Lightning Round: Floyd Mayweather–Manny Pacquiao … AT LAST!!!

Al Bello/Getty Images

Eric Raskin: For close followers of boxing, this fight being signed is like the first time you introduce your wife as “my wife” after getting married: You’ve processed what has happened on a rational level, you think you’ve prepared mentally for this moment, but it just feels weird. I can’t believe I’m writing about this fight as a reality rather than as the “that’s what’s wrong with boxing” disgrace it seemed destined to always be. I probably won’t fully believe it until Pacquiao and Mayweather are inside the ring, gloved up, listening to dueling ring announcers while Biebs and Dionisia “Mommy D” Pacquiao battle nearby for the title of creepiest entourage member.

That’s what happens when a fight takes five years to negotiate. It was supposed to go down in March 2010, when Pacquiao was at the absolute peak of his powers and Mayweather was about a dozen years into his elongated prime. But it fell apart at the last minute over drug-testing protocol, sparking a half-decade of debates over who was to blame.

The question many are asking now is whether it’s too late. I say absolutely not. If it were truly too late, would we be talking about combined purses for Mayweather and Pacquiao with the potential to each reach nine figures? The early line on pay-per-view buys is 3.15 million. For reference, the all-time record is a shade under 2.5 million. Because Mayweather and Pacquiao are still the two biggest names in the sport, because they are again the top two fighters on pound-for-pound lists, and because the fight has enjoyed a very public five-year promotional buildup, it’s as mammoth an event now as it would have been in 2010.

But is it as good a fight? Not from a technical perspective. It’s no longer the undisputed best offensive boxer alive vs. the undisputed best defensive boxer alive. However, fighters who’ve lost a half-step tend to make for better action — especially defensive geniuses who are now slightly less impossible to hit. Think Leonard-Hearns II or Ali-Frazier III: Maybe they weren’t mesmerizingly great fighters anymore, but they could make for great fights. Yes, Mayweather and Pacquiao are even older than those guys were; they’ll be 38 and 36, respectively, on fight night. So what? In all sports, 38 now is what 32 was a generation ago.

I wish Mayweather-Pacquiao would have happened in 2010. It didn’t. In 2015, it still places boxing at the center of the universe for one night. Better late than what we had resigned ourselves to.

pacquiao-mannyChris Hyde/Getty Images

Cousin Sal: I was happy to see that this match was finally inked. But like most fight aficionados, as the years have worn on I’ve become less and less enthusiastic about the Mayweather-Pacquiao pairing. Not because one or both of the fighters’ skills have deteriorated, but because there’s absolutely no way in hell I’m going to be able to make money off this bout. I just won’t pick the right side. Can’t do it. It’s a fact of life. Just like the made man in Goodfellas said as he hovered over Tommy’s dead body, “and that’s that.” There’s nothing I can do about it.

Hear me out. As of this morning, most betting houses opened Mayweather as an almost 3/1 favorite. (Wager $295 to win $100 on Floyd; bet $100 to win $230 on Manny.) And that seems about right.

As much of an a-hole as you think Floyd is, as much as he makes you cringe every time he opens his miserable mouth, as much you want to set fire to your flat-screen TV when you witness him on 24/7 Skyping with troops in Afghanistan while fanning out hundreds of thousands of dollars for them to see … I can’t remember what I was going to say … oh yeah: All that aside, if you’re an avid prize-fight follower you’d still have to conclude that Floyd is more on top of his game than Manny. Much more.

While it seems like Manny has recovered, it’s impossible to erase the image of his head bouncing off the canvas like a superball after a thunderous Juan Manuel Marquez straight right to the chin. The truth is, that kind of punch changes a boxer forever. And it doesn’t help that Pacman is now pitted against perhaps the greatest and slickest defensive fighter this and any century has ever seen.

So what’s the problem? Why not just take the hefty vig straight on and bet Mayweather?

You know the problem — slippery judges and slipperier (is that a word?) promoters. It doesn’t take a genius to see that boxing has stagnated and that the absolute best thing that can happen to the sport is a Pacquiao win, controversial or otherwise. If Pacman gets the W, it automatically sets up two more fights amounting to a potential — pull up a stool — quarter-of-a-billion-dollar trilogy. And that’s a conservative figure.

From a wagering standpoint, you’re a fool to have full confidence that the Nevada State Boxing Commission, in conjunction with the behind-the-scenes circus that is professional boxing, will do the right thing and not interfere.

Fear not, because there’s a silver lining for degenerate gamblers — a purer, untampered betting option scheduled for the same day: the Kentucky Derby. Sigh.

mayweather-floyd-jrAP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Shea Serrano: Manny Pacquiao is not a Mexican, but when he and Mayweather fight, he’ll be an honorary one, and I CANNOT wait. There’s this long, beautiful line of big fights between Mexican and black fighters, and it’s been a fair amount of time since we’ve had a superstar boxing matchup to get excited about, so that’s what this one is going to become.

