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Move On, Floyd: Life Without Manny Pacquiao?

By Jeff Stoyanoff

Perhaps it is time to consider the unthinkable. It remains hard to fathom that the next fight of the century very well may not take place, but with each passing day it seems more and more likely that it will be a world without a Pacquiao-Mayweather mega fight. Pacquiao appears steadfast that he has no intention of bowing to Mayweather’s demands that he undergo random blood testing before meeting him in the ring. Meanwhile, Mayweather appears equally adamant that he must be fully satisfied that he is not being suckered into competing on an uneven playing field. Meanwhile the fans are left to wonder; with this kind of money on the line, why would either man care so much about any of this nonsense as to completely derail the money train? Yet, anyone who has followed boxing should have expected nothing different. It’s a circus…big surprise.

In the wake of Mayweather’s recent win over Shane Mosley, the hype machine was ramped up again with a bogus statement supposedly issued by Pacquiao which said that he was now open to revisiting the testing issue and that he would be willing to be tested up to 14 days before the fight. For those who are not aware, the 14 day window without testing would have matched Mayweather’s last offer on the issue and thus appeared to solve the final hurdle standing in the way of THE mega fight. Everything appeared to be on course, and then the denials came and the hoax was unveiled. A circus within a circus.

The testing issue is now clearly embroiled in this fight and that raises a critical question; with the testing issue hopelessly woven into the fight; can Mayweather really win in this fight at this point? Yes, he can get the money, but can he truly elevate his status in the sport. The answer may not be as simple as one might think.

Positive and Negative Punishment

Some men excel in the ring by overwhelming their opponents with what they bring. It isn’t so much what the opponents do, it’s what the fighter himself is able to do that tells the story. Pacquiao is the quintessential example of this phenomenon. Pretty much whatever opponent he faces, it’s the same Manny. One can easily envision him bouncing around, darting in and out, unloading punches in bunches from various angles, obliterating his hapless opponents who are just trying to find any port in the most violent storm the ring has seen in some time. Some try to fight, some cover up, some try to box hoping to time him, but no matter what the response, the challenges posed by Pacquiao in the ring are always exactly the same. Pacquiao is a positive punisher in that he takes away your effectiveness by bringing his own superior firepower. When you lose to Manny Pacquiao; you are bowing to his speed, power, and relentlessness; you yourself are somewhat of an afterthought in the equation.

Conversely, there is Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather succeeds primarily by taking away what you want to do. Floyd seeks to frustrate his opponents to the point that they are hesitant as to how to proceed. By the middle rounds of his fights, one can easily see bewildered opponents standing and waiting just trying to figure out what they can do without absorbing more shots from Mayweather; their hopes of taking the fight to him completely destroyed. Where a positive punisher often finishes fights with a prolonged, furious assault as they pummel their beaten opponent; Floyd seems to lull his opponents to a similar sleep one or two punches a time. Once Floyd has removed all threat from his opponent, he methodically takes them apart. Mayweather delivers a negative form of punishment in that he dominates you by taking away your offense, by eliminating you as any kind of threat.

Of course, labels are limiting. Sticking rigidly to labels sells both men short. Pacquaio is a marvelous technical fighter who is remarkably adept at reading his opponents and adjusting what he does to increase his effectiveness. And, anyone who wonders if Floyd can’t deliver a beating should take the time to watch some of his fights. Mayweather is fast, accurate, and can most certainly put on an offensive show. However, though there is more that unites these two as great fighters than divides them; neither man seems to stray too far from his true nature.

The differences in fighting style also goes a long way toward explaining the stark difference between the two when it comes to popularity with the fans. Everybody loves Pacquiao and why not? He only puts on an incredible show every time he comes into the ring. Fans love contact and Manny delivers like few others ever have. Wrap that up in a pleasant personality and an abiding faith and there can be little wonder why Pacquiao has ascended to legendary status in terms of popularity. On the other hand, Mayweather seeks to minimize contact and sedate the situation in order to gain control as he routinely sets a more methodical pace. It can be impressive, but it’s not the spectacular show that Pac offers. Factor in Mayweather’s carefully cultivated, 24/7 alter ego persona and the whole thing becomes an object lesson in how to sell by cultivating dislike in your audience. Naturally, Mayweather doesn’t seem to care, but even if he coveted approval he would never get it. Personalities aside, Mayweather’s style in the ring would be enough to curb any real adulation from most boxing fans.

Pacquiao destroys his opponents so that regardless of the opponent; the story is always Manny and his fantastic fighting prowess. Conversely, Mayweather specializes in making his opponents look slow, old, and befuddled as he slowly and systematically dissects them in the ring. The story is Mayweather’s greatness, but the credit is given grudgingly. All too often, the focus is on how bad his opponent looked and how Mayweather will be beaten as soon as he stops avoiding the best fighters out there. The lack of credit certainly flows due in some part to the vagaries that have led to Mayweather not having fought the likes of: Cotto, Williams, Margarito, and now most notably Pacquiao. However, the criticism also is bolstered by his very style in the ring; a style that can’t help but leave some with the feeling that his success is derived as much from his opponent’s failures as from his own acumen. Such is the fate of the negative punisher; wins without excitement. There will never be a need for a “Money Manny” to sell a Pacquiao fight unlike the persona Floyd cultivates to generate interest in his bouts. But, as little credit as he often receives after wins, Mayweather will likely receive even less credit if he beats Pacquiao.

