Last night it was announced that the Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather bout would finally go ahead. The world had been calling for the event to take place for the past decade and at long last, it had finally been confirmed.
Bells rang and media companies shouted from their roof tops that the greatest fight in the history of the sport would take place on the 2nd of May. Except that it wasn’t. And it will not be. Some say the fight should have happened four or five years ago in order to take the moniker but even then it would not have come close to surpassing the greatest fight of all time. That took place a long time ago. That took place on the 30th of October 1974, in Zaire.
Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather will without question be the highest grossing fight of all time with the event expected to generate up to $250 million dollars. There is no doubt that Mayweather and Pacquiao are two of the greatest fighters of their generation and the three belts that will be on the line are fitting of the contenders battling for the awards. But there are certain elements that are lacking. Certain elements that Muhammad Ali and George Foreman had in abundance.
In Muhammad Ali, boxing had not only the greatest entertainer the sport had ever seen, but the greatest entertainer sport has ever seen period. You can look far and wide but a man of Ali’s supreme wit and contagious humour had not been seen before nor has it been since.
And then there was Foreman. An intimidating, young, ferocious beast that had absolutely pulverised everything in his path. In Foreman, you had the antithesis of what Ali brought to the table. There was no wit or panache. There was simply a brut who was going to quiet the old man with the big mouth.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will arrive to the MGM Grand on May 2nd with an unblemished record after 47 professional fights and the man has to be admired for his stature in the ring. However, outside of it, it is easy to understand why he is almost universally disliked. Manny Pacquiao on the other hand is indeed likeable and is renowned for an almost compulsive level of generosity. In terms of personality however, neither come close to what entered the ring in ‘74.
Ali vs Foreman was billed as a case of speed vs power with Ali claiming again and again that he was going to “dance and dance”. In reality, it didn’t come to pass as such with Ali inventing and implementing the ‘rope-a-dope’.
In Mayweather vs Pacquiao you have something else entirely. Both boxers are indeed famed for speed but more than anything else, Mayweather is known for caution. He systematically wears down his opponents, scores well and will win by decision if necessary. Pacquiao is famed for a more aggressive style and is certainly a harder hitter but recent years have led many to suggest that he may in fact be well past his best.
Zaire saw a 32 year old Ali face a 25 year old George Foreman in his prime. May 2nd will see a 37 year old Mayweather take on a 36 year old Pacquiao. Indeed it is fantastic that the fight is finally happening but in terms of style and the age of the competitors, again the bout falls short of being labelled “the biggest fight of all time”.
Welterweight vs Heavyweight?
Muhammad Ali arrived to Zaire having been through a torturous 7 years. After refusing to comply with a draft to fight in the Vietnam war, Ali was stripped of his title and suspended from boxing for over 3 and a half years. Upon his return, he had to first prove his worth before earning a title shot against the then formidable Joe Frazier. Ali earned his shot and was duly sent on his way with Frazier winning by unanimous decision.
When Foreman met Frazier, he knocked the champion down six times in the first two rounds forcing the fight to be stopped.
Zaire followed and given the circumstances of the two Frazier bouts that had gone before, it seemed that their own clash would be billed as a classic long shot. It was David vs Goliath.
Pacquiao vs Mayweather will indeed be a classic but in terms of story, it doesn’t quite bring the same level of baggage to the table.
May 2nd will without question be a bout that anyone with even a passing interest in boxing will want to watch. But will it fit it’s billing? The greatest fight of the year? Certainly. The greatest fight of the decade? Hopefully. The greatest fight of all time?