During his somewhat toned down post-fight sparring match with Larry Merchant Saturday night at the MGM Grand, Floyd Mayweather said it was time to give fight fans what they've wanted for the last three years.
The mega fight with Manny Pacquiao.
While no one disputes that it would be the biggest draw in the sport since the early 90s, and even daring to go back to the vaunted era of the "Four Horsemen," the question is, given how both fighters looked in their last appearances, have we reached the point where the hype for such a fight has surpassed the reality of a truly great fight?
Let's start with how Mayweather looked against Miguel Angel Cotto.
There's no denying that he's one of the best defensive fighters of all time and he had to show it against the Puerto Rican slugger. While Cotto didn't use his left hook to the body against Antonio Margarito, there are no glaring targets on Floyd Mayweather's frame to hone in on, above or below the chin.
Yet, there were several exchanges where Cotto landed upstairs and down on Mayweather, causing him to work off the ropes and in awkward situations which allowed him to get hit.
Despite never being seriously hurt by any of Cotto's shots, Floyd had to rely a lot more on his shoulder roll to avoid trouble than he had in the last couple of years.
It could also be argued that fighting above 150 lbs. for the second time in his career may have slowed Mayweather down just enough to allow Cotto to force the issue more than he may have been used to against previous opponents.
The argument can also be made that unlike Pacquiao, Mayweather didn't break Cotto down in the same fashion.
Yes, Cotto was visibly fatigued and was staggered in the defining twelfth round, but through twelve rounds with Pacquiao, he looked more like he had after the controversial defeat by Margarito.
Still, Cotto was able to bloody Mayweather's nose working with an effective jab, but even with that in his favor, he simply couldn't crack the patented Floyd shell enough to assume control of the fight and keep his title belt.
The point could be made, however, that if Cotto couldn't find a way to break it, there's no reason why Pacquiao couldn't.
But Pacquiao showed that while he may be a complete fighter in his last four fights, his last meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez may have showed too much polish and not enough fury.
While some may scoff at both the tone and the outcome of Pacquiao vs. Marquez III, it's easy to discount what we saw, which was a highly cerebral game of boxing as chess.
Each man made their moves expecting to be countered. They knew one another well enough to know not only when those openings were there, but when they might make those mistakes which could risk opening themselves up as well.
Going into the fight, much had been made about Pacquiao's transformation into a two-handed fighting machine who could handle opponents of all sizes and styles.
Marquez, on the other hand, had to prove that at 38, he could still be the Filipino's foil and rather than train to knock Pacquiao out with power shots, his focus changed to beating him to the punch.
And it worked, despite what the majority decision indicated.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is a point in which a fighter can become too polished, sacrificing his original tenacity.
Pacquiao may have crossed that threshold, and unlike Mayweather, who lives for the flamboyant lifestyle of being "Money," success has seemed to bring equal parts controversy and glamour to Pacquiao's life.
If Mayweather vs. Pacquiao does happen in the next calendar year, there's a chance we won't see the all-out classic we're hoping for to save the sport. Mayweather's 35 and has said he will finally retire soon.
Pacquiao's 33 and having beaten virtually all comers in the latter half of his career, he doesn't really have much else to prove either.
Mayweather also continues to bang the "performance enhancing drugs" drum and blaming everyone from Bob Arum on down for not getting the fight booked already.
Be that as it may, Floyd is still nearly two inches taller—and despite Pacquiao's prodigious reach—he's giving up nearly five inches to the bigger man.
On the balance sheets of Las Vegas, this is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a huge payday. But fights aren't settled on a QuickBooks spreadsheet.
They're settled in the ring, and even if they step in and start swinging, it may be too little, too late for Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to save the sport which has made them both icons.
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