Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather hung out a basketball game a few weeks ago, which apparently means the two are closer than ever to ending boxing’s biggest circle jerk since Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson and finally giving loyal fans what they’ve wanted for the past six years.
The proposed “Superfight” is the ultimate boy-cried-wolf story, a fable harder to believe than Tupac and Elvis living together on a remote island off the coast of Barbados. Six years of greed, lies, false promises, irrational demands, wide-eyed optimism, soul-crushing setbacks and he-said she-said propaganda have left most boxing fans – whatever’s left of them – genuinely disinterested in whether or not it ever happens.
At this point, the general public has adopted a “whatever happens, happens” attitude toward Mayweather-Pacquiao. Following hot-stove baseball rumors offers more promise than waiting on two of boxing’s richest megastars to put aside their differences and sign on the dotted line. If this fight were a Tinder profile, we’d all swipe left and move on.
There’s no point in chasing something that’s been nothing more than an illusion for the past six years, nor is there any point in setting one's self up for even more disappointment if this fight falls apart again. The timeline itself is exhausting; it’s gotten to the point where one could easily lose track of who’s to blame given how many times both parties have played a role in sabotaging the fight every time it seemed as if they were on the cusp of making a deal.
Now we hear the two sides are closer than ever. They met face-to-face for the first time at that aforementioned basketball game, agreeing to take matters into their own hands. Reports suggest Pacquaio has agreed to all of Mayweather’s demands, including a 60/40 purse split that favors Mayweather in addition to Olympic-style drug testing. All that’s left, depending on who you believe, is for the Pay-Per-View networks representing each fighter to iron out the details; Mayweather has a deal with Showtime while Pacquaio fights for HBO.
The last time the two networks made a deal to work together was in 2002 when Lewis and Tyson finally fought one another after years of speculation, innuendo and public demand similar to what we’ve witnessed since 2008 with Pacquiao and Mayweather. Both fighters were 36 at the time. Tyson was well past his prime, nearly five years removed from a pair of frustrating losses to Evander Holyfield sandwiched between a stretch of wins against fringe contenders with bloated records. Lewis was heading toward the finish line, too. He fought just once more after beating Tyson and retired at the age of 37 as boxing’s last undisputed heavyweight champion.
There’s a chance Mayweather (37) and Pacquiao (36) waited too long for this fight to ever live up to the gargantuan hype. Mayweather has slowed a bit, not enough for anyone to beat him, but enough for even the most causal boxing fan to notice a slight decay in his once-impenetrable defense. Pacquiao is no longer invincible either, having lost twice in the past three years, including a devastating knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, leaving him facedown on the canvas, the butt of many cruel, insensitive internet jokes.
This is no longer a proposed showdown between two stars at the top of their game, but rather a last-ditch effort to save face by two boxing conglomerates (Mayweather and, to a lesser extent, Paquiao promoter Bob Arum) hoping to cash in before it’s too late. The fans know better. We’ll watch, but we’ll do so with tempered enthusiasm, fully expecting to be disappointed while hoping for a Rocky II-type ending with both fighters picking themselves up off a blood-soaked canvas in the final round.
The UFC has its own share of problems with marquee fighters failing drug tests left and right, but at least it delivers the fights fans ask for instead of force-feeding us lopsided main events with tickets that cost more than a semester’s worth of textbooks. There’s not nearly as much bureaucratic red tape stalling the process in mixed martial arts, just one governing body ruling everyone and everything that steps foot inside the octagon. It’s the reason MMA continues to kick boxing’s ass while soaking up immense PPV buys despite oversaturating the market.
UFC middleweight Luke Rockhold echoed the sentiment of most fight fans when he said: “Shut up about the fucking money and let’s see the fucking fight already.” With both fighters promising us it’s close to a done deal, they have no choice but to deliver or else risk alienating the few fans still willing to fork over big bucks for PPV events. Enough talk. Just give us the fight and drop the curtain on this never-ending dog and pony show.
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