If there was one moment that summed up this entire promotion, which reached frenzied levels of interest across the planet last week, it came as the bell rang for the start of the 12th round.
Mayweather, clearly ahead on the scorecards, and well aware that the result was in no doubt, embraced the man many have accused him of fearing over the past five years. Manny Pacquiao, by that point, required a knock-out but he was probably the only man in Las Vegas who believed he could get one. Of course he didn’t and Mayweather cruised home in trademark style.
But it was their hug which reflected the nature of this flawed superfight. In the months since the showdown was announced, neither has shown even a hint of disrespect to his opponent. The phoney war an elephant in the room.
No amount of questioning or provocation has tempted Mayweather or Pacquiao into taking aim at the other during the build up. The jaw-dropping ‘little yellow chump’ days of 2010 have long since passed.
During fight week we have been left feeding off scraps from the two trainers, Floyd Mayweather Senior and Freddie Roach, to fill the obligatory spaces for trash talking – and a lot of that was pushing it.
Of course even the wily old pair shook hands at the end.
Look back at most of history’s great rivalries and they are played out against a back drop of bitterness. Perhaps the most pertinent lesson here is that it’s probably impossible to hate a man instrumental in earning you over $100m. It’s literally jabbing a gift horse in the mouth.
But more than that, the real problem with this contest was that, deep down, everyone knew there was only going to be one winner. Mayweather was the overwhelming favourite throughout the build-up and many of those who were backing Pacquiao usually qualified their prediction with a heart-rules-head caveat.
Here in Vegas people wanted Pacquiao to win, the good versus evil narrative skewing the overall perspective, but a Mayweather decision victory was always glaringly obvious. This was a bigger man, with better footwork, better defence and a harder punch. An undefeated fighter against a man knocked unconscious by an opponent Mayweather had schooled.
The fact Mayweather has been so much better than so many of his opponents left us needing Pacquiao to be his bête noir.
He calls himself TBE – The Best Ever, but it’s surely more a brand than his belief. Of course this win will help define his legacy and nudge him higher up those all-time lists but its main purpose here was to prove that in this era he is utterly peerless. His nearest rival, a living icon of the sport, won four rounds, tops.
Yes Pacquiao might have provided a sterner test in 2009, yes Floyd Mayweather never fought the dangerous Mexican Antonio Margarito nine years back, yes the Shane Mosley he beat was not in his prime when they met.
But these are all quite minor points when listed alongside his body of work, which has been capped by making a mockery of what should have been his toughest fight. There are still detractors, however. Even Pacquiao said after the fight that Mayweather did not want to engage and just ran for 12 rounds but it is a common complaint from a beaten man.
Mayweather might be the highest paid athlete of all time, taking part in the richest fight of all time but boxing remains a niche sport.
This was the chance for a single fight to win over new fans, like Ali-Frazier or Hagler-Hearns did. But in the end we may look back on it as a missed opportunity.
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