“Sometimes when you win, you actually lose. Sometimes when you lose, you actually win. And sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose.”
So says Gloria, the girlfriend of Billy Hoyle in the 1992 film, White Men Can’t Jump. The line doesn’t make sense to poor Billy at the time, who sees the world as very black and white with no gray in between. However, at the end of the film as Billy returns home with prize winnings from a local two-on-two basketball championship, he finds Gloria gone. It is then that it hits poor Billy: He may have won the tournament, but he actually ended up losing what was most important to him.
Flash forward twenty-one years to last night’s Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero prize fight. Mayweather had not fought in over a year and had served two months in jail for a domestic assault conviction. Guerrero hadn’t lost in eight years and, on paper, seemed to be a formidable match-up for Mayweather. Leading up to the fight, there was talk of Mayweather potentially hanging up his gloves if he won the fight and several experts and pundits believed this very well might be the last time any of us saw Floyd Mayweather in the ring. There seemed to be a mysterious aura floating around and that there was a very strong chance that Floyd Mayweather might actually lose a fight for the first time in forty-four professional matches.
Apparently Mayweather didn’t get the memo.
Mayweather dominated Guerrero and won a convincing twelve round unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 117-111, with the Associated Press scoring it 119-109. Many experts believed it wasn’t even that close. Mayweather looked young and vigorous at age thirty-six and immediately after the fight came talk concerning where and when his next bout would be. For someone who just made $32 million for 36 minutes of work, who can blame Mayweather for looking ahead to when he would cash his next ridiculous paycheck?
And yet, despite the undefeated record there remains one glaring omission to Mayweather’s resume: A victory over Manny Pacquiao.
For those of us casual boxing fans, the fact that the two greatest living boxers have never fought is as frustrating as trying to watch Bill O’Riley spinning misinformation in his “Spin Free Zone.” In other words, it’s mind-numbingly painful.
Mayweather and Pacquiao are this generation’s best fighters. Not since the day’s of Ali and Frazier has professional boxing had dominant boxers in the same weight class. Unlike Ali and Frazier, Mayweather and Pacquiao are not heavyweights. However, their diminished body weight in no way diminishes their skills in the ring. Mayweather ducks and dodges better than Patches O’Houlihan from Dodgeball, while Pacquiao has quicker hands than The Waco Kid from Blazing Saddles. Needless to say, it would be an epic match-up between two unique fighters whose respective skills are the tops in the ring.
So, it has to happen, right?
The two fighters had planned on fighting three years ago and even had a date set for March, 13, 2010. Fans were already calling it the “Fight of the Century”. Each fighter was set to make a cool $25 million. However, as the date approached there were disagreements about drug testing for the fight. Accusations flew back and forth. Negotiations broke down. However, this fight needed to happen so continuing efforts were made to make it so. The March date was pushed back until the summer. The price would now reach $40 million per fighter. Again, negotiations stalled over the drug testing. Accusations swirled. Mayweather was a coward and knew he’d lose to a powerful southpaw like Pacquiao. Pacquiao was on steroids and was faking being scared of needles since he already had tattoos. On and on it went. And, in a way that only professional boxing can, everyone involved snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and successfully managed to not have the two best fighters of a generation fight in what would have been the most lucrative boxing match in history.
Flash forward three years. Despite his prison term, Mayweather remains the undisputed champion. However, he is now thirty-six years old and is beginning to show signs, albeit slight, of slowing down. Pacquiao has hit speed bumps, losing his last two matches. It should be noted that one of those matches was to Timothy Bradley, in a match where the only three people in the world who thought Bradley won somehow and some way ended up being the judges of the match. However, Pacquiao was thoroughly manhandled in his latest fight, a loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, who Pacquiao was fighting for the fourth time. It now seems that a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is destined to never happen, thus leaving boxing fans without their dream match-up for this generation.
All this begs the question: How should one view Floyd Mayweather’s legacy? Can he truly say he is the greatest fighter of his generation even if he never beats Pacquiao? Fans of Mayweather will say that it shouldn’t matter because he has beaten everyone he has fought. However, other fans will argue that we’ll never know how great Mayweather truly is since he hasn’t fought the other marque athlete of his generation. What if Bird and Magic had never played in the NBA finals? What if Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras had never played in a Grand Slam Final? What if Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had never played a head-to-head match-up in the NFL playoffs? What if Ali and Frazier had never met in the ring?
Any professional athlete’s legacy is ultimately measured by the success they have on the world’s biggest stage. For Floyd Mayweather, he has been called to that stage forty-four times and has delivered forth-four times. However, the fact that he has never fought Manny Pacquiao is the one glaring omission on an otherwise spotless resume. For Floyd Mayweather to truly claim he is the best fighter of the modern era, he needs to fight Pacquiao. The fight would easily be the most lucrative in history, even today. Those from Pacquiao’s camp could finally end their criticism about Mayweather being scared to fight a lefty. Those detractors of Mayweather could finally say that he did, in fact, beat every single competitor that his generation threw at him and left no doubt that he was the best.
There’s a chance that Mayweather might lose the fight. This would fuel endless speculation about whether or not Mayweather was “soft” and whether or not he truly was the best fighter of his generation. It would be a risky move for Mayweather but if he is the fighter he believes himself to be, he would take that chance.
Listen to Gloria, Floyd. Do the right thing. Regardless of how the match turns out, you will win.
And all boxing fans will thank you.