The fight of the (past) decade

Sports Sports | Lifestyle
Manny Pacquiao boxing workout at the Wild Card gym Oliver Petalver via Flickr
Manny Pacquiao boxing workout at the Wild Card gym Oliver Petalver via Flickr

The superfight between welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is finally happening —albeit about five years later than it should have.

On May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, fans will get the fight they have been waiting for. Pacquaio and Mayweather Jr., at 36 and 38 years old, respectively, are not the dominant fighters they were when boxing fans initially demanded this fight over five years ago.

Negotiations first began in 2009 to match up the two biggest stars in boxing, but they broke down over the drug testing each fighter would be required to submit to. Each moved on to different opponents, with Mayweather Jr. defeating Shane Mosley, and Pacquiao defeating Joshua Clottey, both by unanimous decisions.

Pacquiao won three more fights in 2010 and 2011, before losing twice in 2012. The first defeat was a highly controversial split decision with Timothy Bradley, but the second was a clean knockout loss to Juan Manuel Márquez. At the same time, Mayweather Jr. beat Victor Ortiz by knockout and Miguel Cotto by unanimous decision.

Negotiations between the two began again in 2012, when the still undefeated (then 43-0) Mayweather Jr. offered Pacquiao a flat $40 million to fight. Pacquiao rejected this offer as it did not include any portion of the revenue, which was expected to break records and reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since then, Mayweather Jr. has won another four bouts, bringing his record to 47-0, while Pacquiao has added another three wins, taking his record to 57-5-2. At the end of 2014, the final round of negotiations began between the boxers, helped along by a chance meeting at a Miami Heat game in January 2015.

After the game, the two met to discuss the pending fight and work out some finer details. Mayweather Jr., risking an undefeated record, will take the larger share of a 60-40 split in revenue, though Pacquiao is still expected to make over $80 million. The highly anticipated bout will likely break every box office record for the sport. This includes the highest all-time gate record, the highest pay-per-view revenue, and the highest total pay-per-view buys, all of which are currently held by two different Mayweather Jr. fights.

With each fighter under contract to a different broadcaster, HBO and Showtime will jointly offer a Pay-Per-View broadcast, expected to cost $99.99 — also a record. Boxing has had few superstars in recent decades, so the chance to finally watch two of the best pound-for-pound boxers of all time will be a huge draw. Las Vegas hotel rooms for the dates around the fight have become hard to find and ticket prices have allegedly reached into the tens of thousands of dollars on resale websites.

Casinos in Las Vegas are even offering tickets to watch a closed circuit broadcast of the bout for upwards of $100.

Like the Super Bowl, this promises to be more than just a sporting event. This will simply be an event — drawing in people to watch who previously have not watched or followed boxing. Whether or not the fight itself lives up to expectations is an entirely different issue. Both men are no longer in their physical prime, and to some, Pacquiao’s consecutive losses call into question his place among the most dominant fighters of his generation. Even so, regardless of the outcome, the bout should be incredible to watch and deserving of the simple nickname “The Fight.” And maybe, just maybe, it will be worth the wait.