Every Thursday HYPEBEAST will feature an editorial spanning the world of sports, ranging from thoughts about the state of the NBA to whether or not the United States National Soccer Team will ever challenge for a World Cup. Handled with words from Senior Editor L. Ruano and North American Staff Writer Alec Banks, both life-long sports enthusiasts and dedicated writers, no sport will go unrepresented.
The last time a pugilistic display was described as the “fight of the century,” and the braggadocios title seemed apropos, the year was 1971, and the participants were none other than an undefeated Joe Frazier (26-0 23 KO’s) versus an equally unchallenged Muhammad Ali (31-0 25 KO’s). Madison Square Garden would be home to much more than a record-breaking purse. At the time, Ali had recently been stripped of his title for refusing induction into the U.S. Army in 1967, and had undoubtedly lost three-and-a-half years of his prime. Conversely, Frazier had become a symbol of the conservative, pro-Vietnam War sentiment and enjoyed his time as simply “undisputed” in both the ring and by the loving embrace of the right wing. Without question this supposed “fight of all fights” had the right participants and enough surrounding hoopla to make this much more than a typical bout. This was culturally impactful. Despite the hype, Ali vs. Frazier I lived up to expectations, going the entire 15 rounds and seeing the Greatest of All Time finding an unfamiliar number in the right hand portion of his once clean record. Ali had fallen for the first time as a professional, but much like he rose following his protest of the War, many knew that he would get everything back both inside and outside of the ring.
It’s with that “fall but rise again” ethos that makes the highly-anticipated, yet unfulfilled boxing matchup between Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0) and Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2) that much more intriguing. While many can point to speed, counter-punching and corner as to who will win this speculative matchup, it’s much more fascinating to look at who stands to lose more from what undoubtedly will become the second “fight of the century?”
Unlike other major sports, boxing lends itself to decided outcomes that can’t be measured in points, runs or goals scored. Punches are evaluated for effectiveness and aggressiveness is rewarded despite punishment endured by taking the center of the ring. Without a knockout, the finality of a defeat rests on the weary eyes of boxing judges who fix their cataracts while driving their oversized Cadillacs in desert climates.
It’s been four fights since Pacquiao finished an opponent early, and tossing out Mayweather’s controversial dispatching of Victor Ortiz, he’s only had three knockouts in his latest sixteen fights. As much as we like to think one fighter would pummel another, this scenario would almost surely go the distance just like Ali vs. Frazier. Mayweather has remained unbeaten and garnered hundreds upon millions of fans for going to the scorecards, while Pacquiao has endeared himself to his supporters for creating exciting fights in the vein of Gatti vs. Ward. If Pacquiao were to lose by decision, and with losses prior to fighting Mayweather, his claim as “best pound for pound” would be completely unfounded. Even with a Pacquiao victory from the scorecards, anything but a knockout wouldn’t satiate those looking to wash the smell of money from their hands. He needs the knockout.
Floyd Mayweather’s meal ticket are his fists. Sure, he parlays money earned into money wagered and won in Las Vegas, but without lucrative fight deals, he’s rather pedestrian when it comes to endorsement deals. If you look at the list of the highest earning athletes back in 2010, Mayweather earned $60,250,000 USD, placing him in the third position, just behind Phil Mickelson and ahead of LeBron James. There’s no debating that staggering sum, but what’s curious is that only $250,000 USD of that money came from endorsements (where as Mickelson made $52 million and James $30 million). It’s clear that big business wants little to do with the 146.5-pound troublemaker. Unlike Mayweather, Pacquaio is a global brand whose success in the Asian marketplace is undeniable, and his reach is only expanding in the U.S. after a lucrative agreement with Hewlett Packard. According to Lucia McKelvey, a seasoned marketing professional who handled Tiger Woods’ endorsements during her stint at IMG, Pacquiao has a yearly endorsement earning potential of $50 million USD, which would make him one of the highest-grossing athletes outside of his particular arena of athletics. It’s staggeringly clear that after the bell, Mayweather won’t be earning as much as his counterpart. It’s with this knowledge that a loss at the hands of Pacquiao would be that much worse. Being able to retire with an unblemished record carries with it enough intrigue to remain relevant, both financially and historically, for the rest of one’s life. If Mayweather loses, his “but I used to be undefeated” excuse is as worthless as a person’s “I used to be up” speech before busting and leaving Las Vegas. Money Mayweather needs to retire undefeated.
It’s no secret that Manny Pacquiao is the more “likeable” fighter of the two. He lets his guard down so that the public can consume his charm and openness in heaping inhales, while Mayweather’s “Money” personality further alienates him from fight fans on the ropes for who they should root for. Floyd fights and lives with a certain bravado and ethos of a larger-than-life persona who dared his detractors to, “say goodnight to the bad guy.” So far, Mayweather has backed up everything he’s spouted to the tune of a perfect record, and he’s at least in the discussion with Rocky Marciano in terms of undefeated legacies. When you pair his perfect record with his personality it works. But if he were to lose, suddenly that ego wouldn’t seem so fitting. Fighters have lined up to fight Floyd for a chance at defeating the great champion. Don’t be so sure to think too many would show up to fight him for a chance at handing him his second loss. And don’t think for one second that Mayweather would allow himself to become the type of fighter who gladly racks up losses for a 60/30 split of a purse. Sure, he’s ruffled a few feathers, but sometimes grace doesn’t have a place in a sport where you’re trying to knock someone’s block and blood onto the Salvatore Ferragamo tuxedo someone is wearing at ringside. A Mayweather loss at the hands of Pacquiao could certainly end his storied career.
Pacquaio vs. Mayweather Jr. would transcend athletics and turn into something of a cultural juggernaut, much in the same way the Super Bowl has. Throw out the cost of the fight. Toss out judgments about violent displays. This would make the world stand still and make people take inventory of one’s self in three-minute increments, resulting in thirty-six-minutes of judging all those principals that we hold dear. In one corner, there’s a slight Filipino man that can gain from the fight, and lose very little. In the other, there’s an aging champion with nothing to prove statistically, but whose resumé has a glaring hole in it that can’t be patched shut with stacks of Benjamin’s. Even before touching gloves, there’s already a decided winner and loser, no matter whose arm goes up after twelve rounds tattarrattating each other with vicious hand speed. Pacquaio wins in every scenario because Floyd Mayweather has more to lose. Undeniably, a war with fists would be more enjoyable than their war with words. Here’s hoping they touch ‘em up before one man gets kissed on the cheek by the canvas.
Alec Banks is a Los-Angeles based writer by way of Chicago which means he doesn’t put ketchup on his prose. He currently serves as the North American staff writer for HYPEBEAST and contributes regularly for the likes of Complex, Playboy and Maxim. He was a 2x Quarterfinalist for the prestigious Academy of Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting. You can read more of his work at alecbanks.com or @smart_alec_.