As somebody who has been writing about and reading about boxing nearly every day for the past five years, it is honestly a bit surreal to me to realize that in a matter of hours, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will actually climb into the ring together. I wrote off any possibility of the fight happening at least two years ago.
Naturally, it’s a thrill to have been wrong on this one. This was a fight that absolutely needed to happen. It’s absurd that it didn’t happen in 2012, but I’m willing to put cynicism on hold and enjoy what we have before us this weekend. After a generation, the Sweet Science is once again receiving the kind of spotlight it deserves. Pacquiao and Mayweather are hands down the two biggest stars of their era. The sport’s history would have suffered had they never faced off.
In my mind, the fight’s outcome will hinge on two critical questions: 1. Will Floyd Mayweather’s 38-year-old legs manage to hold up for 12 rounds and allow him to take maximum advantage of his five-inch reach advantage? and 2. Will Manny Pacquiao have the speed and craft to close range on Mayweather without getting hammered by Mayweather’s sneaky straight right?
I’m not expecting an all-time thriller, though if Mayweather’s legs tire down the stretch, we could be treated to some desperate fireworks in the championship rounds. But mostly I think we’ll see two elite boxers playing a game of high-speed chess. Each guy will have his moments, but in the end, I think Mayweather will win seven or eight rounds.
For fans shelling out a hundred bones for pay-per-view, the undercard certainly leaves something to be desired. WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko is a major emerging star and could be an eventual pound-for-pound king. But Gamalier Rodriguez doesn’t look like the kind of fringe contender likely to give the Ukrainian Olympic hero anything like a competitive fight.
Jesse Hart vs. Mike Jimenez and Chris Pearson vs. Said El Harrak would both be intriguing enough fights on Showbox or ESPN. Hart and Pearson are promising, undefeated young talents. But they are out of place on the biggest card of the year.
Ultimately, though, this weekend is only about two men: Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The promoters know they could have put dancing bears on the undercard and the effect on sales would have been negligible.