Floyd Mayweather outboxed and outmaneuvered Manny Pacquiao to claim a unanimous points victory in the most lucrative boxing match in history Saturday, taking his unblemished professional record to 48-0 and cementing his place as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
After 12 high-intensity and often tactically cautious rounds, the judges’ scorecards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas read 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112, all in favor of Mayweather.
And while Vegas is a town not unfamiliar with a controversial points decision, there could be little disputing the outcome of this showdown for the WBA, WBC and WBO welterweight titles.
For some, it was the fight that almost never happened as high demand meant some pay-per-view viewers in the U.S. experienced disruptions to their service.
Yet after a short delay to proceedings to enable broadcast problems to be ironed out, “MayPac” was finally on.
‘Fight of the Century’
The sense of anticipation as both men entered the ring was all the $300 million purse and their indisputable reputations promised.
Fight fans, pundits and TV networks had been demanding this bout as far back as 2009 when both men were arguably at their peak.
But a series of contractual disputes and stipulations regarding drug testing initially ensured an agreement was impossible.
After a chance meeting between the pair at an NBA game in Miami earlier this year, however, a deal was in the making. By February, it was on.
Tickets for the event sold out in minutes. Some were exchanging hands on the black market for as much as $350,000 before the fight.
Even closed circuit relays of the match in Vegas were reportedly selling for as much as $3,500 a brief, while viewers tuned in from every corner of the globe on pay-per-view channels.
In Pacquiao’s homeland of the Philippines, millions dropped what they were doing to watch their hero, congressman and cultural icon take on the man known to refer to himself as “TBE” (The Best Ever.)
Yet for all his talk of being better than Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson, there was something different about Mayweather before this fight.
His usual trash talk and brash outspokenness was noticeably absent. Some said it was uncharacteristic nerves, others extreme focus on his biggest ever challenge. Some even wondered whether Mayweather was displaying a new-found maturity.
At the ripe old age of 38, could that really be?
This, after all, was the man who brandished a chicken with a fake gold medal round its neck to mock Olympic gold medal winner, Oscar De La Hoya, when the pair met in what was previously the most lucrative bout of all time in 2007.
Ready to rumble
The way the fight began Saturday, it looked like those predicting a supremely focused Mayweather were correct.
The five-weight world champion and the larger man, sought to establish his dominance early, using his jab to keep the powerful Pacquiao at a distance while landing with two large right hands early on.
But Pacquiao was the aggressor at the beginning of round two. The Filipino moved forward more although he still found it difficult to make contact with the ever elusive Mayweather.
Earlier in the week, former middleweight world champion Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins described Mayweather’s defensive style as like a turtle going into its shell. “You can beat that shell up but you’re not hurting him.”
Like the wily hard shelled creature outsmarting the hare, the man with the impenetrable armor looked to be in control.
Round three offered much of the same but Pacquiao finally began to land in round four, pushing Mayweather against the ropes and letting rip with a sequence of blows to the body.
Mayweather fought back in five and six to reassert his control, although Pacquiao twice caught him with his dangerous left hand.
By the eighth, the fight had become a chess match. Mayweather moved and picked his opponent off with the jab. Pacquiao was only landing with 18% of his punches, far fewer than his usual average of 34%.
When the 10th arrived the cocky Mayweather was back, smiling and dropping his hands to taunt an increasingly frustrated Pacquiao.
The Pacquiao corner must have known a knockout was required but their man had to catch his fleet-footed opponent in the opposite corner first.
Alas, it was a task the crowd favorite could not rise to, although the fighter himself felt he had done enough to claim victory.
“I thought I won,” Pacquiao said in the ring post fight. “He didn’t do nothing, just moved outside. I got him many times.”
“He is moving around and it’s not easy to throw a lot of punches if your opponent moves around. I can handle his power, it’s not strong like other opponents. It’s not about size. I’ve been fighting bigger than him and it’s not a problem.”
Understandably, the victorious Mayweather – as well as most ring-side observers – disagreed.
“I was a smart fighter, I out-boxed him,” said Mayweather, shaking off boos from the crowd which was unimpressed with his defensive style.
“We did what we had to do tonight. I knew he was going to push me. He had moments in the fight but I kept him on the outside.”
“He’s a hell of a fighter. Now I see why he is one of the guys at the pinnacle of the sport of boxing.”