For some time, Floyd Mayweather Jr has been regarded a global superstar, but the fight that truly launched him into the sporting stratosphere came 13 years ago to the day.
Way before the rumours and the rivalry with Manny Pacquiao, there was Oscar De La Hoya. The future Hall of Famer was regarded by many, Mayweather included, as the man he needed to dethrone to take his place at the top of the boxing moneymaking machine. On May 5, 2007, he was finally granted the opportunity.
Until Mayweather's ultimately disappointing 2015 clash with Pacquiao, this was the sport's biggest cash generator. The bout, also staged at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, set a record for pay-per-view buys, drawing in 2.48 million.
Tickets sold out within three days, totalling an unprecedented $19 million (Dh69.8m) in live gate and surpassing the 1997 rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
All in all, the fight clocked in as the most lucrative in boxing history, with revenue generated estimated to be somewhere between $120m and $130m. De La Hoya apparently took home $58m, Mayweather $25m.
The fight spawned what became the hugely popular HBO 24/7 series. An intriguing subplot to emerge during filming was that, at one point, Floyd Mayweather Sr even tried to negotiate his employment as De La Hoya’s trainer.
De La Hoya was the self-styled “Golden Boy”, a world champion across six divisions with 38 wins from 42 fights. Mayweather was a four-division champion who went by “Pretty Boy”, a nod to an unblemished professional fight career that stood at 37 victories from 37.
Soon, he had a 38th; De La Hoya’s light middleweight title, too. Mayweather won in Las Vegas by a split decision, his youth – he was 30 to De La Hoya’s 34 – and expert ring acumen eventually telling.
Through the first branch of the fight, De La Hoya’s jab proved a potent weapon, but fatigue quickly set in and Mayweather began to control. Taking rounds five and six, the challenger landed two strong rights in the eighth to clear the path to victory. In the end, the stats showed Mayweather landed 207 punches (138 power) to De La Hoya’s 122 (82).
Somewhat contentiously, only two judges gave Mayweather the victory, one at 116-112 and the other 115-113. Tom Kaczmarek, meanwhile, plumped for De La Hoya, much to the surprise of the millions watching on.
“Look at the punch-stat numbers, and you can see why I’m the new champion tonight,” Mayweather said immediately afterwards. “I just fought the best fighter in our era, and I beat him.”
No matter the scorecards, it was a transcendent triumph all right. Mayweather had hit the big-big time, despite publicly contemplating retirement soon after, claiming he had nothing left to achieve.
But that was far from the case. From then, Pretty Boy adopted a new moniker that embraced his newfound status: “Money”.