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ESPN Offered Another Look At Mayweather-Pacquiao. It Was Enlightening.

By: Sean Crose

Everyone was disappointed. Everyone called it a waste of money, an event that went down five years too late, a robbery, a hype job, and a snooze fest. Only, come to find out, it wasn’t. Time truly does have a way of offering clarity. The case of 2015’s Floyd Mayweather – Manny Pacquiao fight was proof of this. ESPN and Top Rank have been showing some high level old matches lately – perhaps one good thing to emerge for this Covid-19 nightmare the world is suffering through – and this past Saturday they showed Floyd’s throwdown with Manny, otherwise known as the fight everyone loves to hate. 

Having not seen it in years, I came away from Saturday’s viewing – impressed. For what I saw was thirty six minutes of high level boxing. How high level? About as high level as it comes. This was Waterloo in a boxing ring, a contest between two absolute masters engaged in high level chess – while untold millions watched around the world live. George Foreman once compared boxing to jazz, saying both become less popular the better their practitioners become. There’s some real truth to that. Mayweather versus Pacquiao offered no stunning knockouts, no thrilling come from behind victories, no controversial decisions. It was simply one future Hall of Famer giving it his all against another.

And man, were we disappointed in it. For weeks, we hard core fans griped, while casual fans and the curious scoffed at how boring it was. Perhaps the uninitiated were right to be unhappy. When most people think boxing, they may well think the last 30 minutes of every Rocky movie. Fights at the highest level don’t always play out that way. After re-watching Mayweather-Pacquiao this past weekend, I couldn’t help thinking that it was just a good a fight as Hagler-Leonard. It was simply that everyone wanted Hagler-Hearns. Years of waiting and an oddly curious mainstream media led hype levels to such a pitch that it was almost impossible for the match itself not to disappoint. I remember every major bout since Leonard-Duran 1, and I honestly can’t recall one match – even among matches of the highest order – that brought about the ballyhoo Mayweather-Pacquiao did. 

So yes, the hype was through the roof. What’s more, Mayweather-Pacquiao took place in an over the top era. Boasting was something that had once been frowned upon – by 2015 it was seen as a virtue – something to master if one really wanted to get ahead. Much like today, 2015 liked its entertainment (and sports have been seen as entertainment for at least a century) flashy and explosive. Floyd was flashy. Manny was explosive. Yet both men were forced to tamp down their most popular qualities after they signed to fight each other. Mayweather was just too good for Pacquiao to take risks, and Pacquiao was just too good for Mayweather to be anything other than intensely serious. In short, the men were too good for their own good. At least that’s how it’s been seen.

It’s time for that to change, though. Mayweather-Pacquiao wasn’t a great fight – but it certainly wasn’t a bad one. Far from it.  

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