Stage Set for Mayweather-Pacquiao Rematch in 2016 as Floyd Chases 50-0 Mark

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterAugust 6, 2015

USA Today

September's lackluster fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Berto will be the first-ballot Hall of Famer's last. Like heavyweight kingpin Rocky Marciano before him, Mayweather intends to win one final bout and ride off into the sunset with a 49-0 record. Love him or hate him, Floyd will soon be goneand all we’ll have are the memories.

Or so we are told.

Me? I'm not so sure.

When someone has as much to gain as Floyd does financially, the lure of money, particularly easy money, becomes an almost irresistible siren song. Its call has brought almost every fighter back into the ring. Even the great Marciano, supposedly so content in his dotage, nearly made a comeback a few years after he called it quits, making it all the way into training camp before finally pulling the plug, as told in his biography.

With Mayweather, this is even more true than it is for most aging fighters. We aren't just talking about your everyday obscene athlete's money here. Mayweather makes owner money, cashing in on his last fight to the tune of $120-200 million, per Forbes.com. While he's not likely to ever top that payday, tens of millions, at a minimum, await him each time he steps into the ring.

As much as Mayweather is derided on the Internet by hardcore boxing fans and journos that he’s rubbed the wrong way, Floyd is still the biggest star in the boxing sky.

He draws broad mainstream interest, which is a rare commodity in the increasingly niche sports landscape. That means Mayweather makes a lot of money, not only for himself, but also for everyone associated with the sport: websites like this one, television networks, advertisers, sponsors, promoters and "advisers."

By the Numbers: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
NameFloyd Mayweather
Record48-0, 26 KOs
Weight146 pounds (last fight)

Money, of course, is just part of the equation. If there’s anything combat sport has taught us, it is that few fighters step away on top to never return.

The rush that comes from being the center of attention is irreplaceable. So too is the feeling of triumph that accompanies mastering another man. The greats, especially, find it hard to take that final bow, believing that their once-infallible ability to conquer all will never go away. Sugar Ray Leonard couldn't resist the call of Marvin Hagler. Muhammad Ali was compelled to test himself against Larry Holmes.

For Mayweather, the irresistible opponent will be a familiar one: Manny Pacquiao.

"But," I can hear you asking, "didn't we see that fight? And wasn't it universally panned?" And that's true. Mayweather controlled the first fight from bell to bell with his normal tactical perfection. It wasn't until after the fight that things truly got interesting.

John Locher/Associated Press

Therein lies the genius in the promotional scheme that began just moments after Mayweather won a unanimous decision. When news leaked that Pacquiao had injured his shoulder prior to the two men's May 2 superfight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, that sound you heard wasn't an unsportsmanlike whine. It was the sound of a cash register being primed to unload another couple of hundred million dollars.

Just wait until early 2016, when Manny tells you how healthy he is. Wait to see that video of him in the gym hitting pads, to hear the pop of fists on bag. Trainer Freddie Roach is going to tell you Manny Pacquiao is better than he’s been in years. This time, he'll say, they won't be limited in training camp. This time we'll see the whirling dervish the world has come to love.

Not everyone will buy that particular fairy tale. Some are natural skeptics; others have been around the fight game long enough to recognize a fighter in decline. But enough people will take the bait to make the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather rematch a big deal.

If half the audience from the first bout buys the rematch, it will be one of the biggest pay-per-views of all time. If just a quarter of the fans return, that’s still over a million buys—a number most other fighters would celebrate.

By the Numbers: Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather
Live Gate$72,198,500
Pay-Per-View Buys4.4 million
Cost$99.95 (HD)

For those interested in the nuances, a Mayweather return is particularly interesting in a boxing business that has never been more divided. Mayweather will finish his contract with Showtime following the bout with Berto and become a free agent.

HBO will undoubtedly be interested in a return bout between boxing's two biggest names, and Premier Boxing Champions' Al Haymon (Mayweather’s adviser and a future funnel of talent to Mayweather Promotions) will want to regain the foothold on HBO that was lost when Mayweather departed and the network cut all ties. A contract with HBO or a renewal with Showtime in a bidding war would likely include additional time for his budding promotional company. Without it, it could very well fail.

Should HBO get back in the Mayweather business, doors open up to rematches with Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez. Gennady Golovkin suddenly appears in the picture. And one of Haymon’s welterweights might very well fight his way into contention. If a single fight becomes a full-fledged comeback, HBO could be the easiest route to riches. 

While those fights all have potential, for Mayweather there can only be Manny Pacquiao. Like Ali and Joe Frazier or rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, the two men will always be tied together, whether they like it or not. They'll walk through sporting history hand-in-hand.

Right now, that's not a good thing. As it stands, they'll be remembered as the best fighters in a weak era for boxing, two superstars who failed the sport and themselves when the spotlight was brightest. In their hearts they know the fight is a dark stain on both men's legacies, the butt of the joke.

Why not take a shot at getting things right?

Maybe, just maybe, Mayweather is telling the truth about stepping away after the Berto bout in September. All the way back in 2007, after blistering British sensation Ricky Hatton, he was already hinting at retirement.

"I won’t let the sport of boxing retire me," he told the crowd that night, as reported by MailOnline. "I’ll retire from the boxing."

That would be easier to believe had Mayweather suffered the kinds of blows that turn immortals into mere humans with time. His style, however, has prevented much of that wear and tear, leaving him head-and-shoulders ahead of his peers, even at 38.

How hard is it to believe, with his body and mind intact, that he might want to run his record to 50-0 and erase some of the hard feelings from the first Pacquiao fight?

And then there's this: It's hard to picture the man who’s made “Money” part of his name walking away from so much of it.

Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.