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Mayweather vs. Pacquiao in History

Phtot: Chris Farina / Top Rank

Phtot: Chris Farina / Top Rank

Fight of the Century.

The biggest fight of all-time? The biggest event in boxing history? At least one of those statements proves true, in a sense. And the other, time shall tell. We are just days away from that.

Big statements, such as the two above-written in inquisitive form, need not be bandied around in promotion of this fight, whether coming from the money-making insiders trying to sell to the general public, or the hardcore supporters asking casual fans to have a seat. In a way, the people had sold itself some time between 2010 to the present for this fight, even if some surely have given up and forgiven again in the process. Suddenly, in a way that the sport of boxing has not experienced in a long time, most everyone wants to invest time, energy, and money in this fight– it’s a sure thing.

By all accounts and any measure, the May 2 event is set to shatter every financial record imaginable: as the highest-grossing fight in history (possibly more than $400 million in total; even adjusted for inflation, easily), the richest live gate in boxing history (approximately $74 million, about $10 million more than De la Hoya-Felix Trinidad 15 years ago), the two highest pay days in all of sports (a minimum guarantee of at least $120 million for Mayweather, $80 million for Pacquiao, for 36 minutes of performance), the most expensive ticket prices (some estimates register its average ticket prices over that of the Super Bowl, America’s biggest event; automatically, there are ridiculously-priced secondary market mark-ups, but they don’t officially figure into the revenue), the most expensive weigh-in (in fact boxing’s only reportedly priced weigh-in at $10 a pop, and five-ten times more on the secondary market; ticketing employed as measures of control, and will benefit charity), fight sponsorhip ($13 million so far, with an eye-popping $5.6 million bid from one company to sponsor it; as to the fighters, Pacquiao gets $5 million from his sponsors for this fight alone while A-side Mayweather gets $0 even as the highest-paid athlete in the world), and the most pay-per-view sales (looking to break the 3-million mark; De la Hoya-Mayweather recorded 2.4 million buys at $55, while Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez earned about $150 million with 2.2 million buys on a higher per- price range) despite the highest PPV price (about $100 to order, which at more than 3 million buys should be more than 4300 million).

Yes, the numbers in this article provide verifiable or speculative numbers only collated for your convenience, but do people actually buy something just because of how big it is supposed to be? I guess there have been big, stupid spenders throwing their cash for something just because of its price and/or how everyone else is buying it, but imagine a conversation capped off by something along the lines of, “Hey, the numbers say this is going to be the biggest fight in like ever! I need to buy this fight.”

After offering a meek description of the economic stature of this event, let me point out that necessity (need) and desire (want) are polar concepts in economics. Those are feasible cases of purchase described thereafter, as some of those who think they need to buy this fight does not necessarily assume they want this fight. This is supposed to be the biggest fight ever; many people will tune in because they feel they have to tune in, and they happen to wallet cash to boot. But at that point, they should rely on the hype provided for them by whatever or whoever reeled them in. For this historically special fight, though, the campaign is not – and does not have to be – amped up to the extremes. Yes, the people involved worked extremely hard in making this fight happen, but does not seem to work as hard in promoting it.

In any case, must-see had become must-buy in this PPV age of boxing. The number of viewers yesterday have been replaced and reduced to the number of buyers today. But the limitations this model put on boxing are also the reasons why promoters, managers, executives, and the fighters are getting much more money. Dwindling eyes directed on a sport set aside to the niche because of the almighty dollar, but the cross-elasticity calculations (pertaining to more non-spectator fans paying nothing to much less fans as virtual spectators paying something) make an irresistible argument in their bank accounts’ favor.

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This is why, in the same way you can’t just compare fighters from different eras, you can’t just compare fights from different eras too. Bob Arum has said as much. Powerful people involved such as Al Haymon, Les Moonves, and the like deserve mention in the materialization of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, but you can’t go wrong in attributing a statement to the apex predator-promoter.

This is not a promotional piece by any means, nor is this part of a smear campaign to discredit a fight which otherwise sells itself to the public. As if anything can succeed in doing such for an event which is five years in the making– ambitiously and acrimoniously a fixture into the public’s consciousness, especially in an era of information driven by social media. By the way, this is the first fight of this magnitude promotionally characterized by such.

