So why has this fight become so big? Why will the world be watching? Why will these two men walk away from the squared circle when the dust eventually settles on that night with an unbelievable monetary fortune?
I’ve thought about this fight for long time. I have seen thousands of prizefights. I’ve broken bread with everyone from Jake LaMotta to Arturo Gatti to Muhammad Ali and yes even Mayweather and Pacquiao. I’ve sat feet away from the ring and watched Mayweather pummel Diego Corrales. I’ve seen him take the punches and make the adjustments that he needed to make in order to pull an ace from the stocked deck dealt to him by the Golden Boy. Same goes for Pacquiao. I’ve watched him train at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. I’ve seen him beat Miguel Cotto and many others while seated only feet away.
Both men are exquisite talents. When they are gone they will be missed. At bar stools and barber shops we will speak their names with reverence and admiration. We will fawn when recalling Mayweather’s defense. We will speak excitedly and with animation when remembering Pacquiao’s explosive punching power. They say that every fighter in boxing is replaceable. Marciano eventually replaced Louis. It took a welterweight “Sugar” Ray Leonard to replace a larger than life heavyweight named Muhammad Ali. Maybe Mayweather and Pacquiao have replaced the names Leonard, Duran, Hearns and Hagler. And so it goes.
But I think the reason why this fight is attracting the attention that it has is simple. It’s the age old battle of good versus evil. Now, I am not saying Mayweather is an evil person. In fact, I believe he is far from it. He is often misunderstood and he can be abrasive and he can be rude. His choices in behavior are questionable and he does flaunt his wealth in a time when many go without. A gluttonous gambler of enormous dollar amounts who has been convicted and jailed for domestic abuse, he enjoys the company of exotic dancers. For whatever reason - he often appears angry. The public’s perception – right or wrong - is that Mayweather wears a dark hat.
In the other corner is Pacquiao. A God-fearing family man devoted to the Lord and the people of the Philippines. A public servant there as a Congressman, they say he might one day become President. He came from the dirt and the dusty squalor of the Philippines. As he said, “I want the people to know that God can raise people from nothing into something. And that’s me. I came from nothing into something. I owe everything to God. He gave me this blessing. It’s all due to the Lord.”
What I have come to understand about big fights such as this, fights that turn into something bigger than a fight – is that all the match-ups from the past that transcended the fight itself have this element of good versus evil. Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier in 1921 was labeled the “Battle of the Century” and of course Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in 1971 was the “Fight of the Century” and on and on. Even Duran vs. Leonard in 1980 had the sneering, bearded Panamanian against Leonard, an endearing American hero. In order for fights to “grow big” the public has to identify with one side or the other – there can be no middle ground. There has to be passion about either man and there has to be the other piece that is so important – uncertainty surrounding the outcome.
Mayweather versus Pacquiao has all of these things.
And while we will all wake up the morning of May 3rd and log on to our various devices to read about the fight - the world will move on. Just as it did when Dempsey sent the war hero pilot Carpentier crashing to the ground in flames. Just as it did when Frazier “got the job done” against Ali and both men went to the hospital. Just as it did when Duran mugged Sugar Ray in the Montreal rain.
But this one is different. It feels like it means more. Manny fights for every single soul of his entire nation. If you ask him what he wants to achieve through boxing he speaks first of his homeland and helping the countless souls there that cling to a meager life. Each day he prays to a higher power to help him help his people. He gives away his money and provides for countless people in his bloated entourage. How could you not wish a man well who gives so much of himself?
And if Mayweather wins? Does that mean that evil trumps good? Does that mean that Mayweather continues on to forever claim that he is the best fighter that has ever lived? Undefeated. Unquestionable. For some that very thought is unnerving. What will this man do with over $100 million made in one night? Will he buy more jets? Make bigger bets? More cars? More jewelry? More women? Will he do the good that Pacquiao will?
There are times when things are more than they seem. It’s sometimes not until afterwards that we realize it. Events. Simple things. Games. Marriages and divorces.
But Mayweather versus Pacquiao is just another prizefight. Right?