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.

The fight we wanted, but not really

Mayweather is undefeated over his career and is the top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, according subjective sources such as Ring Magazine and computer ratings such as those found at boxing database site Pacquiao ranks third on both lists, but it’s a distant third. By BoxRec’s ratings — which are constructed according to a philosophy similar to the Elo ratings we use to rank NFL teams — the difference between No. 1 Mayweather and No. 3 Pacquiao (680 rating points) is the same as the difference between Pacquiao and No. 29 Kubrat Pulev.

For fighters at the level of Mayweather and Pacquiao, a 680-point difference translates to a lopsided matchup. Using the careers of fighters in BoxRec’s current pound-for-pound top 25, for instance, cases in which one boxer had a pre-fight rating advantage between 550 and 800 points saw the favorite win 30 times in 33 tries, good for a 91 percent success rate. (If you want a second opinion, the boxing simulation program Title Bout forecasts a Mayweather win about 70 percent of the time.)

So, if nothing changes between now and the May 2 date Mayweather suggested for his bout with Pacquiao, it’s unlikely the battle will live up to the hype.

Neil Paine on why the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight that looks like it will finally happen is years too late.

No doubt, anyone who knows anything about boxing knows Mayweather is one of the most skilled boxers of all-time, with historically great defense, speed, and tactical acumen. But it's also true that he has rarely stepped into the ring with fighters at the peak of their powers, challengers that threatened him in any real way. Some of that isn't his fault; you can only fight the contenders available to you at any point in time, and at points in his career that list was a sorry lineup. However, Mayweather has also “ducked” some of the best contenders when they were at their primes, only agreeing to fights with them either when they were too green or on the down slope. That's also a form of good defense, though not the ones the fans wanted to see. It reflects in the eye test, too. Mayweather has almost always been a PPV buy that many boxing fans have regretted because his fights are often dull marathons of dominant defense peppered with occasional precision scoring on offense.

Look at the ratings for Mayweather and each of his opponents before and after each of the fights in his career: rarely has he been threatened, and the few occasions he was out-rated going into a fight were anomalous, like 2009 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez when his rating was low from a near two year layoff.

Mayweather likely retires with a perfect record, something that seems to mean as much to him as money, but in the heyday of boxing, we had the acknowledged greatest fighters of their day, like Ali and Frazier, confronting each other repeatedly, and those fights still hold court in boxing fans' memories in a way that no Mayweather fight ever will.

The body shot knockout

But more than anything else, a punch like that puts a terrible picture in your head: You can see this black, spreading stain just under your skin, all of your body's essentials bleeding out and filling spaces where they don't have any business. A punch to the head can make you feel dizzy or woozy or sleepy, but it doesn't hurt, exactly. A punch like that one, like the one Hopkins slipped into De La Hoya, makes you feel as though you're about to die.

Chris Jones in Grantland on the art of the body shot knockout.