Some say Floyd Mayweather Jnr. is the Chelsea of boxing. He can be sometimes negatively effective, a purist though not always a crowd pleaser, however he constantly delivers record PPV numbers in the US and has topped Forbes Magazine top earning sportsmen list for the last four years – but like Mourinho’s men he relentlessly grinds out results – and as an Arsenal fan it pains me to say that.
Which is why I believe it will be his hand that is hoisted aloft by referee Kenny Bayless when the gold dust settles over tonight’s multi-million dollar date with Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas.
I doubt anyone in sport has a bigger ego than flash Floyd – at times he even makes Muhammad Ali seem modest – but this unabashed self-aggrandisement is the perhaps the essence of his greatness and longevity.
A consummate professional that he is never out of shape, training assiduously every day even when not preparing for a fight. I doubt he strays more than half a stone above his best fighting weight at any time. That six pack is a permanent testament to his dedication and commitment of being the best.
More words have been spilled about this confrontation than any previous episode of unarmed combat in history.
It is certainly overdue, but has it been oversold as the biggest-ever in the annals of boxing. True, even in a business so often blinded by bullshine, the coupling of Money and Manny is an epic collision. Even non-fight fans seem agog.
But is the massive interest really because they believe it is the biggest? Or simply the richest? After all he doesn’t carry that ‘Money’ moniker for nothing.
It has been labelled variously as The Fight of the Century and the Fight of a Lifetime. Well, it may turn out to be the fight of the 21st century but there have been several bigger over the last 100 years. And it is certainly not the fight of my lifetime.
I can’t imagine they are going as wild about this from Africa to Albania as they did when Ali first fought Joe Frazier in 1971, then again in The Thrilla in Manila and of course when he destroyed George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.
Even Bob Arum, the 82-year-old American impresario who is a co-promoter of Saturday’s mega-fight as well as Pacquiao’s father figure, admits the first Ali-Frazier fight was bigger. “Then the world stopped,” he says. “That fight had one great advantage….Muhammad Ali. I don’t think any fight, even from what we call the golden age of Leonard, Hagler, Duran and Hearns, will ever be regarded big as that one.”
Financially this is massive but that’s mainly because of modern marketing and inflation. With today’s global opportunities and technology for TV revenue had they been slugging it out now rather than 40 years ago Ali and Frazier would have pocketed even bigger bucks than the minimum $450 million gross these two ageing welterweights are sharing.
I really don’t feel there is the same anticipation among the public about this being such a titanic fight as there was for, say, Ali-Frazier, Hagler-Hearns or Leonard-Duran, who were at their best. It is more this is a jewel-encrusted occasion. Most of the talk is about the cash rather than the clouting.
That said this is is an intriguing scrap between the best of their generation, though, and one that could turn out to be more a game of chess than a blistering war.
Mayweather is a genius at the art of economical self-preservation, no rope-a-dope for him, conserving his energy to always finish fresh. I’d like to see a bit more devil in his work but that’s the way he is, a purists boxer with his marbles intact.
Pacquiao has the southpaw skills and the aggression to get inside and literally make the fight but he’s got vulnerability too. He’ll be walking into boxing’s master counter-puncher and tactics could be the decider.
Mayweayther doesn’t like to be pressed but to beat him – and no-one has in 47 bouts – you really need to hurt him. While the smaller Filipino may have the pride and passion I doubt he can turn back the clock and find the power to do that. His last five fights have gone the distance.
Most outside the 100 million in the Philippines – including many in the US – want Manny to win because he’s the nice guy. But you know what they say about them…
I see Mayweather winning imperiously by a unanimous decision or even a stoppage and subsequently heading on to equal, or even beat, Rocky Marciano’s 60—year-old record of 49 successive world victories. The ego will have landed. Again.
In terms of his physical fitness – though not personality – Wladimir Klitschko is much like Mayweather, still superbly conditioned in his late thirties. But he’s not the most adventurous of fighters and doesn’t like fighting inside.
He demonstrated both these aspects of his game in his lop-sided win over previously unbeaten American Bryant Jennings in last weekend’s world heavyweight title fight in New York.
His safety first performance hardly set the US alight but it has certainly heartened Britain’s Tyson Fury who is next up against the robotic Ukrainian. He delivered HBO’s biggest audience of 1,742,000 since 2012.
Big as he is, Klitschko won’t be able to lean down on the even taller Fury as he did against Jennings. We know he has a great jab but he carries that left hand tantalisingly low.
Few have capitalised on that but Fury has the boxing brain – and punch – to do so, which is why I give him an excellent chance of causing a tremendous upset. One things for sure he’ll make Klitschko dig deep.
Both the WBO and WBA say purse bids must be submitted for this mandatory defence in 30 days and 60 days respectively, and we are in deep negotiations to stage it over here.
Klitschko says he is happy to come to the UK for the first time in 15 years – he ko’d Monte Barrett, flooring the Ametican him five times on my bill at the London Arena in July 2000 – providing the money is right, of course.
Dr Steelhammer prefers to handpick his opponents and I doubt he’s have voluntarily selected the 13 years younger, 6ft 9in Fury as an easy touch. But this is one he can’t duck. So let’s get it on.