Any writer who loves the sport of boxing should aim to be a reasonable representative of it, but more than that, anyone attempting to pass himself off as a journalist should never forget to deliver on the actual purpose of the practice: and that is to give the truth, no matter how expository, if exaggerated, it has to be on different cases.

For a fight of this gravity, I believe it’s an opportune time to introduce to anyone the sport with a deeply rich history. Back-story (on the fight) or background (on fighting) only serves to enrich the experience for anyone in any entertaining endeavour. To say that this is “the fight of the century” is earth-shattering in itself– to experience witnessing the super fight of not just our generation, but generations to come or generations before, is already mind-blowing.

The PPV model might not be going away yet or any time soon, but anyone who cares about boxing might want to retain the audience it will attract this week, especially after the two fighters they came to see are about to leave the sport soon.

This is about the same thing that many wanted to achieve with Oscar De la Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. years ago, supposedly “the fight to save boxing.” Again, the event at hand is expected to break bigger than the 2007 megafight, but De la Hoya-Mayweather was remarkable on its own. “Golden Boy” was the sport’s No. 1 PPV star, but with a dancing partner like the soon-to-be obsolete character of “Pretty Boy”. It is also helped by the magnificent build-up, benefiting from the first edition of the popular and critically-acclaimed HBO 24/7.

For Mayweather, “Money” (shameless double entendre) was born from that series. Whether the fight lived up to the expectations, it created a new star, and it was competitive and entertaining enough (perhaps depending on how much one likes boxing) to warrant a rematch. It never materialized in the wake of Mayweather’s “retirement”, though, and De la Hoya had to pass the torch anew.

And who would he pass it to? You guessed it, Manny Pacquiao.

When the Golden Boy left the boxing ring for good, “Money” and “Pac-Man” would be left to carry the sport by the numbers from their fight. They could not have more different career paths and contrasting fighting styles, but by and large they shared this responsibility, along with pound-for-pound supremacy in their own way along the way. But they never fought each other, even if there are a hundred-and-one reasons to compel them, in spite of the fact that, as Mayweather likes to say, “money is the only thing.”

Until now. On Saturday night, Mayweather-Pacquiao borrows a blueprint from the megafight prior to De la Hoya-Mayweather. In 2002, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, along with their backing networks, HBO and Showtime, respectively agreed to set up the heavyweight showdown of the 2000s. Thirteen years later, it proved to be the precursor to THE showdown of the 2000s.

Even before it happens and before all the numbers are in, this fight has not only passed the numbers test, but may have changed the standards, re-written the formula, and required new methods of measurements. But there is only one true indicator of its comparability to other great fights.

That is the test of time.

Whitaker vs. Chavez (the top pound-for-pound fighter of the time; probably boxing’s best defense vs. boxing’s best offense too).

Fights between Leonard-Hagler-Hearns-Duran (superstar showdowns between pound-for-pound, in-their-prime fighters who happen to be in or around the same weight classes).

Ali vs. Foreman or Ali vs. Frazier (the most popular fighter in the sport versus its greatest challenger).

Louis vs. Schmeling II (the most anticipated bout in history).

Johnson vs. Jeffries (the prototype transcendental fight of its century).

Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, at the very least, warrants the legitimate question of being the biggest fight since any of those, but in itself it may be any of those or more. In sports, anticipation is half the fun. Wondering what might happen is almost as important as what actually happens. History does not necessarily forget the build-up, and for that reason, you can already put Mayweather vs. Pacquiao among the most significant fights ever made.

But that wondering has been lingering for long enough, the work of others is nearly done. A couple of days from now, Mayweather and Pacquiao can write and re-write history with their hands closed.

It’s one thing to anticipate, it’s another thing to satiate. Money is universal, big is hard to define but easy to understand, and all the fights included here so far does not equate to the greatest fights ever fought. Those are what the people, sometimes overlooked by history, ultimately remembers.

Will it live up to the hype? Can it transcend boxing further?

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