By Jason Keidel
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, the two remaining monoliths of a sport desperate for an infusion of money and mojo, had their red carpet presser this week. And it has now officially commanded the world’s consciousness.
Just the idea of the fight is so radiant they don’t have to hopscotch the nation to promote it. Every big bout has two private, promotional planes, landing at a dozen dots on the map, so the fighters can summon their most menacing glares at the other.
Experts have wondered if this fight, in a strict boxing sense, was announced five years too late. Maybe. But it doesn’t matter. Instead of losing our always-splintered focus, the wait has somehow fueled our bloodlust.
Not much can be gleaned from a press conference. Each fighter, trainer, and executive basically belched their scripted platitudes, thanking everyone but grandma for making the mega fight happen, while shoveling praise upon the opponent. Only Freddie Roach broke from the PC tableau, by asserting that his fighter would kick Mayweather’s behind.
Aside from Bob Arum’s odd tangents – pointing emphatically at Floyd Mayweather Sr. with a wry smile and asking the younger Mayweather if he missed Top Rank – we had little reason for pause.
Except for when the fighters faced each other. The perfunctory pose, the two combatants glowering at each other, about eight inches apart, gave us an interesting, distant measurement.
Mayweather is a larger man than Manny Pacquiao. Considerably so. We’ve long memorized the tale of the tape, each fighter’s record, height, weight, and reach. So we knew, at least intellectually, that Mayweather was naturally bigger. But to see them nose-to-nose, fans and cameras clapping in appreciation, was at least interesting, if not telling.
Not that small men can’t beat bigger men. Jack Dempsey routinely pummeled much larger fighters. Ray Robinson left his welterweight home to win the middleweight belt. Ray Leonard defeated Marvin Hagler, and Evander Holyfield famously handled Tyson the first time. (Kinda hard to explain the second fight, as you may recall.)
Teddy Atlas predicted a Pacquiao win during ESPN’s coverage. And while Tyson didn’t predict a victor, he seemed to lean toward Pacquiao during his YouTube breakdown, which went viral moments after it was posted.
Mayweather-Pacquiao will be dissected a million times, in myriad ways. Perhaps the least useful bromide you will hear is common opponents. If you buy the boxing adage that styles make fights, then the only metric that matters is their comparability in the ring.
George Foreman vaporized Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, who gave Muhammad Ali fits. Yet Ali knocked out Foreman. Thomas Hearns flattened Roberto Duran, who went the distance with Hagler. Yet Hagler stopped Hearns in three rounds, in perhaps the greatest eight minutes in boxing history.
Perhaps Tyson’s spastic analysis was best. The fascinating, former heavyweight king asserted that Mayweather struggles most with fighters who throw torrents of punches, as in anyone who unleashes at least 100 per round. And no doubt Pacquiao plans to bring it.
But no matter who’s favored or finally wins, it’s clear that, at least for the next two months, boxing is the ultimate victor. No sport can use some bold ink more than the sweet science, which has slowly dissolved from our psyche, for endless reasons.
And while we may not know where you’ll be on May 2, we know what you’ll be doing, scrambling for some pub or person who punched the PPV button, dropped the daunting $90 to consume a sport that hasn’t offered much for consumption.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.