Floyd Mayweather Jr., the 38-year-old with the baby face and the unblemished professional boxing record, beat Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night with a unanimous decision in what was considered the highest-grossing bout in history.
In a long-anticipated fight between the two dominant welterweights of the past decade, Mayweather stretched his record to 48-0 while quieting critics who thought he had spent years avoiding a showdown with Pacquiao, a 36-year-old fighter from the Philippines.
Fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena booed the decision by the three judges, who gave Mayweather a wide margin in the 12-round fight: 116-112 on two cards, 118-110 on the other. The judges agreed on 10 of the 12 rounds.
Interviewed in the ring, his voice drowned by voices of unsatisfied fans, Mayweather credited Pacquiao and said he planned to fight once more, as he is under contract to do.
“It’s time for me to hang it up,” he said.
Neither man was visibly injured. Pacquiao, who highlighted the bout with several flurries against the ropes that could not overcome Mayweather’s consistency, said he thought he had won.
“He never hurt me,” Pacquiao said. “I was very surprised by the scores. I hit him many times more than he hit me.”
Both men walked away winners financially. The purse, a majority of it from pay-per-view revenue from several million American households paying about $90 each to watch, was estimated at $300 million. The contract called for Mayweather to receive 60 percent, win or lose.
Inside the arena, Hollywood celebrities and famous athletes from scattered parts of the sports world sprinkled the crowd. The few tickets made available to the public were priced from $1,500 for seats in the top rows to $7,500 for a seat on the floor.
Tickets were sold on the secondary market for $40,000 or more.
It mattered little that both men were past their primes. Efforts to put Mayweather and Pacquiao in the same ring had failed for more than five years until pent-up demand and the lure of the biggest payday in boxing history proved too much to pass on.
Mayweather said last week that he planned to retire after one more fight. A victory would push his record to 49-0, the same as Rocky Marciano’s. Whether that fight would come in a rematch with Pacquiao (57-6-2) was the one question left lingering in the desert air.
Mayweather arrived as a sizable favorite. He had more to lose than Pacquiao, although he pretended he did not.
“It’s just a fight to me,” he said in April at his gym, a couple of miles west of the MGM Grand and the Las Vegas Strip. “One fight does not define my legacy. If that’s the case, then I don’t have to fight all the fights that I fought.”
Most boxing observers thought that Mayweather and Pacquiao, considered the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, would never share a ring. Tangled and contentious discussions for a fight started in earnest in late 2009, moving in fits and starts, and they were mostly stuck in boxing’s usual swamp of distrust.
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Pacquiao’s side initially refused Mayweather’s call for random drug testing. Mayweather temporarily retired. Pacquiao lost twice in 2012, the same year that Mayweather spent two months in jail for beating the mother of three of his children.
Hopes to see the two men fight faded but were revived by impressive victories by both and a depleted number of scintillating opponents.
It was not until late last year that negotiations were secretly renewed. Mayweather and Pacquiao had not been face-to-face anywhere for 13 years but found themselves seated across the court from each other at a Miami Heat basketball game in January. Mayweather approached Pacquiao (and later visited Pacquiao in his hotel room). That renewed public fascination in ways unimagined back in 2009.
“Why don’t you just say I was smart?” Mayweather said Tuesday, dismissing charges that he had hoped to avoid a fight with Pacquiao until he was left with no choice because of public pressure. “Five years ago, this was a $50 million fight for me, and it was a $20 million fight for him.”
Bob Arum, the veteran promoter who negotiated on Pacquiao’s behalf, agreed that the mix of time and intrigue only raised interest and money for Saturday’s fight.
“It’s hard for me to envision that if we had done this fight five years ago, it would be as big as it is now,” Arum said last month. “But that’s happenstance. That is nothing that anybody should take credit for.”
The delay made it a richer fight, if not a better one. Pacquiao’s side thought Mayweather’s age made him increasingly ripe for an upset. Mayweather was taller, was heavier and had a lengthier reach, but his legs and his footwork, perhaps the best in boxing, had lost some spring, Pacquiao’s corner believed.
“They’re both not in their prime right now,” Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said at his gym in Hollywood, Calif., where Pacquiao trains. “But that’s why it’s more exciting. Their skills aren’t what they were. Five years ago, Floyd would have run all night long from Manny. But he can’t do that anymore.”
Mayweather, scion of a championship boxing family from Grand Rapids, Mich., built his career with uncanny defense and a rare ability to deconstruct hard-charging opponents as they tired in later rounds.
Perhaps no boxer has been the target of more punches that did not land cleanly. For two decades, since emerging with a bronze-medal performance in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Mayweather frustrated opponents, and some boxing fans, with his effortless movement and measured attacks.
Pacquiao expected to push the action, toeing the fuzzy line between aggression and carelessness. Mayweather said that all opponents tried to do that against him.
“I feel like I’m more calculated,” Mayweather said before the fight. “I truly believe I’m the smarter fighter. He would be a better fighter if he weren’t so reckless. It’s a gift and a curse.”
While there was contentiousness between the parties who negotiated the fight, there was little animosity on display between the fighters themselves before they entered the ring.
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Pacquiao, a member of Congress in the Philippines with ambitions to become the country’s president, smiled his way through daily public appearances. He took no verbal jabs at Mayweather, opting to devote the fight to God and country. He even entered the ring to a ballad about the Philippines that he recorded.
Mayweather played the straight-faced favorite, more serious than usual, a different persona than the flashy, fast-talking provocateur he usually plays.
“This fight sells itself,” he said in explaining the approach.
Maybe it was simple maturity. Mayweather admitted that he no longer had love for the sport, that it had become just a job — “Money” being the nickname he bestowed on himself in recent years, shedding the “Pretty Boy Floyd” tag.
Further branding himself (and his merchandise) T.B.E. — it stands for “the best ever” — Mayweather ignited debate in the boxing world over his legacy: He is most likely cemented as one of history’s great fighters and tacticians but is far from universally beloved.
With the two finally in the same ring, and with a global anticipation rarely seen in boxing these days, there were questions about the possibility of a rematch even before the first punch was thrown.
“I’m 83 years old, and I’ve been through the most hellish time of my promotional career,” Arum said. “And if you want to sentence me to that, that may be cruel and unusual punishment.”
But money, as it always seems to in boxing, will most likely determine where the fighters go from here.
Mayweather is under contract with Showtime to fight once more, a bout tentatively scheduled for September against an undeclared opponent.
He said last week that he planned to honor the contract and then retire, as his father and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., has suggested.
“I think he should retire,” the elder Mayweather said Thursday. “Because if he sticks around, somebody is going to get you sooner or later.”
Source: The New York Times