The bookmakers predicted the fight would go the distance and that Floyd Mayweather would be the victor. Floyd was a 1/2 odds on favourite and he didn’t disappoint, frustrating and befuddling his Filipino foe to win a unanimous points decision. One of the three judges had it 118/110, the other two had it 116/112. Case closed, the defensive magician had done it again. At least that’s how the story goes.
Amidst the feverish emotions that intoxicate the minds fight fans prior to the ringing of the first bell, it is almost impossible to detach yourself from the combatants involved, in order to assess the bout objectively, accurately, and free of bias.
The pre-fight script was simple: whichever boxer could impose his ring style on his opponent would triumph. Pacquiao had to unleash his maniacal, frenzied attacks to outwork Mayweather, whereas Floyd needed to remain elusive, while fending Pacman off with stiff jabs and sharp straight rights. Whoever could keep their trademark style intact would prevail.
Neither fighter was significantly hurt during the bout, but Manny arguably came the closest to scoring a knockdown during the barrage of punishment he dished out in round four. He continued his onslaught in round six, winning that round convincingly. Mayweather added some venom to his punches, clinching the eighth, and also finished the fight strongly taking the eleventh on my card. Compubox stats suggest Floyd landed roughly double the number of punches that Manny did, so surely the fight must have been relatively easy to score? I’m afraid not. Those statistics do not take into consideration the quality of the punches, so in reality the other eight rounds were closely fought and the long time rivals were difficult to separate. Much to the bewilderment of Max Kellerman and millions watching across the world, Manny Pacquiao declared, “I thought I won the fight”. The fight was certainly tricky to judge, but I too had Pacquiao winning, by 116/114, albeit after the benefit of rewatching the fight several days later, with the sole purpose being to objectively score each round. Rounds two and twelve were even, but if you preferred Mayweather’s slick defensive darts around the ring to Pacquiao’s aggressive charges then that would tip those sessions in favor of the American, reversing the outcome.
An illusion is something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality. During the television broadcast that I watched the commentators continually reminded me throughout that Pacquiao was losing the fight, his attacks had been neutralized by Floyd’s pugilistic genius, and he was merely punching air every time he threw. Most of Pacquiao’s punches did miss, but even when they found the target, Mayweather has refined the art of concealing any visible signs of damage, both from his opponent and from the judges. Midway through round nine Pacquiao launched a lightning quick straight left cross which connected precisely on Floyd’s unprotected chin, a rare occurrence in Money’s long, glittering, prize fighting career. The punch was possibly a better shot than Mayweather had landed all night. The commentator’s verdict? It was “a good left hand”, before swiftly moving on to convince the viewer that despite the success, Manny “can’t build on anything” and that he usually throws “five, six, seven punches” at a time, and that this was due to the “talent of Mayweather”. Floyd had thrown a few light jabs in response to Manny’s hard left cross, but the commentators had given them a heavyweight’s power while simultaneously blunting the talons of Pacquiao. It seemed most of the fight followed this pattern.
Sometimes an elite sportsman who is riding the crest of a wave, as Mayweather is, can appear unbeatable, almost super-human. Casual sports fans, not just fight aficionados are now familiar with, and appreciate the sublime technical skills that Floyd brings with him into the ring each time he fights. Fans and commentators praise his impregnable defence even when no punches are being thrown. Many factors combined to create the illusion that took place in the squared circle that night in Vegas; it is difficult to pinpoint just one. The MGM grand casino has become Mayweather’s stomping ground; he’s fought there exclusively for the last eight years. The richest sportsman in the world is a powerful figure, especially in America, where only two years ago a Las Vegas judge delayed his prison sentence so that he could fight Canelo Alvarez. The struggling Las Vegas economy didn’t want to miss out on the vast sums of money that Mayweather brings to the city on a Cinco de Mayo weekend, so bent over backwards to make it happen.
Money Mayweather’s performance last Saturday was of the highest caliber, and he executed his strategy perfectly. Pacquiao certainly connected with less punches than we’ve come to expect, that is largely due to Floyd’s brilliance, but it does not mean that the punches that the Filipino did land were irrelevant. I challenge any boxing fan who believes Mayweather outclassed Pacquiao to rewatch the fight. Re-watch the fight with the sound muted on the television/computer. It will be difficult, but clear your mind of all you know about these two colossal ring legends and assess the fight purely on clean punches landed, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship and defence. Then ask yourself this question; did Mayweather outclass Pacquiao last Saturday? Can you say with confidence and conviction that Floyd dominated Pacquiao, clearly winning at least eight of the twelve rounds? Or, in hindsight, as was the case with this writer, on the night of May 2nd 2015 were you blinded by the star that is Money Mayweather and his growing aura of invincibility?