They have flirted around the edges of one another for years, only for the purse, scheduling and fitness to ultimately hinder the discussions, one of the most protracted sagas in modern boxing an end appears to, at long last, be in sight. In the words of the man himself, on May 2nd Floyd Mayweather Jr. aims to “absolutely” face Manny Pacquiao in boxing’s most highly anticipated bout. With talks reportedly ongoing “behind the scenes” and Pacquiao quick to respond to Mayweather’s public challenge, fans are optimistic that the prospect of an intriguing contest might now be realised.
Though the pair have yet to meet in the ring they have long entertained fans with their pointed rivalry, and while negotiations are evidently more cordial than in the past it is clear that the personal rivalry between the two middleweights remains as strongly felt as ever. In his public announcement Mayweather drew attention to Pacquiao’s highly 2012 match up with Timothy Bradley, when the American was awarded a questionable narrow split victory by the night’s judges – the WBO ordered a video review, in which all five judges unanimously declared Pacquiao was the deserved victor, while of the 55 journalists and pundits present 52 judged Pacquiao the winner by as much as 10 clear points and boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya suggested that Bradley return the belt won from the bout. Pacquiao, who since scored a restorative unanimous victory over Bradley in the 2014 rematch, similarly indulged in some public barbs with Mayweather, suggesting the American has “nowhere to run”, and suggesting that while he aims to entertain that Mayweather’s boxing style “induced us to sleep”. In a sport that may often be dominated by theatrical personalities – the likes of Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson rarely shied away from public dialogue with their opponents – the interchanged gibes between the pair entertain fans and further pique interest in their physical meeting.
While both stand to benefit from victory, it is perhaps Mayweather with the most to gain from a potential win. A long-standing title holder, Mayweather has nevertheless often been question over his selection of opponents. With a tendency to cherry-pick those opponents who best suit his skill set, his career has been beset with suggestions that Mayweather ducks the bigger challenges and must face a legitimate challenger if he is to be considered a true great – a suggestion he might put to bed with a win over so respected a boxer as Pacquiao. With Pacquiao often at the centre of this discussion, particularly in 2012 when Mayweather offered the Filipino just $40 million of a purse expected to exceed $300 million (with Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum opening encouraging markets throughout Asia, the greatly increased pay per view revenue gained might increase that number as far as towards the billion dollar mark), Mayweather’s far fairer proposed 60-40 split of the income between himself and Pacquiao gives him a gilt-edged opportunity to answer these criticisms and ensure his reputation within the boxing community.
While the current interest is in the spectacle and personality of the pair’s response to the prospect of finally facing each other in the ring, as it draws nearer attention may inevitably turn to the quality likely to be on show if and when they meet. While both are towards the latter stages of their careers – Mayweather is 37 and Pacquiao turns 36 this Wednesday – they may remain two of the most skilled boxers in the sport, with Pacquiao already established as a legend of the sport and Mayweather with the potential to join him in the upper echelons of boxing were he to emerge victorious.
As fans remain optimistic that the pair might agree on finalised terms and confirm the bout in the coming weeks, the spark of the pair’s rivalry and the prospect of an entertaining contest with a significant outcome make for a highly anticipated affair.
What attributes might see Mayweather or Pacquiao emerge victorious?