Fight of the Century? Well, you can argue that the Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather showdown is the fight of THIS century, thus far, eclipsing Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad.
It ought to be the fight of some century, some are grousing, with its pay-per-view toll hitting the century mark for many patrons.
The real question for some then is whether it’s worth the price tag. I would unequivocally say yes to that. So let’s concentrate on the caliber of the hype and whether it’s warranted.
If the fight were taking place in 2010 or 2011, then it might be approaching the level of hype we saw in the first months of 1971, when the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier match was taking shape. The Ali mystique, combined with his taking the fight too soon after launching his comeback from his 1967-1970 exile, created plenty of suspense, and the notion that Ali was representing black people and relegating Frazier to rednecks generated ample controversy. Ali was by no means universally loved at the time and that added a lot interest.
That’s still the gold standard, even if that fight was held perhaps a year too early instead of five years too late, as is the case with Mayweather-Pacquiao no matter how eagerly we’re awaiting it still.
Pacquiao-Mayweather in 2010 might have equaled the build-up of Sugar Ray Leonard’s first bout with Thomas Hearns in a battle of unbeatens. Hearns, looked upon as the most fearsome slugger in the sport at the time, later fought a more thrilling with less billing classic against Marvin Hagler and lost, but Hearns seemed almost too formidable an obstacle to the pretty former gold medalist Leonard’s dominance of the welterweights. The fight itself, with Hearns outboxing Leonard until Leonard desperately went after him and got him, didn’t seem to measure up to the hype while Hearns was taming Leonard, but the bout is definitely remembered as a classic.
The second coming of that fight seemed for years to be De La Hoya vs. Trinidad. That promotion was a cross between Leonard-Hearns and this week’s summit. For years they were both unbeaten and everyone wanted to see them fight, but their promoters were rivals, just as promoters have been an obstacle to Pacquiao-Mayweather. Then when they actually fought in 1999, it was a bit of a snooze, which Trinidad won by decision when De La Hoya, thinking he was way ahead, became too cautious in the late rounds.
De La Hoya’s bout with Mayweather turned out to be better that, and the demographics the two brought to pay-per-view were lucrative. But Pacquiao beat De La Hoya a year later and that makes his match with Mayweather better.
Some ballyhooed bouts have lost a lot in retrospect, like Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney in 1982 and Trinidad’s loss to Bernard Hopkins in 2001. Hagler-Leonard in 1987 wasn’t quite as loudly awaited, so it misses the cut, too.
My bet, worth $100, is that Pacquiao-Mayweather will wage a much livelier battle Saturday than it would have in 2010, as I’ll explain the day before the fight. That would be amply exciting.
For more nostalgia, read Colin Seymour’s free ebook “The Kingpin Trio/How Three Bay Area Champions Became the Class of Boxing.” Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/477166