We were hoping for a classic. In the end what we got was a defensive counter-punching masterclass from Floyd Mayweather, who confirmed his status as the best boxer of his generation with a unanimous point’s victory over the Philippines’ Manny Pacquiao in the Welterweight clash.
The fact that the fight went the distance surprised nobody. The fact that Mayweather won would have surprised very few. Many however were surprised by the manner in which Mayweather won, as two judges gave the score 116-112 in Mayweather’s favour, while the third gave the score 118-110 in favour of the American.
This victory was the 48th in 48 fights for Mayweather, and he showed little sign of his 38 years of age as he ducked and swerved and shimmied his way to victory against Pacquiao, who by contrast was looking some way past his best, and the 36 year-old didn’t have the same speed and energy levels that had been his trademark, although he couldn’t be faulted for effort.
The opening rounds were predictably cagey, with Mayweather looking to play on the counter-punch and wait for Pacquiao to loosen his defences before coming in with punches of his own. He had the superior height and reach, and made use of that early on with some well taken shots.
Pacquiao did appear to be getting back into the fight by the fourth round though as he broke through his opponents defences to land with his trusted left hand, and Mayweather did appear to be slightly hurt at this point.
Pacquiao rocked Mayweather with another shot in the sixth round, and by the halfway point the fight appeared to be pretty even, but from then on Mayweather took control, evading Pacquiao’s shots with increasing ease while landing with some clean shots of his own as his opponent began to tire.
The Filipino simply didn’t have the energy to mount a late rally in the final round, and by the time the final bell struck there were few in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand who were in any doubt as to who had won, and as predicted the judges scored the fight comfortably in Mayweather’s favour. Pacquiao later said that he had been suffering with a shoulder injury picked up in training (make of that what you will), but one way or another, Mayweather was the superior boxer.
The richest fight in boxing history then may not have given us the pulsating, thunderous classic we may have hoped for, and Mayweather is unlikely to ever be the most popular boxer in the world, but nobody can deny just how good a boxer he is, and he was clearly the deserving winner.
Boxing’s authorities will hope this is the fight that can help to keep the sport on the front and back pages for the longer-term, although they still may wonder what would have happened if they’d managed to organise this fight five years ago, when both boxers would have been in their prime.
Despite his defeat, Pacquiao can still expect to take home a share of the $400 million that the fight is estimated to have generated, but he will be asking serious questions about whether he will continue boxing. He certainly didn’t appear to be as young as he used to be in the ring, and having achieved so much in the sport, he may decide he has nothing more to gain from boxing. He’s already started a political career in the Philippines, where he will remain hugely popular, and now may just be the time to make that his full-time job.
Mayweather maintained that he will fight one more time in September before retiring. It may be that the lure to win 50 fights from 50 matches will tempt him to do one more after that, but he too is nearing retirement. British duo Amir Khan and Kell Brook could both be in the frame to fight him, but they would do very well to do what nobody has done before them and beat Mayweather.