Pacquiao vs. Mayweather: What's on the Line for Each Fighter?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2015

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The fight we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Floyd Mayweather announced on his Shots account that he and Manny Pacquiao have at long last agreed to terms for what should go down as the most highly anticipated showdown in boxing history.

Shots

Pacquiao and Mayweather are the two most accomplished fighters of their era as well as its two biggest and most popular superstars. Both men head into the long-awaited showdown with plenty on the line.

The winner of the bout will unify Pacquiao’s WBO and Mayweather’s The Ring Magazine, WBA and WBC welterweight titles. Moreover, it will establish the Transnational Rankings champion in the division, as it pits the No. 1-ranked Mayweather against the No. 2-ranked Pacquiao in a weight class where the lineal championship is considered currently vacant.

In the race for historical separation, the winner of Pacquiao-Mayweather stands even more to gain, as noted by The Sweet Science’s Springs Toledo, author of The Gods of War.

As Toledo posits, only two fighters in the history of boxing, Pacquiao and Mayweather, have ever conquered as many as four weight divisions by virtue of becoming the lineal champion.

The winner of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather will be the first and only man ever to have won five lineal championship crowns. If Pacquiao is the victor, he will have the added bonus of becoming the only man to do so in five different weight classes (as Mayweather will have done it twice at welterweight should he be the one to prevail).

What's at Stake for Pacquiao?

Heading into the fight, Pacquiao seems to have much less to lose than his rival. While Mayweather is undefeated (and largely untested) over the course of his career, Pacquiao is a fighter who has consistently pushed and tested himself against the more challenging opposition.

First, Pacquiao established himself as the best of a stalwart class of same-sized competitors that included future Hall of Famers Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez.  He fought all of them at least twice each and came out the other end of things with the best all-around record of any of them head-to-head.

After that, he jumped all the way up to welterweight in 2008 to dominate and stop Oscar De La Hoya in eight rounds. That began one of the more impressive runs in history, as the former flyweight ran roughshod over naturally larger junior welterweights and welterweights alike, including notable elites Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.   

Pac-Man took two out of three fights against Morales.
Pac-Man took two out of three fights against Morales.ERIC JAMISON/Associated Press

The run ended in 2012 when Pacquiao lost a highly questionable decision to Timothy Bradley. He was subsequently knocked out cold by Marquez the very same year in the fourth fight of the series.

But Pacquiao has since rebounded.

He’s won three fights in a row, beating tough guy Brandon Rios, pound-for-pounder Bradley in a rematch and 140-pound titleholder Chris Algieri, each by unanimous decision.

So Pacquiao’s chief gain in the Mayweather fight isn’t so much about his legacy. His round robin against a historically deep featherweight class followed by his improbable run against top welterweights has already established that.

Pacquiao has won legitimate titles in eight different weight classes. With his legacy secure, he has virtually nothing to lose against Mayweather. The bout is yet another impressive challenge for Pacquiao to add to his fearless resume.

What's at Stake for Mayweather?

If Mayweather ever dug himself into a hole, it was the way in which he handled potential bouts against Pacquiao and what he chose to do instead.

Had Mayweather risen up to 160 pounds to take on Sergio Martinez before the Argentinian’s knee gave way to his career, or had he called out WBA titleholder Gennady Golovkin after that, or even just cleaned out the junior middleweight division after becoming lineal champion for defeating Canelo Alvarez, even his biggest critics would give him the benefit of the doubt in what has become a Pacquiao soap opera.

But while Pacquiao comparatively rose to weight classes that would have seemed impossible just a few short years earlier, Mayweather has taken the safer and more conventional route to superstardom.

Mayweather’s most important win was his majority decision over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007. The junior middleweight contest established him as one of boxing’s biggest and most well-known stars and ultimately afforded him the wherewithal to remain detached from longtime promoter Top Rank and branch out on his own.

Moreover, the former junior lightweight finally and fully delivered on the promise he showed when he turned professional in 1996 of becoming one of boxing's megastars. Mayweather enjoys a unique blend of talent and skill that has helped him capture world titles in five different weight classes.

Mayweather's win over De La Hoya turned him into a star.
Mayweather's win over De La Hoya turned him into a star.Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press

His record is littered with great fights against great fighters. Mayweather has beaten Hatton, Marquez, Cotto and Shane Mosley. He’s currently an alphabet titleholder at 147 and 154 pounds as well as the lineal champion in the latter, per the Transnational Rankings. Mayweather has won 10 title belts in five different weight classes.

He is also one of the highest-paid fighters who’s ever lived. He rakes in more money than just about any other sporting person in the world, and he’s done so without having faced Pacquiao, the chief rival to his claim of being the best of the era.

By finally facing Pacquiao, Mayweather has a chance to confirm what his supporters have always believed: that Mayweather is simply too good for Pacquiao.

A win over Pacquiao won’t have the same impact on Mayweather’s legacy as it would have four to six years ago when both men were in their primes. But a clear and dominant victory now would serve to bolster Mayweather’s claim of being “TBE” (The Best Ever) much more than the altogether avoidance of the bout that has occurred in the past.

If Mayweather loses, though, he stands to have ripped from him much of what he seemed so desperate to hold onto. It would make Pacquiao superior historically in most everyone’s eyes but his, and perhaps even end Mayweather’s reign as the highest-paid fighter in the sport.

Mayweather stands much to gain from finally facing Pacquiao and beating him, but it’s also the riskiest fight of his carefully managed career.

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