Mayweather v Pacquiao: 'Mayweather held all the aces'
|By Ben Dirs, BBC Sport in Las Vegas|
And, lo, a fight finally broke out in Las Vegas. Sort of. If that was the 'Fight of the Century' so far, it's a good job there are another 85 years to go.
Many people thought Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao would be one-sided. But not that one-sided.
Mayweather did what he almost always does in making it look easy, sailing to a wide unanimous decision without much fuss. Evander Holyfield was right: hype alone does not a great fight make.
Mayweather's father and trainer, Floyd Sr, said it best: "He's almost too good for his own good."
So while the boxing purists were saluting Mayweather's genius, social media was throbbing with people calling him boring. There was even anger, with many feeling they had somehow been cheated.
One man's genius is apparently another man's sissy. "I thought he ran very well," quipped Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach. He was being disingenuous. A seven-time trainer of the year, he recognises greatness.
Mayweather didn't even have to unleash all of his weaponry. For most of the fight his jab and right cross sufficed. Only when Pacquiao was a wounded bull in the final few rounds did the American unveil the check hook and uppercut.
"I thought Manny should have won a lot of rounds because he was the aggressor," said Roach, being disingenuous again. Being aggressive without much education is rarely sufficient to win boxing matches.
And anyway, Pacquiao wasn't aggressive enough. Mayweather actually threw more punches - 435 to 429 - and landed with 39% of them, compared to 19% for his opponent. But because Mayweather was throwing on the back foot, people were fooled into believing he sucked the life out of the fight.
Exactly what Roach's vaunted masterplan consisted of was difficult to fathom. Coming forward in straight lines and not attacking from angles, Pacquiao proved too easy to hit. Mayweather landed with 67 jabs, to Pacquiao's 18.
Afterwards, Pacquiao claimed his right shoulder popped in the third round. He said he had been hiding the injury for three weeks, so people are well within their rights to ask why they shelled out their hard-earned money to see Mayweather take apart a wounded man.
But given the fight was five years in the making and given the sheer size of the show, it was absolutely inconceivable that the fight might have been cancelled.
Whether a fully fit Pacquiao would have made a better fist of it is open to question. Mayweather simply held all the aces - noticeably bigger, quicker and with a longer reach, he even looked to be carrying more power than his rival. Factor in his superior boxing brain and Pacquiao stood no chance.
"Some people want blood and get disappointed when they don't get it," said heavyweight great Lennox Lewis, another fighter who was accused of being boring. It is precisely because Mayweather is so phenomenally gifted and such a slave to science that it was such a mediocre fight.
But the boxing purists should guard against being sniffy. Even Oscar De La Hoya, a six-weight world champion who knows a thing or two about the technicalities of boxing, was left cold by Mayweather's performance.
"Call me old-school but I like watching an action-packed fight," said De La Hoya, who was beaten by both men.
"I'm just not into the boxing, running style. I like jumping out of my seat because a fight is exciting."
If De La Hoya doesn't appreciate Mayweather, it's hardly surprising that people who paid almost $100 (£66) in the United States, or crawled out of bed at 4am in the UK, were bemused by what they witnessed.
Some viewers might not have watched a boxing match for years. Many would have been boxing virgins. There would have been those hoping for a Rocky-style slug-fest - because, after all, that's how boxing is. Right? Actually, hardly ever.
So while it was put about before the fight that Mayweather-Pacquiao was a shot in the arm for boxing, the truth might be somewhat different.
With both men set to trouser hundreds of millions of dollars between them, the fight was tremendous news for them and their connections. But how many of those floating fans and boxing virgins will be back again?
Connoisseurs of any sport are few, it is the casual sports fans that really get the tills ringing.
None of this is Mayweather's fault. Why would he box any other way when he doesn't have to? "I believe in taking as little punishment as possible," has become a Mayweather mantra. Makes sense to me.
However 20 years ago Mayweather would have been just one of a crop of marquee fighters in and around the welterweight division.
Pernell Whitaker, another defensive master, was derided back then for being too negative and never made anything like the cash Mayweather did. But Mayweather has become the money-making machine he is because of a lack of alternatives.
Film stars Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro and singer Prince were prepared to fork out a few thousand quid to see Mayweather fight Pacquiao, but would the A-listers jet in for anyone else in the boxing firmament? Probably not, because boxing is suffering from a chronic lack of stars with the necessary magnetism.
Pacquiao - a congressman in the Philippines, although an absent one for long periods - has vowed to fight on. There was no rematch clause in the contract and, given the lop-sided nature of the fight, there might not be another one.
Mayweather, who hasn't been beaten in 48 professional contests stretching back 19 years, says he will have one more fight before calling it quits.
However, with Rocky Marciano's legendary 49 fights undefeated in his sights and a new Vegas arena set to be opened next spring, he'll surely be tempted to box on - which could be very good news indeed for Britain's Amir Khan.
Mayweather Sr would rather his son hung up his gloves now.
"He's got nothing more to prove, he's done it all," he said. "But because he's so good, people don't appreciate him."
Maybe when he's old and grey - and has stopped talking about money - Mayweather will finally be recognised for the rare talent he is.
It was a wild week in Vegas when boxing was the biggest sport in the world - just like the good old days. But there was also a nagging feeling: will we see its like again?