On May 2 in Las Vegas, the world’s #1 pound-for-pound fighter Floyd Mayweather showed why many consider him the “Master of the Game”, using his in-ring wizardry to win a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand. The long-awaited “The Fight of the Century” turned out to be fairly easy work as “Money May” proved to be too big, too fast, too accurate for the man many pundits labeled as the only true threat to Mayweather’s zero. But all that glitters ain’t gold, and this one brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of boxing in one fell swoop.
Let’s start by highlighting some of the positives that this event brought to light. From a Marketing perspective, the fight was a grand slam. In my lifetime I have never seen such build-up for a single sporting event. This was truly an occasion for the ages. Not only did the world finally have the fight they have wanted since 2009, but the mainstream exposure was incredible. ESPN, talk radio, magazines and even the near dead newspaper industry all took turns featuring Mayweather and Pacquiao.
In the days prior to bell time, I overheard people talking about this upcoming fight from the racetrack to the bank line, from to the water cooler and the softball diamond. People from all walks of life were genuinely interested in this bout. It gave people a good reason to party. If the fans weren’t flying to Vegas, they were gathering with friends to watch the event. Everyone from the old gym rats down to the guy who watches boxing one a year had an opinion on who was going to win and how they were going to do their damage.
From a financially point of view, this event broke every meaningful record for the business side of the sport. With ringside tickets selling in the neighborhood of $250,000 and the cost of the pay-per-view rental at $99, the final numbers will be more than the GDP of many third-world countries. The fight was even a great boost for the local economy. Pizza shops and beer distributors around the USA were swamped with orders of wings, kegs and other party foods.
For all of the success the event garnered outside of the ring, the bout failed in the action department. This contest will never be confused with Ali vs. Frazier, nor was it close to Leonard vs. Hearns. Heck, it wasn’t even as exciting as the Clippers vs Spurs Game 7 on a Saturday that was called the biggest sports day of the year. Only a select few were able to recognize the level of skill displayed in this particular ring.
And that is where the irony lies, which leads me into the bad. The greatest night in the history of professional boxing may also prove to be major pothole on boxing’s road back to the mainstream.
There were polar opposite reactions from the millions who watched the event. Some felt they witnessed boxing at its finest but most left with a bad taste in their mouth. From the reactions seen online and by having conversations with people I’ve met on the street this week suggest otherwise. It is looking more like the fight that would kick-start boxing is more like a one shot deal with Bob Arum, Al Haymon, Mayweather and Pacquiao all walking away with nine-figure checks. You can’t knock the hustle, but did the public got played?
With an audience this big, boxing may in fact win some new fans by default. It remains to be seen if the Average Joe would be inspired to dig into their wallet to buy a ticket to a local fight. Time will tell is the standard sports fan would flip the TV switch over to one of the 16 networks currently airing the sweet science instead of watching the ball game. From the initial response, I feel that this is a lost opportunity.
Now for the ugly. In the post fight phase we are now hearing that Pacquiao concealed a pre-fight shoulder injury. Trainer Freddie Roach claims this injury hampered his fighters performance. It has been confirmed that Pacquiao has a torn rotator cuff and will have surgery which will keep him out of action for a minimum of nine months. Now Fans are filing class action lawsuits to get their money back. What is ever weirder is that we are even hearing about the possibility of a rematch though no fans are calling for it. There are a handful of people with the audacity to claim the Pacquiao was robbed! It has reached the point of being a comedy.
There was also no shortage of post-fight commentary after the decision was announced in favor of Floyd Mayweather. Days later people are still arguing over the fight.
It all started out with legitimate conversation. The boxing lifers are marveling about Floyd’s artistry in the ring on this night. They point out that the entire purpose of the sport is to hit and not get hit. If you want blood and guts – go watch MMA they will tell you. They saw beauty in the way Mayweather neutralized Pacquiao, took him out of his game and moved around the ring until he saw the opportunity to land clean jabs and precise right hands for the majority of the contest.
The less sophisticated fan was left extremely disappointed in the lack of action in the fight. They were not impressed with Floyd’s calculated approach. Many felt ripped off, saying the $100 a pop price tag fell far short of expectations. For a bout that was six years in the making, they wanted excitement, they wanted toe-to-toe action plain and simple! Claims of “boxing is dead” and “I’m never buying another PPV again” have been tossed around. Their views may not be 100% accurate, but it is well within their rights to voice their opinion after spending hard-earned money.
Then it took a turn south. The old Mustache Pete mentality of those entrenched in the boxing game showed their fangs. The ignorance of non-competitors was also in full gear. I won’t get into specifics but trust me, it got ugly.
Boxing is such an exclusive sport, to the point where the insiders want the outsiders to sit down and keep their mouths shut. They can buy a ticket, they can tune in on TV, but heaven forbid that the fan have an opinion on what they just watched! The activate participants are quick to talk about how they put it all on the line for peanut purses and little to no exposure. The gripes are legitimate but there is a dilemma with this mentality.
Fans and others on the business side need to understand that fighters sacrifice more than most to chance a dream that will likely never come to fruition.
This is an era of boxing where a lower scale event is considered successful if 1,000 people come through the door. It is an era where the majority of young fighters must sell tickets to get a slot on a show and get in paid dust bunnies for their efforts.
Everyone needs to understand one simple fact. Boxing is a business. More new fans equals more money on the table. Those throwing around the “you don’t know shit about boxing” are usually the same people who don’t know shit about business. There has to be a happy medium somewhere in there. Yes, boxing is all over TV, but are there really new people consistently watching? Expansion doesn’t always equal growth.
In closing, everyone can agree that boxing reached historic levels, even if it were just for one night. The true fans of the sports finally got a definite answer to the lingering question of “Who would win if Mayweather and Pacquiao ever fought?” The casual fan had a great reason to gather with friends and family on a Saturday night.
Most people thought they would never see the day when the Filipino congressman shared a ring with the worlds highest paid athlete. The fight inside fell far short of expectations. By now you should know what you are getting when Mayweather steps into the ring. If anyone is to blame, it is Pacquaio. The alleged fire cracker came up short when it mattered most.
Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pac-Man gets another crack at Mayweather. With all of that money made, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they shoved a rematch down out throats sometime next year. I just don’t see any other result than what we saw the first time around. Regardless, I feel that this event is a runaway winner for Fight of the Year. The action may have fell short, but the overall occasion was a once in a lifetime experience.
What were your thoughts on Mayweather vs. Pacquiao?