By Mike Coppinger
LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather Jr. definitively answered the question that has consumed boxing for more than five years.
Yes, Mayweather is indeed the greatest fighter of this generation, proving so Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena by masterfully outboxing Manny Pacquiao over 12 rounds to prevail via unanimous decision in the so-called “Fight of the Century.”
Judge Dave Moretti scored it 118-110, while Burt Clements and Glenn Feldman had it 116-112.
The bout between two of the greatest fighters of all time was in play since late 2009 and was originally being discussed for a March 2010 date. Mayweather had just ended a brief retirement with a shutout victory over Pacquiao rival Juan Manuel Marquez that September. Pacquiao responded two months later with one of the biggest victories of his career, a stoppage of Miguel Cotto.
It was a rarity – the recognized pound-for-pound best fighters in the world competing in the same weight class while in their primes. However, the proposed matchup fell apart at the negotiating table after Pacquiao refused to undergo Olympic-style drug testing, scuttling the super fight.
After that, there was always talk of the pair coming together for the big fight but it never came to fruition. Many reasons were given: the split of purses, drug-testing procedures, who would be the A-side, location, date, etc. And, of course, matters became much more complicated when Mayweather fled HBO for rival network Showtime in 2013.
That made the deal all the more complicated to put together, and both Pacquaio’s promoter Top Rank and Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza credited CBS president/CEO Les Moonves as the key to finalizing the fight (CBS is Showtime’s parent company).
The commentary team was shared between HBO and Showtime on the second-ever joint PPV telecast between the networks, as were the ring announcing duties. The Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in 2002 was the first.
The event is expected to shatter every revenue and pay-per-view buy rate record, with upward of $300 million and 3 million buys in play. The event cost a record $99.99 in high definition and ringside tickets were sold for $10,000, although none of those seats were open to the public.
Mayweather, who prides himself on his undefeated record, said in the lead-up he plans to fight in September and call it a career. He has one fight remaining on his six-bout deal with Showtime.