For a long time (longer than many realize), boxing has been waiting for an event that is the pure crystallization of the greatest aspects of the sport on the highest level—two truly excellent fighters facing each other in a contest that presents the sharpest edges put to the ultimate test.
We’ve seen it happen here and there in lesser versions; Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran, Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier...but as great as those fights were, they were encumbered by the limits of exposure and time.
Back in the old days (the glory days, if you ask me and many others), big fights were made because the fighters involved wanted the bragging rights that only come with victory. Today, fighters want the bragging rights that come after a successful negotiation where a victory at the bargaining table is wrongly seen as an indication of who the better fighter is in the ring.
Such seems to have been the case in the long overdue fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The fight honestly should have been made in 2009 or 2010 at the latest if either man was really interested in being able to boast they beat the other man when both were in their primes and at their best.
But even now, so far removed from the best time, a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao would be a blessing for fight fans the world over. Both men are still the best fighters in the sport, with Andre Ward somewhere between them as far as skill and talent are concerned.
But one man alone does not make a fight, especially a mega fight, and fights are what this is all about. If the true winner of a bout was decided at the negotiation table, then it’s nothing more than a popularity contest decided by the best managers and lawyers, and the last time I checked, there is no weigh-in for lawyers before the next big case on Court TV.
As a longtime fan of both boxing and MMA, I have marked the days, weeks and months of my life looking toward the big fights that matter, anxiously hoping for some bouts while waiting for others. Biased as I am toward the sport of MMA, I can honestly claim a true love for the sport of boxing because it was my first love, and you never forget your first love.
That is why I can say, without reservation or restraint, that a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao would be the biggest event in the history of combative sport—be it in a ring or a cage.
Nothing in the world of MMA (which is honestly the UFC for now) could come close. The biggest PPV success for MMA was UFC 100, which was a huge success, pulling in over 1.5 million buys.
Boxing has beaten that number more than once, but nothing MMA or boxing has done before could come close to the numbers a PPV event between “Money” and “Pac-Man” could deliver. We’re talking about an event that would be epic in every way the word is conventionally applied, with numbers easily surpassing 2 million buys.
So, would MMA fans be watching the bout? Without a doubt, even if most of them would not admit it.
What about boxing fans watching the bout? More than ever before—and we are talking about casual fans as well, not just the hardened and ardent guard of old and new.
It doesn’t even matter that whoever wins couldn’t honestly say they were the better man, and make no mistake about it, neither could make that claim. Both men have passed their primes and thus the fight is really three or four years too late.
But in this case, better late than never honestly applies for one simple reason: It proves that the fight matters more than the talk and that the negotiation table is a pale comparison to the ring.
In short, it proves that pondering the question is not as important as trying to answer it.
Forget the idea that boxing needs this fight; the sport will continue either way. However, the fight would indeed serve the best aspects of all combative sports (MMA included) because it would show that the fighters involved still know that at the end of the day their redemption and worth is only found on the other side of those fights where they meet the very best opposition available to them.
That is the true essence of combative sport, without a doubt, and if Mayweather and Pacquiao could decide to observe that and make this fight, they would be serving something far greater than themselves and in turn would elevate themselves for the sake of the sport that has allowed them to serve themselves so very well.
This fight is no longer about who deserves the bigger portion of the purse, but who is honestly willing to actually fight the fight in the ring, where it belongs.