By Vitali Shaposhnikov: A battle between a villain and a hero is a must-have in any story being told. In sports, this balance of “good and evil” is widely spread, providing the fans with a more direct option for a desired choice of support. A conflict created with the “you will not win, because I won’t lose” mindset is the very heart of the confrontation that makes sports more exciting and competitive. Some root for the villain, and others dedicate their trust in the hero.
The peculiar thing is that in the majority of outcomes, the villain starts out stronger and then somehow ends up being beaten by the hero. But what if all of a sudden, their roles were switched? Would people still stand by and support their character, or switch sides to the other one?
The ultimate question would be: Did people like the cause, or the character?
Taking this very concept to boxing is not always easy, as the spectrum of characters is wide. Most fighters are somewhere in the middle, acting up at one point in time, and turning angelic at another.
Finding extremes from the fan’s standpoint takes time and history. A clear cut line must be found between who the fans consider a villain and who they perceive a hero. Only then can we hypothetically switch their roles and brainstorm what the outcome could be.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (41-0-0) and Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2) are clearly a part of a story where a villain and a hero are unmistakably evident.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (The Villain): This character is a loud-mouth; insulting everyone he is bound to face in and out of the ring. His opposition, the press and even some team members have gotten “verbally slapped” by Mayweather Jr. Recently taking it further, Mayweather Jr. took his thoughts to a computer webcam, and insulted his arch-rival Manny Pacquiao in every way imaginable, including even racial abuse.
As any villain is expected to, Floyd has also been battling the authorities. Supposedly, he broke into his former girlfriend’s house, physically and verbally abused her. Some time ago Floyd was also charged with a physical confrontation with a parking security guard at his complex.
This “Villain” has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He claimed that Pacquiao used steroids without any proof whatsoever, and also found time to insult his head coach Freddie Roach. Rarely does Floyd do anything positive, and when he does—turkey giveaways and charity events—they are instantly overshadowed by all the dreadful, negative things that have piled up on his name over time.
Manny Pacquiao (The Hero): Besides being one of the most decorated boxers in history, he is a “sweetheart.” Pacquiao takes his heart and gives it to the people. From a boxer, he evolved into a musician/singer. With time, his acting career picked up in the Philippines.
Do you think that with this change of characters, both fighters would still perform the same?
Now a congressman, Pacquiao uses his vast financial and social resources to help the poor. He has put on free fundraiser shows, built shelters and hospitals and inspired millions of people not only in his homeland of the Philippines but around the world.
His humble nature allows the media and the people around him to enjoy his presence and communicate with him without any pressure. People just seem to melt at his presence due to his good natured smile, his forgiving eyes and his respectful demeanor.
He has never badmouthed anyone he has ever faced in boxing (including Floyd Mayweather Jr.), always showing professional admiration and understanding. Putting people down is not his business; instead, he chooses his words carefully to encourage others to aim high.
Manny Pacquiao is a family man, with a loving wife Jinkee Pacquiao and four kids. He is very religious, thanking god and praying on a daily basis. How can this gentle champion not be a hero in anyone’s book?
There is no question about which one of the two characters mentioned above has a bigger following. Manny Pacquiao’s army of fans is a giant compared to that of Floyd Mayweather Jr’s. In all of Manny Pacquiao’s fights, the Filipino flags raised by the fans create a huge wall, blocking everything in sight. They come in Pacman outfits with Pacman flags, shoes, toys and anything else that can possibly be manufactured.
And now dear readers, I would like to ask you to do some something unfeasible for me: Switch the two characters; put Pacquiao in Mayweather’s shoes and vice-versa.
Imagine Pacquiao a mean, foul-mouthed person, with cocky and rude behavior. Meanwhile, put a smile on your face and see Mayweather Jr. as a humble, people-loving champion, with an enchanting smile and a big apologetic heart!
Would you still like and follow Manny Pacquiao if he turned villain? Do you think that most people would keep their bond with him? I think not.
Manny’s fanbase at this point in time does not primarily come from boxing fans, but instead pours in from patriots and those who have benefited or still benefit from his political/financial support. If Pacquiao abandoned his social/public responsibilities—or never formed them in the first place—his fanbase would be a tiny fraction of what it is today.
I am in no way saying that his popularity would suffer—as a matter of fact, I believe his name would be just as known as it is today. What I am trying to push through, is that most people would be glued to their TV sets in hopes of seeing this villain fall. Pacquiao’s loss would become many people’s hope, and his name would almost always be displayed in a negative light—no matter what he does or says. Many of his countrymen would ditch him as the ultimate hope and find another outlet and source for inspiration. Just that in itself would cause his fanbase to significantly shrink.
Out of the times we see or hear Pacquiao’s name on TV or the internet, how many are boxing related?
It’s hard to be precise, but I would estimate that only 20-30 percent is boxing related, while the rest is due to his political and humanitarian doings. Thus, it is clear that his name, his boxing popularity worldwide and even his capability of acquiring new fans could possibly be completely unrelated to boxing events.
Just recently, a family friend was watching TV at our house, and Pacquiao’s name came across the news. There they mentioned that he helped some villagers in the Philippines with food and clothing, and slightly touched on the fact that he was a boxer and had a big fight coming up soon. This family friend got instantly interested in a character of a boxer/politician, and said that he would research him and watch his next fight out of curiosity.
Another possible Pacquiao fan in the works!
If all these positive things were taken out of the equation, and a negative light was shed on Pacquiao—as it is on Mayweather Jr. recently—his fanbase would look awfully different.
This must be the only time that I have ever heard or seen Pacquiao badmouth his opponent: (watch from 12:50–13:05) – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MprKp_64htU)
But what about Floyd Mayweather Jr. being a hero? Can anyone imagine this as real?
Do you think that with the proposed change of character, the fight between them would have happened by this time?
Sure, it’s not too hard to do. What would happen is that his name would explode in the public’s eye instantly; he’d be praised for every breathe he took. People would tend to take his side and hope for his success. People from all over the world would be praising the man who helps so many unfortunate souls.
The patriots in the U.S.A. would jump on Floyd’s bandwagon in no time, as he would be a true American hero. Representing the good in this world, his media coverage would expand, and his name would be all over the air for his positive effort in the world. With his stunning smile, he would win hearts instantaneously and his ability to come up with quick remarks would earn him a humorous label as well.
Isn’t this Floyd Mayweather Jr. a very pleasant guy? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZtG75WhUE0)
Imagine hearing Manny Pacquiao saying something like this during a press conference:
“When I retire, I’ll get Ricky Hatton to wash my clothes and cut my lawn and buckle my shoes.”
“I’m running my mouth a lot and I’m looking for a guy to shut me up. If you don’t shut me up I’m going to keep running my mouth.”
“Hi, my name Oscar De La Hoya. I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna that. . . you ain’t gonna do ****!”
In parallel, imagine Floyd Mayweather Jr. saying the following:
“All of my countrymen are hoping that I win this fight. If I beat him, it will be a great honor for me to go back home with the victory. I want this very much for my country, it will be good for my country and my fans.”
“It’s going to be a good fight. Both of us worked real hard and were going to give you a good fight on Saturday.”
“He is a bigger guy and a hard puncher…strong…he’s a good fighter and he’s the champion for this fight and I’m the challenger so I’m not underestimating his capabilities in boxing.”
The quotes above are indeed real quotes from Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao switched around to help us visualize the “new” characters.
Wouldn’t it be great?
What would you do if this anomaly came about tomorrow?
Lastly, what alias would you suggest for Floyd and Pacquiao to replace “Money Mayweather” and “Pacman” respectively?