Mayweather v Pacquiao nothing but an overhyped farewell tour

‘Fight of the Century’ pales in comparison with rivalries gone by

Manny Pacquiao’s enthusiasm to get into the ring with Floyd Mayweather may not be entirely unrelated to a $75 million tax bill. Photograph: Joseph Agcaoili/AFP/Getty Images

Manny Pacquiao’s enthusiasm to get into the ring with Floyd Mayweather may not be entirely unrelated to a $75 million tax bill. Photograph: Joseph Agcaoili/AFP/Getty Images

 

Hype can be as expensive as it is cheap and for the next two months it will envelop the prospect of boxing’s richest ever bout to the extent people might actually believe some of this “Fight of the Century” nonsense.

Considering such PR tags are routinely pinned to the most dubious of match-ups they have long since been reduced to meaninglessness: Simon Cowell once said the secret to hype is creating it but not believing it, although he might have been lip-synching.

And in comparison to most fights, creatively hyping Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao’s welterweight title bout to the max is straight-forward: two outstanding fighters with a history of personal animosity finally getting it on in a fight that could generate up to half a billion dollars – get ready to Rrruummble!

But in boxing terms, actual “mano a mano”, with cash out of the picture, it’s impossible to believe it.

Now since taking the cash out of boxing is like removing schmaltz from talent shows, we’re talking purely theoretical here. But still, really, “Fight of the Century?” This is demonstrably silly; a triumph of skilfully applied ballyhoo coating over what is basically an exercise in nostalgia.

Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2009 might have been a scrap to get up in the middle of the night and shell out 100 pay-per-view smackers for: Mayweather and Pacquiao on May 2nd in Las Vegas is two guys on the fade cashing in while they can.

Undefeated record

Pacquaio is younger in years but hardly experience: unlike the slick, trash-talking counter-puncher Mayweather, the Philippines’ finest is a brawler from the wrong side of the barrio, with a track record in relation to earthly pleasures that even a new-found religiosity can’t erase from public memory.

Second Captains

A diversity of other interests includes being a politician, basketball enthusiast, and all-round Filipino national treasure so his enthusiasm for finally getting into the ring with Mayweather after years of acrimonious stop-start wrangling possibly isn’t totally unrelated to being pursued for $75 million in tax.

We will be assured both men are training like never before and all the usual purse-boosting stuff between now and May. But what those forking out more than €22,000 for floor seats at the MGM Arena are really paying for is a trick of the memory; like watching fat My Way Frankie but seeing swaggering Wee Small Hours Sinatra.

Having said all that, a lot of us still won’t be able to resist getting swept along just a little bit. There’s still nothing like it in sport. Tennis comes close but doesn’t have that vital blood lust, while UFC possesses all the blood and little of the tawdry elegance.

Even the most sceptical of the right-on can get sucked into boxing’s primal core of two people confined to 400sq ft of canvas with no other aim but to hurt each other.

And there remains enough of a curiosity factor to this, despite how Pacquiao is so made to measure for Mayweather that there’s surely only one outcome, which means it isn’t just cussedness which provokes a plaintive longing for a little context.

The days of mass social appeal which Ali, Frazier and Foreman brought to the heavyweight division 40 years ago are unlikely to ever be replicated so “Fight of the Century” comparisons to them, or even further back to Louis-Schmelling and Johnson-Jeffries, are unfair, although it does show how flim-flam is hardly a modern phenomenon.

It’s just that when Mayweather gives it the “TBE” hard-sell, you want to yawn.

Yes, maybe he can only beat what’s been put in front of him and maybe it isn’t fair to his extravagant talents that an over-the-hill Oscar De La Hoya and that Manchester chip butty Rich Hatton are among the best he’s encountered.

However, some of us can just about remember when there were no maybes at all.

‘No más’

Ray LeonardRoberto Duran

But it is how both those great champions’ career peaks miraculously also coincided with those of two other great fighters, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler, which emphasises how hollow unbeaten records can be.

Because an unbeaten record was impossible among a quartet christened “The Four Kings” by the late Irish Times columnist George Kimball and the lack of it did nothing to tarnish any of their reputations during a time when “Fight of the Century” could have been repeatedly employed a lot more credibly than it will this May.

Since such coincidences of excellence are rare, Mayweather can hardly be blamed for the lack of one through the best years of his career. He also can’t be blamed for bigging himself up: anyone waiting for someone else to blow their horn is destined for disappointment no matter what the discipline, never mind boxing.

But even amidst a sport so inextricably bound up with hype there is a danger in swallowing it undiluted.

Sinatra said the only thing that ultimately mattered about him was that when he sang a song he believed it. Maybe he even believed that, just as Mayweather and Pacquiao may believe their own hype. But it’s hard not to suspect much of it is being employed to plug what is in effect just another farewell tour.

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