A Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch would be massive despite uninspired first fight

·Combat columnist

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao shook hands at an NBA game in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The brief meeting between the legendary boxers did not throw social media into an uproar, as happened on Jan. 28, 2015, in Miami with a far more consequential meeting at an NBA game.

Pacquiao is a little more than a week out from a pay-per-view bout for the WBA welterweight title against Adrien Broner on Jan. 19 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

The Filipino superstar is in the twilight of a legendary career that will land him in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Last year, he signed with Premier Boxing Champions, the company owned by his rival’s long-time adviser, Al Haymon, in order to best position himself for a rematch.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao greet each other during the game between the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 8, 2019 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao greet each other during the game between the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 8, 2019 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Even though their first fight hardly lived up to the billing — and to be fair, even if it had been one of the best fights in boxing history, which it most decidedly was not, it would have been difficult to live up to the lofty billing it got — a rematch would still be a massive fight.

It would be likely to exceed 2 million pay-per-view sales and guarantee each fighter another nine-figure payday, or at least close to that.

Their first fight came at last five years too late, and was an easy Mayweather win. It sold a record 4.6 million pay-per-views and generated an astounding $575 million, another record. The paid gate was a record $72.2 million, as was the average ticket price of $4,451.

After years of angst among boxing fans and wrangling by representatives of the fighters, the bout came together easily after they met face-to-face for the first time at an NBA game on Jan. 28, 2015, at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

An otherwise nondescript NBA game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat that night wound up leading to one of the most momentous nights in sports history a few months later.

Pacquiao was in Miami to judge the Miss Universe contest, and when his flight to Los Angeles was canceled, he decided to attend the Bucks’ 109-102 victory over the Heat. What he didn’t know was that Mayweather would be seated on the other side of the court.

At halftime, Pacquiao made his way to Mayweather’s seat, and they talked briefly. Later that night, they met again in a hotel room to further discuss the bout.

The bout was desultory, at best. Pacquiao injured a shoulder in training camp and kept it from the public. He requested a pain-numbing shot on the night of the bout, but that was denied by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Mayweather boxed cautiously, but wisely, as he always did, and Pacquiao didn’t have the explosion to create difficulty for him.

Floyd Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision on May 2, 2015. (AP Photo)
Floyd Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision on May 2, 2015. (AP Photo)

In the wake of the bout, more than 50 lawsuits were filed against the fighters and the show’s promoters, yet, it appears they’re going to try again.

Last year, on the eve of the rematch for the middleweight title between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas, Mayweather met Pacquiao in Japan and released images of their meeting on social media. That, of course, stole some attention from the Golovkin-Alvarez bout, and stoked speculation that a rematch was imminent.

It likely will happen in May, though it’s far from a guarantee. But Pacquiao first needs to handle business against Broner, who is a significant underdog. Pacquiao is minus-280 at the MGM Grand sportsbook, while Broner is a healthy plus-230.

The Pacquiao of 2008-10 would have had few issues in pummeling Broner, but he hasn’t been that fighter, or even a reasonable facsimile, for years. Pacquiao deserves to be favored, but Broner shouldn’t be overlooked. What’s rich in all of this is that Mayweather’s company, Mayweather Promotions, will promote the bout.

If Pacquiao does win, it makes a May 4 rematch with Mayweather that much more likely.

The fact that there was little furor over their meeting Tuesday at the Clippers-Hornets game at Staples Center in Los Angeles shouldn’t be construed as a lack of interest in the fight.

If they do fight, it will be two once-extraordinary boxers years past their best going at it for a massive payday.

They were so great during their primes that even now, years past their peaks, they’d not only beat the bulk of the welterweights in the world, they’d do it easily.

It’s almost inconceivable at this point in his career to see Mayweather fighting an opponent like IBF champion Errol Spence Jr., WBO champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, WBC champion Shawn Porter or WBA super world welterweight champion Keith Thurman. There’s too much risk and not enough upside for Mayweather in any of those fights.

Pacquiao will gladly fight any of them because he needs the money and because he’s not as concerned about preserving his legacy as Mayweather.

But he signed with Haymon for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to get another crack at Mayweather.

Some deluded Pacquiao fans believe he won their 2015 fight, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. They’ve gone online and slowed film down and alleged fouls and all sorts of untoward behavior by Mayweather in an ultimately lame and futile attempt to prove Pacquiao won. Ask any neutral boxing person who saw the fight who won and it will be 100 percent in Mayweather’s favor.

The question, thus, isn’t whether Pacquiao won the first fight but whether he could cover enough ground to win a rematch. And though it’s possible he could, it’s also unlikely. They’re both deteriorated, but Mayweather seems more preserved and closer to his peak than Pacquiao.

There’s no guarantee they’ll ever see each other in the ring again, and the lure of a rematch will fade dramatically if Broner finally finds a way to win a major fight.

They both love basketball, and Tuesday’s meeting at Staples almost certainly wasn’t the last time they’ll run into each other at an NBA game.

But unless they start trading hands at a game, their days of taking over social media by running into each other at a basketball game have long since passed.

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