In 1993, when I was in the seventh grade, Julio César Chávez — who was, by that point, something like 650-0 — had a fight with Pernell Whitaker for the WBC welterweight title. That was the first time I remember being really aware of the Mexican vs. black story line, and mostly that was because the school I went to was nearly exclusively Latino. So it became this thing leading up to the fight where, anytime you wanted to make fun of someone, you’d just say something like, “Ay, this guy’s going for Whitaker,” and then all of a sudden you had a true enemy. It was very serious because we were all very ignorant and insecure. If someone said it to you, the only thing you could do was either fight him or move to a new neighborhood. There was no other step.

The Chávez-Whitaker fight ended up being a draw, but Oscar De La Hoya fought Whitaker four years later and beat him, and let me tell you, that was the closest I ever came to getting a Mexican flag tattooed across my whole back. De La was in a bunch of those fights (Hopkins, Mosley, Mayweather). I watched the De La–Hopkins fight at my brother-in-law’s house with him and his friends. I was the only Mexican there. When Hopkins dropped De La with a body shot, I felt that shit in my real life.

There was Jesse James Leija vs. Azumah Nelson. Leija is from San Antonio and so am I, and their 1998 fight (their fourth and final) was held in San Antonio, and San Antonio is very Mexican — so you can only imagine how incredible that was.

There was Canelo getting defanged by Mayweather in 2013, and that was the first time I absorbed a big Mexican-vs.-black fight on Twitter, and that was more fun than I expected. Canelo lost, but he had to lose because he’s not a king like Chavez was, or De La Hoya was, or even a folk hero like Leija was. Mayweather is the perfect bad guy. He’s incredibly talented and aggressively unlikable. He needs to be beaten by a perfect good guy. He (likely) won’t be, though. He’ll (probably) retire before he loses, which would be smart on his part. I’m excited for this fight, but Pacquiao (likely) won’t beat him. He’s (probably) a tad too old now, and seems at least partially distracted by everything else going on in his life. But when they fight, he’ll have all of Mexico behind him.

Jason Concepcion: Boxing is a brutal, physically destructive, famously crooked sport in which two often execrable human beings pummel one another mercilessly for millions of dollars as a gathering of thousands of the world’s most notable gambling degenerates and their hired female companions look on. But there’s also a downside, which is that it can sometimes take many, many years for the best fights to materialize and that, by the time they magically appear in a flash of brimstone and negotiating, the fighters themselves are just too fucking old to make it worth shelling out the highway-robbery-level pay-per-view fee.

Which brings us, finally, down a winding path past many false dawns to May 2, 2015, Mayweather-Pacquiao at the MGM Grand.1 Finally.

Floyd Mayweather is a known domestic abuser. I’m Filipino American, and, unlike Floyd, I have read Harry Potter. All of which is to say, I cannot even pretend to be unbiased. Therein lies the beauty of boxing, buried under about $100 million and wrapped up in several shrouds woven from pit-of-human-nature ugliness and narrated with aplomb by Jim Lampley: If you don’t like one of the fighters involved in the boxing match, there’s always the promise of a primal, lizard-brain dopamine release triggered by watching that man get his face remodeled and distributed to strange portions of his head.

Floyd is a bad person. I’m a bad person for wanting to watch. Now, to figure out which of my friends is ordering the fight.

Manny Pacquiao as a Teen - 1996 Historical ImagesGerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rafe Bartholomew: I lived in the Philippines from November 2005 till late 2008. One of my first mornings in the country, while snooping around my new neighborhood for a place to shoot hoops, I got pulled into an impromptu prayer circle outside of the municipal hall. I joined hands with a dozen Filipino civil servants I’d never seen before and asked God to watch over Manny Pacquiao in his upcoming rematch against Erik Morales.

Since then, hardly a day has gone by when I haven’t spoken of Pacquiao, read his name in newspapers, or watched him on video fighting or singing or flailing around on a basketball court. If you are Filipino or live in the Philippines or care about the nation, he is unavoidable. Sometimes that gets under your skin. Maybe Manny’s congressional moonlighting reminds you of the flaws in the country’s political system. Maybe you have a deep appreciation for the songs of Glenn Medeiros, and Manny doesn’t do them justice. But there are also moments when following the gonzo curlicues of Pacquiao’s career as a boxer-singer-actor-congressman-preacher make you feel connected with an entire country. One such moment was when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him out cold and left Pacquiao twitching, facedown on the canvas.

The announcement of Mayweather-Pacquiao is another such moment, and for now, at least, it feels triumphant. I’ve already seen Manny starch a Mayweather doppelgänger in vinegar commercials.

From today until May 2, I’ll be dreaming of seeing him pull off the real thing.

Filed Under: Boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather-Pacquiao, May 2, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez