Money vs. Manny: The Greatest Fight That's Never Been

Money vs. Manny: The Greatest Fight That's Never Been

“We are ready,” Floyd Mayweather tells Showtime. “Let’s make it happen. May 2. Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao. Let’s do it.”

Too late. 

Should Floyd Mayweather fight Manny Pacquiao on May 2, as he claims he wants to, the superfight would be the equivalent of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier skipping their first two meetings and going straight to the Thrilla in Manilla.

Floyd Mayweather would be 38 on fight night; Manny Pacquiao, 36. Oscar De La Hoya, Marvin Hagler, and 2015 Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Ray Mancini had already been retired by the time they reached even Pac Man’s age. Mayweather, nearly unhittable in his prime, gets tagged now. Pacquiao, once a miniature Mike Tyson, hasn’t knocked out an opponent in five years. What both men did best they no longer do particularly well, at least compared to their former selves.

I don’t know if Floyd Mayweather, surely the favorite in any bout between him and his proposed opponent, beats Manny Pacquiao. I do know that 38-year-old Floyd beats 33-year-old Floyd and 36-year-old Pac Man beats 31-year-old Pac Man. This fight should have happened five years ago, and even then it may have been a few years late.

Pacquiao hits hard, boxes well, pressures through volume punching, and, significantly, fights as a southpaw. As Bob Arum rightly points out, Floyd doesn’t like fighting southpaws. The Filipino plays as a live underdog. And certainly some of the fighters’ common opponents increase Manny’s stock. Money eked out a split-decision victory over Oscar De La Hoya. Manny forced him to retire on the stool after dominating every second of every round. Mayweather finally finished Ricky Hatton after 10 tough rounds. Pacquiao put the Mancunian to sleep with as perfect a punch as has ever been thrown. The undefeated Floyd won a hard-fought decision over Miguel Cotto. Pac Man delivered a 12th round coup de grace after dominating the fight.

The fact that Mayweather doesn’t want to do business with former promoter Bob Arum has held up this fight. The fact that one man has boxed for HBO and the other for Showtime the past two years has held up this fight. But really Floyd Mayweather has held up this fight. He’s made insulting money demands and required an onerous drug-testing regimen unknown in professional boxing for his opponent. Had Pacquiao forfeited his purse, one wonders if Floyd would have gone through with this fight five years ago.

The sudden enthusiasm for the money fight by Money Mayweather bespeaks his weakened position entering the final stage of his contract with Showtime. Four fights into a six-fight, $200 million deal with the pay channel, Mayweather has failed to deliver. Aside from the monster numbers he drew with Canelo Alvarez last year, Money hasn’t been, well, money. None of his three other Showtime pay-per-view broadcasts attracted a million subscribers.

Mayweather will make much of Pacquiao’s losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in their negotiations. But the man from Flint and the man from the Philippines, even on the back end of their thirties, remain the biggest draws in boxing today. Pacquiao has enjoyed five pay-per-views exceeding 1 million buys; Mayweather, seven. Does this call for favoring Money over Manny in the split? Sure. But neither of these guys compete in a $250 million fight without the other.

This fight makes too much sense. Boxing as of late makes too little sense. Look for Floyd Mayweather to decision Amir Khan in May. Look for Pacquiao to fight Mayweather leftover Marcos Maidana or Mayweather act-a-like Adrien Broner in the New Year. Don’t look for him to fight Mayweather, who likes talking about a potential Pacquiao fight far too much to let an actual match-up kill that pleasure.