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Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Fight of the Century or Corporate Anti-Climax?

Mayweather-Pacquiao is an anti-climactic nonsense of a bout - but you'll probably​ still watch if you can find a (cheap) way.
Photo by PA Images

The 21st century world we inhabit is a place on the brink of something, the old shortly to give way to the new. The meeting between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on May 2nd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas – lauded as the 'biggest fight of all time' – is perfectly emblematic of where we're at. That is, hyped past the rafters, into the sky and onwards to the stratosphere. In truth, this is an anti-climactic nonsense of a bout that you'll probably still watch if you can find a way.


Who do you think is the ideal match up for 'Money' Mayweather as he glowers down to the ring, Twitter handle advertised beneath his name? Someone to really bring out the visceral, teeth-bared primal frenzy such an epic contest deserves. Justin Bieber? Probably with none of his underwear showing, but plenty of tattoos to suit his new look, grinning like the over-indulged white-bread puppy that no amount of badass image consultants will ever be able to dissuade him from being. You may have your wish.

How much to get inside the arena for the actual fight? Some guy is taking a punt at selling his floor-seats for $350k a pop. Which might be all well and good, if this fight actually was what it purports to be: the real deal. But at heart it is in fact a dupe, and it's beneath our dignities to consider it as anything but.

The rip-off price-tags attached to every element of it are markers of its soul: the one-off $100 to watch on US pay-per-view; the $25,000 mouthgard Mayweather will be chewing on; the million-dollar belt, a diamond-encrusted thing described as 'an exquisite masterpiece' by the WBC and so ugly that Gaddafi would send it back.

Or perhaps, in an unruly way, the fight will prove a compelling spectacle precisely because of the undercurrent of desperation that is its jugular. The legendary Bob Arum, who's co-promoting the bout, declared that anyone hoping to be comped entry by reputation alone could go whistle. "Nobody is going to get these tickets without paying for them."


Mayweather turns 40 in two years, Pacquiao in four. Each deserves a wry round of applause, after the genuinely-deserved one, for building a career as a destroyer of worlds, based to no small degree on scrupulously avoiding the one guy who could prove otherwise. Now it's time to cash in their respective egos and dance to one of the 21st century's most tedious tunes: enthusiastic corporate compliance. Like an advert that includes a hashtag of the strapline at the end so that, instead of immediately forgetting what it was for, you can joyously tweet support for the journey of Jacamo, or some car insurance character. This fight is #thebigone. And waiting at its heart, behind the hashtags and the compliance, is the ultimate proof of which man – Mayweather or Pacquiao – has aged better. Which is a curious thing to spend $22,000 on a floor seat to discover.

You can almost hear the stress in Arum's voice, as missed calls from Leonardo di Caprio pile up. He must surely be aware that retirement is not far off for whoever loses – or wins for that matter – leaving the world of boxing with precisely zero superstars of any stripe.

Can it be? A million bedsit posters of Muhammad Ali still hang; countless grilling machines bear George Foreman's name; even Mike Tyson is still someone you want to watch and listen to. This makes it hard to accept that boxing's seat at the top table belongs to the past.

But the past is where you sense it does belong. When you think about it, it becomes obvious that boxing had two distinct, world-conquering heydays: the first was gorgeous black-and-white, followed by murky colours in foreign fields of Ali and Frazier and Liston; the second was hectic reds and golds of Vegas in the '90s, Tyson spitting out Evander's upper ear and glaring at him. As a pre-teen in that period, I knew nothing about boxing, never got to see any of it, and yet could name five or six heavyweights with ease, plus a scattering across the other weights divisions. Now… are the Klitschkos still fighting?

So what's left? A bathetic anti-climax of a blowout in Vegas served at $100 a pop on PPV under the banner of 'giving the people what they most desire', contested by two fighters who safely avoided that particular outcome until no real harm could be inflicted upon their reputations. 'The fight of the century' indeed.