By Ivan G. Goldman
The +170 line offered on a Manny Pacquiao victory is a good bet. His chances are a little better than that, more like +130, meaning a $100 wager should stand to win only $130, not $170. The line follows the money more than the facts on the ground.
Consequently, the -210 on Floyd is not a particularly good bet. I wouldn’t risk more than $160 to win $100 on him, given what we know today. These sports book lines may change before the May 2 super-spectacle, and so could my own expectations should more information come in.
Of course I’m increasingly asked who will win, as I’m sure most of us who follow this sport are. My answer is that Floyd is more skilled, more polished, more patient, but that doesn’t mean he’ll come out on top. In fact, there’s an intangible element to this approaching extravaganza that makes Manny’s chances almost as good as his opponent’s, which is why I handicap it the way I do.
Pacquiao’s relentless style may be what’s required to beat Mayweather, but I think Floyd has almost consistently shown the talent and ability to nullify his opponents’ strengths. Manny’s strength is also his weakness. His will to destroy can also open him up for counters.
What gives Pacquiao a better chance – in addition to his own southpaw speed, power, and overall talent, is what Floyd has carried around in his head for years – an aversion to being in this fight in the first place.
It’s clear that the bout wouldn’t have been made had CBS Chairman Les Moonves not stepped into the negotiations. How he phrased the message we don’t know, but what he had to say is obvious – that CBS subsidiary Showtime gave Mayweather the most lucrative TV contract in history, guaranteeing him $32 million per fight for six bouts.
And now a tremendously attractive opportunity presented itself – one that offered Floyd more money than any other conceivable matchup. So why wasn’t he jumping at it? It was time to earn that magnificent contract. After all, Floyd’s pay-per-view numbers were slipping, which is why they were no long made public.
Moonves had to okay the deal that took Mayweather away from HBO, and when he did he had in his mind the possibility – though not the certainty – of a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown. It couldn’t be certain because either fighter could have suffered injuries, irredeemable losses, or retired.
Moonves would have preferred that Pacquiao follow Mayweather and quit HBO for Showtime, but you can’t have everything, and a joint broadcast with HBO for a bout that grosses $400 million or more sure beats Mayweather versus anybody else, including a rematch with dangerous Miguel Cotto. Besides which, Moonves is a fight fan, and like most of us, he didn’t want this match to slip away from history.
Mayweather could fool the fanatics who believe everything he tells them, but he couldn’t fool Moonves, who knew, especially after conferring with Floyd and his manager, boxing Godfather Al Haymon, that there was no good reason not to make this fight. Excuses? Yes. Rational reasons? No.
So Mayweather gave in and accepted a purse that, given a 60-40 split in his favor, could exceed the $150 million aggregate salary cap for an NFL team of 53 players, some of them superstars.
As for what will happen in that ring, Pacquiao will put on pressure sometime during round one, and if Floyd handles it with ease his mind could eventually go into a Carlos Baldomir replay. Baldomir, who lost every round on two judges’ cards in his 2006 match with Floyd, had the kind of power that could put anybody away, so Floyd toyed with him, slipped in and out, and came away basically unscratched in a dull fight.
Mayweather had more trouble with HBO’s Larry Merchant, who pointed out to the champion that fans were walking out of the arena before the last round started, and many of those who stayed were booing. When he got to the post-fight press conference, Mayweather, sobbing, announced his retirement. A short one, as it turned out. But I digress.
Now, if Manny’s not an easy fight – and you can bet he won’t be – Floyd will have to call on all his powers, which normally would be enough. But will it be enough when in the back of his mind Money Mayweather remembers all the reasons he avoided this fight for so long?
As for Pacquiao, he’ll keep trying, and if the strategy doesn’t work, he and Freddie Roach will work out another on the fly. But he won’t just try to go the distance. He’ll fight to win and do it for as long as the contest lasts.
Much has been made of the speed of these two welters. It’s exceptional, even though Floyd is 38 and Manny 36. Most, but not all analysts believe Floyd is faster. But not all punches are thrown at the same velocity by any particular fighter. That’s one reason why slow George Foreman knocked out quicker opponents like Michael Moorer.
If Mayweather can throw not just scoring punches, but punishing punches, that’s when we’ll know we’ve got a fight on our hands. And the fact is, he can. But he doesn’t like to. The more he commits to a shot, the easier it is to counter – providing it doesn’t send his opponent to the canvas.
Pacquiao hasn’t been committing to his punches with the same intensity he showed in younger days. The exception was when he went after Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth contest, and he paid dearly for it. His next three opponents went the distance.
In their last 20 contests Floyd and Manny have scored only three stoppages. They’re not the fighters they once were, but they both remain great welterweights, and with any luck, we’ll see a great fight. For a hundred bucks on pay-per-view, we deserve one.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.