not his style, but recently he has been forced to because he no longer can be on his toes for a full three minutes per round,” Roach said.
“He takes rests on the ropes and fights flatfooted more often. He is 38, and you can only put off Father Time for so long.
“Floyd is still an incredible athlete but he is not the same fighter he used to be and he knows that. He says he wants to give the fans more action by engaging more but he is trying to cover up the real reason his fighting style has changed – his legs are beginning to betray him.”
Having trained a number of boxers to face Mayweather, Roach should have the best possible knowledge of Las Vegas-resident’s style, but Floyd is adamant that familiarity does not mean success and that Pacquiao’s cornerman is seeing things that are not there.
“We’ll see what happens when the fight starts. But when all is said and done I’m going to be the winner,” he stated during his recent media workout. “Pacquiao is strong and solid but I don’t know if he can make adjustments like I can. I feel tremendous.
“I’m still going strong. The last time I looked, I was 47 and 0. Every move I make is calculated. I’m always five to ten steps ahead of my opponent.”
As men, the boxers really couldn’t be any more different. Both have transcended the sport to become global superstars, but Pacquiao has remained a humble family man who cares as much as about the plight of his countrymen as he does his career, while Mayweather is bold and brash with a thirst for riches and little else.
And that could make for an unusual atmosphere inside the MGM Grand’s as the home fighter finds himself in front of a very pro-Pacquiao crowd. That is if any regular fans have actually managed to get hold of tickets as they were selling for astronomical sums.
On the subject of money, this is set to be the richest fight in the history of the sport, with Mayweather set to pick up a cheque for more than $179 million (£116 million) and Pacquiao collecting around $119 million (£77.7 million).
It will also shatter previous pay-per-view records for viewing numbers and revenue, both of which already belong to Mayweather (2.5 million buys for his 2007 with Oscar De La Hoya and $152 million generated from his clash with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in 2013).
Comparing common opponents is often a good way to gauge the outcome of a fight, but where Floyd and Manny are concerned, it really tells us very little. Boxing is all about timing and while they have shared the ring with five of the same men, they have faced differing versions.
Two key examples are Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Pacquiao beat them in a far comprehensive fashion that Mayweather did, but the American fought them when they had more in the tank. De La Hoya was a strong light-middleweight when he faced Floyd and a weight-drained, aged welterweight against Manny 19 months later. Likewise, Hatton was a hungry powerhouse against “Money”, but was over-trained and reckless against the Pac Man.
If a prediction has to be made then it would be one for Mayweather to prevail on points. While he might not be as quick on his feet as he was a few years ago, he is still a defensive master with his shoulder roll. Pacquiao is likely to be the boxer pushing the pace and he will have some success from the southpaw stance, but Mayweather’s ability to block the blows and counter is likely to be more impressive to the judges.