Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather? It might finally happen after all.
This is the one fight boxing fans have been pining for since the last decade but for one reason or another has not materialized just yet. And with the two best boxers of their generation both aging, it looks as if time is running out.
Opinions have been sharply divided as to why this fight hasn’t happened, but more fingers have been pointed at the Mayweather camp as he’s used one excuse after another to “dodge” the Filipino star. At least for the last several years, Pacquiao (56-5-2) has publicly expressed his willingness to face Mayweather (47-0), but that sentiment hasn’t been returned in kind.
After Mayweather defeated Marcos Maidana with a unanimous decision in September, he didn’t evade the question this time.
“I got to go back and talk to my team. I’m not ducking or dodging no opponent,” he told Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight. “If the Manny Pacquiao fight presents itself, let’s make it happen. He’s got a guy in front of him (Chris Algieri on Nov. 22). Once he gets past that task, we’ll see what the future holds.”
According to Kyle Adams, who covers boxing for RealClearSports, the fact that there’s precious little time left for both boxers finally dawned on Mayweather.
“A few things might account for the apparent shift in prospects for this fight,” Adams writes, “Floyd is coming to the end of his career. He cares about his legacy more than probably any other athlete in sports. He knows he lost the PR battle with Pacquiao (just talk to any casual boxing fan, and they’ll tell you he’s scared to fight the Filipino star). And he knows a win over his nemesis is all he needs to secure his claim as one of the greatest fighters ever.”
And just like that, a war of words between the two camps has erupted the last few days, further fanning interest and intrigue from one side of the Pacific to the other.
Pacquiao delivered the first blow when he responded to Mayweather’s admission that his Showtime All-Access show was contrived, tweeting “[email protected]’s testimony to the commission on All Access’ authenticity tells me everything I need to know about his desire to fight me.”
Mayweather counterpunched with a series of Instagram photos showing Pacquiao on his back in his 2012 loss to Juan Manuel Marquez and adding, “Miss Pac Man is broke and desperate for a pay day.”
Pacquiao returned fire by going biblical. In an interview with Agence France Presse on Monday, he said he feels sorry for the “uneducated” Mayweather.
“I’m not affected by it. I pity him and I pray that someday he would change his ways,” Pacquiao said. “(Mayweather) should fear God. For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? [Matt: 16:26]”
The boxing world has been so enthralled by the spectacle that even Sugar Ray Leonard felt compelled to chime in. The middleweight legend beseeched both fighters to make it happen.
“It’s more than just the money, because the money will be there. It’s the legacy,” the 58-year-old Leonard said in an interview on Los Angeles’ Fox 11 TV last week. “I think fans are starving for excitement. Fans are starving for competition, evenly matched fights. It would be huge.”
Admittedly, even if this fight does happen next year, it’ll be about five years too late. Both fighters are already well into the twilight of their careers as Mayweather will turn 38 in February and Pacquiao 36 in December. But because of the public’s enthusiasm for this showdown never really waned, it’ll still be the richest prize fight in boxing history, with both men walking away with at least $50 million each.
With a huge payday and an everlasting legacy on the line, both Mayweather and Pacquiao are seriously mulling what it’ll take to make it happen. Judging by their latest public barbs at each other, we just might be as close to this mega-fight as we’ve ever been.
Stephen Espinoza, vice president of Showtime, which holds the rights to the next two Mayweather fights – both scheduled for next year – is desperately trying to make it happen.
“I hope I’m not being naive in thinking that where they are in their careers is a motivating factor,” Espinoza told the Los Angeles Times. “I think Floyd thinks of the end, and what’s missing. ‘Is there going to be something missing?’
“There’s a lot of pride here. I think a lot of people are going to need to swallow a little pride to get this thing done.”