In what was arguably the most highly anticipated boxing matchup of all time, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. cemented his legacy Saturday night by defeating Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao via unanimous decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
With the victory, the 38-year-old Mayweather improved his perfect record to 48-0 and won the WBO welterweight title from his Filipino opponent.
While many expected Mayweather to win the fight with ease, Pacquiao put up a major battle, particularly in the early rounds.
Ultimately, Mayweather’s signature late-round tactics handed him the victory.
The clash between Mayweather and Pacquiao was years in the making, and while observers will argue whether the fight itself lived up to the hype, the atmosphere, pageantry and aura of importance surrounding the bout were unmatched.
The combatants finally got down to business in the early hours of Sunday and let their fists do the talking, but there was plenty of chatter from both camps entering the contest.
Although Mayweather is known for his abrasiveness, he took a somewhat different approach by actually complimenting his opponent ahead of their in-ring meeting, according to Showtime Sports:
At the same time, though, Money tried to downplay the grandeur of taking on Pacquiao. Although it is difficult to imagine that Mayweather actually felt that way, he claimed that he would treat the fight just like his previous 47 professional bouts, per Rafael: ‘It’s just a fight to me.’
As expected, there was no shortage of controversy during the weeks prior to the contest. Much of it focused on tickets and contracts, but Pac-Man’s issues with calf cramps dominated headlines as well.
Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., expected his son to potentially exploit that weakness in the heat of battle, per David Mayo of MLive.com:
To me, that would be Floyd put pressure on him, back him up, back him up on his legs. It’s going to be good because he ain’t going to be able to jump all night like that.
He might be able to do it for two or three rounds, but if his legs are really hurting him—I mean, he can get his legs back well before the fight, but in a good, tough fight, the (pain) will probably come back. It’ll probably come back to him.
Despite those comments, Pacquiao’s camp wasn’t outwardly concerned about his legs whatsoever. In fact, those around Pac-Man were supremely confident in his ability to come out on top.
That included trainer Freddie Roach, who believed he had a plan in place for Pacquiao to overcome the tactics that allowed Mayweather to defeat 47 opponents previously, per Lyle Fitzsimmons of CBSSports.com:
I’m having Manny working on not staying in the pocket too long and getting out before Mayweather hits you back. Because Mayweather, when you hit him and fight him, he will fight back. When he does take a rest on the ropes and his legs start to fade a little bit, Manny will dominate him at that point. Manny is really fired up for this. I’ve never seen him more excited for a fight.
When push came to shove, though, Mayweather’s elusiveness, counter-punching and underrated power proved to be too much for the 36-year-old underdog.
Now that one of the great unanswered questions in sports has been resolved, the focus shifts toward where Mayweather and Pacquiao go from here. A rematch is certainly possible, and it would be a financial coup for both men, but it is far from guaranteed.
Retirement could also be on the horizon for them, as Mayweather has accomplished everything possible, while Pac-Man has clearly declined a bit in recent years.
Whatever the case, boxing fans finally got what they wanted, and even if it was only for one night, the sweet science dominated the sporting world.