In 2007, Floyd Mayweather Jr. sat atop boxing’s mythical Pound-For-Pound list following wins over Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, and Ricky Hatton. In 2008, he walked away from a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya and talks of a future rematch with Ricky Hatton.
After Oscar lost his dance partner, he went looking for another big name and found Manny Pacquiao, who would go on to beat the aging legend into submission, forcing him to quit on his stool after the eighth round.
Pacquiao rode his wave of mega-stardom on to another mega-fight with Ricky Hatton. Some expected Hatton to last longer than four minutes before he was put to sleep, but Pacquiao proved to be much more than Hatton could handle. He finished the fight looking up into the bright lights of the arena through crossed eyes. In the absence of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao rose to Pay-Per-View stardom. HBO reported an estimated 850,000 pay-per-view buys for Pacquiao vs. Hatton. His previous high pay-per-view numbers were somewhere in the estimated range of 400,000, 360,000, and 225,000, dating as far back as 2004.
So I ask the question: Does Floyd Mayweather deserve some of the credit for Manny Pacquiao’s meteoric rise? One has to wonder whether or not Pacquiao’s pay-per-view appeal would have risen so fast had he not been given the opportunity to feast on Floyd’s dance partners. One can say many things about Mayweather. One can say he is the most talented fighter of this generation. One can say he is carelessly squandering his gifts. One may also say he is a savvy businessman that calculates every move that he makes.
Mayweather’s biggest blunder and worst business decision, however, may have been to “retire”. In doing so, he allowed the weed-like growth of Pacquiao, who would become his biggest rival, and whispers of his crumbling legacy. When Mayweather walked away for two years, he allowed Manny Pacquiao to fill the pay-per-view void he left behind. In his worst nightmares, he could not have dreamt that Pacquiao would arguably surpass his pay-per-view drawing power and capture the hearts of American fight fans.
As I write this piece, word of 1.25 million pay-per-view buys of the Pacquiao–Cotto fight has reached my ears. As predicted by Mayweather, the fight surpassed the number he did with Juan Manuel Marquez, but does 1.25 million give Pacquiao the bargaining edge? Cotto has large pay-per-view drawing power as well, though nowhere nearly as strong as Pacquiao or Mayweather. Mayweather says many things that don’t make sense, but his statement that he did 1.05 million PPV buys in the Marquez fight by himself does carry merit. Pacquiao never surpassed 400,000 in a fight with Marquez; Mayweather more than doubled that number.
Regardless of how Mayweather feels about himself, he seems to be on the outside looking in. The former Pound-For-Pound Picasso, born into boxing in the heartland of America, has been reduced to dodging the stones cast in his direction, as his former followers now shower adoration on the formerly mal-nourished kid from the Philippines that has turned into a two-fisted juggernaut. Should Pacquiao pick up the phone and make a “thank you” call to Mayweather or should he simply go about his business? After all, “boxing is a business” is a statement that Mr. Mayweather has come to live by and he is now left to deal with the monster he may or may now have created.
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