The fans fortunate enough to be on hand at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last Saturday night bared witness to boxing's best absolutely dismantling an over-matched Miguel Cotto. It was a fight that led promoters, hype men, boxing loyalists and fans everywhere to exhale a protracted, slow sigh of relief.
With beads of sweat fresh on his brow and 12 rounds of brutality fresh in his rearview mirror, thirty seconds was all it took for Manny Pacquiao and his entourage to hear the chants.
"We Want Floyd! We Want Floyd!"
Nothing is official yet, but this highly likely and unbelievably rational bout between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather would arguably be boxing's most mainstream draw since Tyson retired. Hopefully, for one night in 2010, boxing's golden age will be resurrected and a sport that has been wearily dangling on the ropes these past 15 years will finally get the appropriate attention it desperately needs.
Stylistically, the two men in question are undeniably the sport's best fighters. In one corner there is the undefeated Mayweather. An egocentric athlete if any has ever walked this earth, the 5' 8" fighter once deemed a six-fight 12.5 million dollar offer from HBO a "slave contract."
What he does in the ring is another story. The 32-year-old's incredibly successful foundation is based on an uncanny, unprecedented speed. Not just with his hands, although those move like a hovering hummingbird, but his incredibly elusive upper body which ducks and dodges constantly, leaving his opponent with no physical target and thus no chance at victory.
Still, with all his undeniable talent and work ethic, Mayweather's persona both inside and out of the ring has made him an almost villainous figure. Someone who claims to be the greatest but who is still questioned by his peers.
The late Arturo Gatti, a man who participated in some of the sports most brutal fights in history, doubted his opponent's devotion to the sport, saying "I'm ready to die in that ring. That's the difference between me and Mayweather."
Gotti handily lost in six.
Unlike his most highly touted scrap two years ago against a 34-year-old, past his prime and seemingly disinterested, Oscar De La Hoya, a face-off with Pacquiao would pit Mayweather against Ring Magazine's #1 pound for pound boxer in the world. Two fighters in their prime who could make history and cement legacies.
Manny Pacquiao is a nationalistic hero and someone who seems to take pride in carrying the weight of a country on his shoulders every time he steps in the ring. At a press conference in Manchester, England, days before his eventual two round knockout of U.K. native Ricky Hatton last May, Pacquiao spoke of his childhood growing up in the Philippines.
Like all of my fights, I dedicate this fight to my country. I remember as a little boy.
I ate one meal a day and sometimes slept in the street. I will never forget that and it inspires me to fight hard, stay strong and remember all of the people of my country trying to achieve better for themselves.
He's the exact opposite of his hopeful opponent in the sense that he doesn't appear to be a painfully self-serving individual who's wrapped up in himself twice over. The 30-year-old is a soft-spoken, exceptionally motivated man who seems to be the perfect foil to Mayweather's defense first strategy. His last four bouts came by either knockout or referee stoppage while four out of Mayweather's last five went to decision.
As said by HBO President of Sports Ross Greenburg in a recent article from the Las Vegas Sun,
I don't want to say it's just a question of money. When you have a situation where you've created two big events in the last three months, basically to set up a semifinals in the 147-pound weight class, and the American public demands to see the fight it has to happen. And the way it happens is to induce all sides by getting everyone to check their egos at the door, sit down at a table and hash out the terms. Each side has to look at the big picture, which is there is a boat-load of money and a fight too important for this sport not to happen.
Have it in the brand new Yankee or Cowboys Stadiums. Make it larger than life to the point where a rematch is inevitable. This is the fight boxing has been waiting for and to see it go to waste would be the biggest blow of all.
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