Sunday, 3 May 2015

Floyd Mayweather is The Best in The Business. And That Makes Me Very Sad

By Shane Thomas

So, the firefighter won. We shouldn't be surprised. He always wins. Floyd Mayweather is boxing's surgeon general, and dominated his bout with Manny Pacquiao to bring the questions to an end. There can be no doubting that he's the most accomplished boxer of his era.
The best ever? Not in my opinion, but his dismantling of the Filipino last night means that it's a boast that now has merit. If one were inclined to make a case that Mayweather is the finest to ever lace up a pair of gloves, the case can be made with a straight face.

There were incremental issues that could have helped Pacquiao. He reportedly competed with an injured right shoulder, and the officiating by the referee, Kenny Bayliss was very permissive - save for the odd longanimous warning - allowing Mayweather to hold, grapple, and push down on Pacquiao's head.

But it would be the height of myopia to say these aspects were decisive. Many pundits expected Pacquiao to make a typically breakneck start to the fight, that he would swarm over Mayweather with his rapid handspeed and nimble footwork. But what makes "the Money Man" so good in the ring is that he can figure out your plans before you can put them into action.

Pacquiao's style is like a Jenga tower. His mobility gets him within striking range. Then it's punch building upon punch, building upon punch, building upon punch, spreading like a forest fire. Before you know what's hit you, you've been hit. A lot.

Mayweather clearly had no intention of allowing Pacquiao to pressure him early. From the opening bell, he grabbed the centre of the ring, and used his longer reach to keep "Pac-Man" at bay with his left jab. Any time Pacquiao tried to inch closer, he was met with the fire blanket of a stiff Mayweather right hand.

The right hands left a greater mark on Pacquiao's psyche than on his face. Knowing that his strategy was only serving to see him eat right hands, it caused him to hesitate and second guess ways to attack Mayweather. Save for an excellent 4th round, and a strong 6th, it was tough to award any others to the Filipino.

Mayweather was always in control of the narrative, He was at his most elusive, drawing Pacquiao in, making the Filipino believe that he'd finally caught him before shifting laterally into space, and out of range.

Some decry it as boring, but it serves to miss the point of boxing. It was yet another Mayweather boxing clinic. An absolute demonstration of how to hit, and not get hit. He's made a career of taking the most lauded fighters of his generation, and making them look distinctly average.

Now, there are few things that I get more pleasure from than great displays of sport. Yet, as the fight drifted towards its inevitable conclusion, the overwhelming feeling I had was deflation.

You see - as many smarter people have already said - part of the appeal of sport is that it exists as an ersatz version of our own world. Inequity and kyriarchy are woven into our everyday existence. It's not that sport is an escape from the real world. It's that sport is meant to be a better world - albeit one that's a simulacrum. A place where talent and hardwork is fairly rewarded. The true meritocracy that we should all aspire to.

So when Floyd Mayweather stands alone as boxing's king, when people can potentially place him above Muhammad Ali, it ruins everything. There's no justice in a serial abuser of women being anywhere near the sport's best names. And there's no justice that his in-ring brilliance can airlift him away from being anything more than a social pariah, which is how anyone with his past should be regarded.

One of the failings of my pre-fight preview was to overlook Pacquiao's own oppressive behaviour and beliefs. He wasn't going into the fight as the avenging hero. But he remained our best chance of putting the much deserved wrinkle in Mayweather's legacy.

Mayweather may have made him look average, but Pacquiao is no average fighter. He will go down as one of the finest of his time, and was the only boxer left with a legitimate chance of proving that sport can be an oasis of decency in a thoroughly indecent world.

Last night proved that sport really is no different. It remains capable of wonderful stories, and will always be a font of beatific joy to its practitioners and fans. But anyone who indulges in sport has to deal with the rank unfairness of it, just like the rest of life.

Manny Pacquiao was positioned as our Obi-Wan Kenobi. But sport isn't like A New Hope. Most of the time, it's more like The Empire Strikes Back.

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