Too late

Now that the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight has been set for May 2, it's a good time to link back to my post “The fight we wanted, but not really” as nothing has really changed.

Mayweather-Pacquiao would have been a great fight five years ago, when Pacquiao and Mayweather were both younger and faster. Pacquiao, by virtue of being a southpaw with the endurance to throw an unbelievable volume of punches and the gift to throw fast from unexpected angles, would have been a real challenge to Mayweather's great defense and technical precision. Mayweather would have landed shots Pacquiao for sure since Pacman sacrifices defense for offense (and isn't the defensive whiz that Mayweather is anyhow), but on sheer punch volume, Pacquiao might have landed more total punches, making a fight that went to the judges scorecard a really dicey proposition for Mayweather.

But as is his style, Mayweather is too smart, observant, and cautious, and he knew the magnitude of threat posed by Pacquiao. As I noted in my previous post, Mayweather rarely fights opponents in their prime, when they'd be the greatest threat to him. He gets them early or he gets them late, on either shoulder of their prime, and in this case, it's Pacquiao on the downslope from his peak.

A perfect record is a valuable asset, and you can't argue with the sheer volume of money Mayweather has made over the years. His fight selection has been near impeccable, and who he fights is his call. I don't think it was fear driving his decision-making, either. Someone of his boxing genius would be a deserving favorite in every fight he's ever taken, and that includes Pacquiao then or now.

Fight fans just prefer a narrative of combat sport that casts its best fighters as fearless warriors, ready to take on any and all challengers out of the sheer need to prove indomitable. When we picture a fighter, we don't think of a calculating tactician, selecting each fight based on deep analysis of the opponent and a better than likely chance of winning.

Pacquiao and his camp also bear fault. Both sides conjured reason after reason the fight wouldn't be made: the size of the purse, how it would be split, drug testing policies, etc. At times it wasn't clear who was resorting to which excuse.

It's not just that a fight closer to their primes would have been a better fight, but it might have been the first in a classic two or three fight series. Instead boxing got a bunch of other fights in the intervening years that meant very little to most boxing fans, assuming there are any left besides the inner circle.

That Mayweather finally accepted the fight should tell you all you need to know about where Pacquiao's skill level is versus five years ago, but you can go to the videotape if you need further proof. I fully expect the line to show Mayweather as a healthy favorite, with only perhaps a large and more naive betting public pushing the line closer.

In boxing, it has almost always been true that if there's enough money, a fight will happen. It held true this time as well, only a lot of that money will be nostalgia past its expiration date.

I'll still watch the fight, I've long had a Joyce Carol Oates-like fascination with the sweet science, but I'm not springing for the PPV. I wrote that check so long ago I can't find it anymore.