May 3, 2015
By Mark Di Ionno
Floyd Mayweather celebrates after defeating Manny Pacquiao in a unanimous decision in their world welterweight championship bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 2, 2015. (Joe Camporeale | USA TODAY Sports)
Back when I was a New York sports columnist, I knew a little bit about boxing. I covered Tyson-Spinks, Tyson-Holmes, Leonard-Hearns II, Leonard-Duran III, and a bunch of other big fights from ringside.
And what I learned was this: great fights are rare. Big fights don’t usually live up to the hype. But what could? That’s lesson number one.
Lesson number two is that big fights usually go exactly as expected; still fans dish out hard-earned money in hopes to see the unexpected.
Last night, they paid to see Floyd Mayweather stand and fight, which he never does. They paid to see Manny Pacquaio chase him down, corner him, and make him stand and fight. That didn’t happen, either.
After watching years of Mayweather’s brilliant, but boring, boxing artistry, why would anybody expect anything different? It’s what he does. He did it again, and took his $100 million check to the bank. Unscathed except for a fat lip. He may be awe-inspiring to watch for the “sweet science” connoisseur, if there is such a thing. But most people want to see a fight. They want to see Ali-Frazier.
This is why last night’s fight and pre-fight hype, reminded me of the build-up for Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks, also billed as a “Fight of the Century,” back in June of 1988.
The promotional ringmasters — including Donald Trump — likened it to Ali-Frazier I, because it featured two undefeated heavyweight champs.
Ali was stripped of his title; Frazier won it while Ali was banned for resisting the draft.
Spinks had beaten Larry Holmes, the linear champ, but was stripped of titles for not fighting mandatory challengers while Tyson won the unified belts.
To call them both undefeated heavyweight champs required an asterisk on “heavyweight” because Mike Spinks was a true light heavyweight. He was a much smaller man and there was no way he could stand up to Tyson’s punching power.
Still, Trump paid a record site fee to bring it to Atlantic City, and it shattered all the pay-per-view and purse records.
If you bought Tyson-Spinks, you got what you paid for. Tyson knocked him out in 91 seconds. I remember the anger in the celebrity-laced crowd, muttering contempt for poor Mike Spinks, saying the fight was a rip-off.
That seems to be the sentiment this morning. The Mayweather-Pacquaio fight was a disappointment. It was boring. A big let-down.
All that is true. Just as expected.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been that way six years ago, when Pacquaio wanted the fight worse than Mayweather obviously did. While Mayweather danced in negotiations, Pacquaio fought some real wars, including two brutal fights with old nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez. He lost one; a devastating one-punch, face-down knockout.
If you know a little bit about boxing, you know those kind of things take something out of a man. Seems Mayweather waited for that, just as expected, and gave us the fight he — not we — wanted.