You Can’t Win, Floyd

Imagine that Floyd Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao and it went much as all of his other fights have. Mayweather comes in, survives a scary moment or two early on and then proceeds to solve the riddle of Pacquaio and earns a wide unanimous decision win. Such a scenario simply cannot take place unless Pacquiao encounters the same problem as the others have. His offense would have to somehow be rendered less effective by Mayweather’s defense and his output would have to taper off as the fight progressed. At that point, Floyd would begin to unleash his offensive arsenal, but it would likely still come one or two punches at a time. Even the most dominating effort by Mayweather, would still likely take the form of a slower paced fight in which the overwhelming fan reaction would probably be something along the lines of…”I’ve never seen Manny look like that before.”

In this scenario, what would we think of another great performance by Mayweather? Fans might hesitate to believe that Floyd was simply too good because they would never know how much impact the testing had on Manny’s performance. And, we don’t need to speculate on this because Manny already told us as much. He has stated numerous times that drawing blood leaves him feeling weak for days after which is why he won‘t do it as he prepares for a major fight. Floyd Mayweather is in a peculiar spot. He wants to ensure a level playing field, but even if he somehow gets what he wants it will only ensure that he is in a no win situation in terms of how the fight is interpreted; quite the conundrum. He often says he doesn’t care, but if the testing goes through and he beats the legend in Pacquiao one can be sure that the only person who will continue to think that Floyd Mayweather is the greatest fighter of all time…will be Floyd Mayweather (and his small cadre of backers out there).

And does anyone believe that none of this matters at all to athletes? Time and time again Mayweather has made it clear that he absolutely wants to be known and acknowledged as the best of this or any era in boxing. Mayweather has spent his life working to become the best fighter of his generation. If he doesn’t want any acknowledgement of the combination of skill and dedication required to rise to that rarified level then he is as rare a person as he is a talent Amazingly, there is every chance that this fight won’t do a whole lot for him on that particular score. A win here will undoubtedly be followed by rampant, and not exactly baseless, speculation that Pacquiao’s demise came in part because he was weak after giving blood.

Ironically, it is Pacquiao who has all the upside. If he wins, he becomes the one that finally shut Mayweather’s mouth, took away the undefeated record, and did it all with no excuses; what could Mayweather possibly say? In addition, Pacquiao will have done all that and cashed a monster check in the process. In the end, both men can get paid to fight, but only one man will likely get the kind of timeless victory that history remembers.

The Mini-Money Train: The Specter of A Pacquiao Fight

Floyd Mayweather is a bigger star now than he has ever been. People are watching him and wondering just how he might fare against Pacquiao. The boxing world is at a virtual standstill as everybody waits to see what the two men will do next. Mayweather can command more money now than ever. He represents by far the biggest payday available to any fighter he may choose to fight. Much is made of leverage in negotiations; Mayweather can most likely set the terms on any fight he wants. Can he get the same money for anyone as he can for Pacquiao?

Of course not. However, he can make money now like at no other time in his career. Perhaps, Mayweather can make the same deal that other superstars in the sport have been making forever by securing a piece of future fights in exchange for getting in the ring. Sergio Martinez, Paul Williams, and Antonio Margarito for example would all bring good money and they all just happen to have potential rematches with each other that could prove quite lucrative as well. Do you think Mayweather can get that kind of a deal with Pacquiao? Once again, nobody is saying that Mayweather wouldn’t make the most money on one night fighting Manny Pacquiao, of course he would. But, only those on the inside truly know Floyd‘s options and the numbers involved. One thing is certain, Mayweather knows, and also knows that he can make money no matter what he chooses to do next.

Moreover, the potential for a fight with Pacquiao only heightens interest and that translates to more money no matter the opponent. Would Mayweather have made as much to fight Mosley if Pacquiao were not around? His very presence makes Floyd money. He doesn’t need to chase him around and take absurd risks; Pacquiao is potentially a cash cow for Floyd but he does not represent his only chance for him to make outstanding money right now. Not surprisingly, that is exactly how Mayweather is treating him. As unthinkable as it may seem, perhaps Mayweather knows more about boxing and the business of boxing than we do. Mayweather is a hot commodity and you don’t need to be a genius to make money when you are in demand and, with or without a Pacquiao fight, Mayweather is in demand.

Finally, what if Floyd moves up to 154 again or even 160 and wins? That very well might burn him deeper into the memory of fight fans who care about the history of the sport than even perhaps would a win over Pacquiao. After all, Mayweather becoming a champion at middleweight might just be more memorable than him beating a guy who was too small and too weak after having all his blood drained before the fight.

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