Humility, modesty, magnanimity – three words we usually do not associate with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Rare is the time the American comes out of a post-fight television interview sounding more humble than his opponent, and yet Mayweather seemed almost embarrassed to praise his own performance in winning a unanimous decision against Manny Pacquiao in the richest fight in boxing history.
“I take my hat off to Manny Pacquiao. I see now why he is at the pinnacle of boxing,” Mayweather said of his 48th victim after their highly anticipated showdown in Las Vegas. “I knew he was going to push me, win some rounds. I wasn’t being hit with a lot of shots until I sat in a pocket and he landed a lot of shots.”
[ Read more: All of The National’s Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao coverage at our “Fight of the Century” home page ]
He added: “Manny Pacquiao is a great competitor.”
Given that he had just extended his unbeaten record with a masterclass in winning by economy rather than extravagance, adding Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title to his own expansive collection of belts, Mayweather could surely afford himself a moment to wallow in his own brilliance. Instead, he thanked everyone from his opponent to his watch maker for coming out to support him.
That, too, was generous, considering the “Fight of the Century” failed, inevitably, to come even close to living up to expectations. One judge scored the fight 118-110 for Mayweather; the other two probably called it just about right at 116-112.
[ Relive Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao with The National’s superfight live blog ]
When the newly crowned lineal welterweight champ had finished with the post-fight pleasantries, surely Pacquiao would have some kind words for the man he spent most of the fight chasing without landing hardly any meaningful blows.
“I thought I won the fight; he didn’t do anything,” Pacquiao said. “I got him many times with a lot of punches.
“I thought I caught him many more times than he caught me. I was never hurt. I was very surprised at the scores. I hit him more times than he hit me.”
It may well have been an honest assessment by Pacquiao, whose career record now drops to 57-6-2. It may also have been slightly delusional.
Pacquiao may have looked the busier fighter, but according to CompuBox statistics Mayweather outworked him 435-429 and with better accuracy, landing 34 per cent to Pacquiao’s 19 per cent. Pacquiao needed to throw more punches, he needed to be the busier fighter, because Mayweather was picking him off with single shots off either hand with alarming ease.
The Filipino fighter had his opponent cornered several times. And each time he moved in for the kill, we witnessed the majesty of Mayweather and, to a larger extent, a crucial element of the sweet science that is all too often dismissed or under-appreciated: the ability to get out of a tight spot using only body movement and footwork, without resorting to clinging to your opponent for dear life.
Yes, Mayweather got hit, but he never looked in trouble.
The overwhelming feeling before this fight was that the two best pound-for-pound boxers of this or any generation had to make the fight happen now or miss out on sport’s single most lucrative payday, with Mayweather taking home a 60-40 split of a US$300 million (Dh1.1 billion) purse. But for all the hype, the fight was a damp squib.
The lasting memory is of Pacquiao’s head snapping back as a result of a stiff jab more often than Mayweather’s did.
Mayweather surmised he won because Pacquiao was unable to figure out that particular weapon. If that is true, then Pacquiao will never beat him. If the nagging sense is that the 2015 Pacquiao version was an inferior practitioner to the one who terrified the welterweight division in 2010, when the fight was originally slated, then so, too, is this version of Mayweather, who is 38.
The paradox is that although the jab was Mayweather’s greatest weapon in this fight, it never really functioned for 12 rounds. So if an inferior Mayweather can so easily pick off and beat an inferior Pacquiao, that should be all the proof Pacquiao needs to call time on a glorious career.
There is nothing wrong with losing to Mayweather, who is already revered as one of the greatest exponents of the sweet science. So, too, the defeats to Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales. The points defeat to Timothy Bradley was a scandal that holds no legitimacy as one of Pacquiao’s six career defeats.
Pacquiao’s popularity could be heard throughout the fight, with chants of “Manny, Manny, Manny”. Let’s not forget, Las Vegas is Mayweather’s backyard; the MGM Grand his home base.
The Filipino fighter has done great things for the sport; it is time for him to do even greater things as a humanitarian or even a politician in his homeland.
But this is boxing: if money always talks, it positively screams in this sport.
Mayweather has one fight left on his six-fight Showtime deal. Given the figures generated from this fight, it would not be facetious to think the back-channelling has already begun to arrange a rematch in September. Mayweather will not be cowed by anything he witnessed in 36 minutes in Las Vegas to think he could not get the job done again.
For the sake of Pacquiao’s legacy, though, let us hope his cut of $300m is enough for him to walk away content.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE