Floyd Mayweather was too slick for Manny Pacquiao, too savvy.
His footwork was too perfect. His counterpunches were too crisp. His ring generalship was as good as it could be. He was the consummate defender, a slippery mover Pacquiao could never quite corral no matter how many times the Filipino spark plug pressed him into a corner or up against the ropes Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
It never mattered. Mayweather was too great a defender on the evening. He’s just too good. On his biggest stage yet, Mayweather delivered and thumped Pacquiao to prove without a doubt he is the better boxer.
TheSweetScience.com’s Michael Woods called it "pretty easy work" for boxing’s best, Mayweather.
It was a unanimous decision. Judges at ringside scored the fight 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112 for the winner, who now becomes the unified WBC, WBA and WBO welterweight titleholder. Mayweather also netted the Transnational Rankings welterweight championship to go alongside his Ring magazine title.
It was Mayweather’s best win to date, a clear win over the best fighter he’s ever faced.
"He's a hell of a fighter, and I take my hat off to Manny Pacquiao," Mayweather told Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight. "Now I see why he's one of the guys at the pinnacle of the sport of boxing."
With the win, Mayweather proved without a doubt he is the best welterweight in the world. Moreover, he solidified his standing as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Mayweather’s artistry was just as it is always: a study in countermoves. The undefeated boxer wasn’t just fast; he was smart. He glided around the ring as if his body were made of air. But his punches were thrown with fists of malice.
That’s the thing that makes Mayweather so difficult to defeat. He moves and moves and moves. But opponents cannot spring toward him without being slapped back by counter right hands, jabs and hooks.
Pacquiao did his best to catch Mayweather, but he could never quite get the job done.
Mayweather started the fight with two hard counter right hands. Pacquiao responded with patience rather than reckless aggression, a lesson perhaps learned by Pacquiao in his infamous 2012 loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.
But patience was not a virtue in this case. A fighter like Mayweather, a master of defense, timing and counterpunching, prefers his opponents to be patient. As Pacquiao moved back or stayed at a distance instead of advancing for long stretches of the fight, Mayweather pecked and pawed his way to a fairly easy victory.
Pacquiao didn’t think so, though. Talking to HBO’s Max Kellerman after the bout, Pacquiao indicated he thought he had won the fight when the final bell sounded.
"It’s a good fight," said Pacquiao. "I thought I won the fight. He didn't do nothing." Pacquiao later referred to Mayweather's style as "running."
Maybe there is something to that last bit. Mayweather did move around the ring as if it were a track and he were some kind of star sprinter at times. But throughout many of those moments, Mayweather was landing clean blows to Pacquiao’s face and body.
Pacquiao may have landed the best punch of the night—a hard left in Round 4. The punch stunned Mayweather and Pacquiao hurled a barrage of punches at his foe as if he truly believed the end was near.
But Mayweather blocked and parried most of those, and while Pacquiao might have won the round, there was no indication the momentary lapse in Mayweather’s defense would last, nor would the barrage of counterpunches lessen.
True to form, Mayweather was seldom hit flush again. While Pacquiao had moments here and there, Mayweather appeared to be in control as the clock ticked away.
After the bout, Pacquiao claimed a shoulder injury (per The Associated Press) kept him from fighting at his best, though it's hard to see how the fight would have gone much differently. Mayweather's defense was just too good.
If Mayweather’s defense was something played in the NFL, it would be a prevent. That’s how he operates in the ring. He fights as if he is already up on the cards when the first bell rings.
He moves craftily and with purpose throughout all 12 rounds. And where he can land flush punches to keep his opponent off of him and wary of Mayweather’s competent power, he does so.
But don’t expect to see this virtuoso defender for very much longer. After the long-awaited superfight concluded, Mayweather told Gray he would fight only once more before he called it a career.
"My last fight is in September," said Mayweather. "Then it’s time for me to hang up the gloves."
It will be time to hang up his shoes, too. That are the article of clothing Mayweather has used most to make his mark on the sport. His footwork is impeccable, and against Pacquiao, in a fight he absolutely had to win to ensure his historical legacy was secure, he absolutely delivered.
Mayweather is 38 now. He will be the same age in September. There was some thought before the bout that Mayweather might be slower than he used to be, that his legs might be gone.
But against Pacquiao, the premier offensive force of the era, Mayweather looked as great as ever. If there is a fighter at 147 pounds who can track Mayweather down enough times in a 12-round prizefight to land enough punches to take a win from him, he has not yet revealed himself.
For Mayweather to be beat, someone will have to catch him first. And it doesn’t appear anyone will be ready to do it by September.