It’s been less than a week following the richest fight in boxing history, which took place at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and people just can’t stop talking about it… kind of. Last weekends highly anticipated, highly disappointing ‘Fight of the Century’ between undefeated welterweight champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao has come and gone, and after 5 years of waiting the thing that people are talking about isn’t even the fight. Mayweather was announced as the victor after going the full 12 rounds, by a unanimous decision from judges. Mayweather’s trademark defensive minded game may not have provided the action that fans expected, but per ESPN’s Dan Rafael, “it was an impressive performance from Mayweather, the master boxer, who never allowed the more powerful Pacquiao to deliver any truly big punches as he pulled away in the second half of the fight.”
Following the fight, Manny Pacquiao did what fighters do, he declared that he thought that he’d actually won the fight, and why, saying “he didn’t do anything. He moved outside. I got him many more times with a lot of punches, and I thought I won the fight; I was never hurt. I was very surprised at the scores.” It was all standard fare until Pacquiao dropped a bombshell; he’d fought the undefeated champ and pound for pound best fighter in the world, with an injured shoulder. Far greater than the reaction to the fight was the reaction to Pacquiao and Top Rank, his promotional camp, seemingly withholding or misrepresenting such pivotal information; information that undoubtedly affected his ability to prepare, and the public’s ability to accurately gauge the immense value placed on the match.
In the lead up to the fight, it was widely reported that the $400 million total gross for the bout would far eclipse the previous highest total for a fight, also a Mayweather bout, against Canelo Alvarez in 2013 – which generated roughly $150 million. Recent reports that the fight performed better in sales than originally thought, means the fight may have earned as much as $500 million. Under the contractual 60/40 split with Mayweather earning the larger portion, and the previous conservative fight estimates – Mayweather would have earned $180 million and Pacquiao stood to earn around $120 million, but as the numbers continue to roll in it seems they stand to make quite a bit more.
The public meanwhile, was none too happy to find out that one of the fighters, the crowd favorite in particular, essentially entered the ring with a “bum wheel”. In the days following, the fight has been labeled the “fraud of the century” by some, while others have gone so far as filing a class action lawsuit against the entire team that they feel unjustly benefitted financially from the event.
As the announcement of Pacquiao’s injury reverberated through the media, Mayweather texted ESPN anchor Stephen A. Smith with a message that read, “I will fight him in a year after his surgery”. Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, speaking with ESPN about the fight and injury, said that if Mayweather was up for it, then Pacquiao would be too. Although this fight took over five years to coordinate, it seems that all the wheels had been set in motion for another in a relatively short 12 months. Immediately questions arose: would fans be willing to trust the parties involved again? Should they?
Reports that Pacquiao had successfully undergone surgery on his torn right rotator cuff on Wednesday, and was already starting down the road to a full recovery, an estimated 9-12 month process, seemed to make the fight more and more of a realistic possibility.
That is until today. In a bit of a surprise announcement – Mayweather has changed his mind, and in addition to declining the 2016 rematch, he’s raised questions over the character of Pacquiao, whom he went so far as to call a “sore loser, and a coward”. In a forthcoming interview with Showtime, set to debut alongside the replay of last weekends fight, Mayweather says, “”If you lost, accept the loss and say, ‘Mayweather, you were the better fighter’… I’m not going to buy into the bulls— … and I don’t want the public to buy into the bulls—, he lost. He knows he lost. I lost a lot of respect for him after all of this.”
In a match that’s been covered and criticized from every conceivable angle – even down to Grammy award-winning singer Jamie Foxx’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” – perhaps this latest development is for the best. With Mayweather’s relinquishment of his titles this week, and his reported last fight before retirement planned for September – perhaps this historic fight, and the all encompassing drama of the 5 year soap opera that’s surrounded it – is finally on the ropes. But then again, if Mayweather fights in September and wins, and he and Pacquiao meet again next year, then Mayweather could potentially retire at 50-0 – surpassing boxing legend and Hall of Fame heavyweight Rocky Marciano, who at 49-0 holds the record for the longest undefeated championship career. “Money” Mayweather already calls himself “TBE”, or “The Best Ever”, and breaking Marciano’s record would certainly only give his claim more validity; not to mention the top dollar that the rematch could earn, possibly topping the historic payday of this bout with Pacquiao.
While it’s by no means a certainty, or at this point even likely, the door has been opened. If there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout Mayweather’s undefeated, highly decorated career, it’s not to bet against him.