Note: This was my Crunch Time column for this week.
As soon as I read that Floyd Mayweather signed a contract to fight Manny Pacquiao, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
After the part of my arm started to turn a shade of purple, I realized I was still at home and the announcement was real. Mayweather will take on Pacquiao in a welterweight championship unification bout, May 2 in Las Vegas.
This fight is something fans have been asking for the last several years. I had friends, who I never knew were boxing fans, tell me how excited they are for this fight. Even the people who say this fight should have happened years ago will add, “at least it’s finally happening.”
I’ll admit that boxing isn’t as popular as it used to be. Mixed martial arts has taken the world by storm and every once in a while my old roommates will nag at me for watching boxing. They don’t understand how I could watch a sport where “all they do is punch each other.”
In the case of Mayweather vs. Pacquaio there are several reasons why I, and a number of folks, are intrigued.
First, you have Mayweather and Pacquiao, two of the most well known figures in sports who are polar opposites.
In one corner, you have Mayweather, a second-generation athlete who followed in his father’s footsteps and became involved in boxing at a young age. He grew out of his father’s shadow and became a star, winning a plethora of world championships. Over the years his exploits in and out of the ring have made him loved and hated by fans all over the world.
Then there’s Pacquiao, a native of the Philippines who came from humble beginnings and entered the sport at 14 years old while he was living on the streets of Manilla. Like Mayweather he too rose to the top and has established himself as a great fighter. Unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao wears many hats and is seen as a hero to his countrymen.
Another reason why fans are interested in this fight is the story leading up to it. Mayweather plans to retire for the second time in his career at the end of 2015. He’s faced every challenger who stood across from him in the ring except Pacquiao, whom many believe can put the first loss on Mayweather’s 47-0 record. The fight was proposed several times over the years but negotiations fell through due to different reasons — the main one being money.
Both fighters met at a Jan. 27 Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks to exchange phone numbers. They met in a hotel room later that night to discuss terms of the fight. The two fighters worked out a deal where Mayweather will take home 60 percent of the fight purse while Pacquiao takes home 40.
Sports fans have always been interested in the drama that surrounds boxing. Before the Internet, a parade of reporters would surround Muhammad Ali as he spun rhymes, detailing how and when he was going to knock out his opponents. Today, boxers will throw verbal jabs or challenge each other on social media and fans will retweet, regurgitate and respond to everything they read.
I think the biggest drawback for fight fans is the price. Tickets for the event, according to Forbes, are expected to range from $1,000-$4,000. ESPN’s Dan Rafael wrote that HBO, which broadcasts Pacquiao’s fights and Showtime, which broadcasts Mayweather’s bouts, will joint-produce a pay per view that is expected to cost around $89.95. Analysts expect the event to shatter several historical boxing revenue records. The current all-time pay-per-view revenue record is $150 million, which was generated from Mayweather’s fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013. That bout also has the all-time gate record of over $20 million.
Will Mayweather vs. Pacquiao be the greatest fight ever? Maybe, maybe not. Every fight has a chance of not living up to fan’s expectations, especially if there is a lot of hype surrounding it.
Perhaps the fight should have happened years ago when both men were in their prime or when Mayweather hung up his gloves for the first time in 2009.
But if Mayweather and Pacquiao had their first fight years ago, would we have been as interested in it back then as we are today?