LAS VEGAS — After five years of negotiations, of stops and starts, of back and forth and more expletive-laced insults than a Tarantino movie, we finally had it: Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the fight of the century, the (latest) fight to save boxing.
What a disappointment.
For 12 rounds, Mayweather did what he always does. He counterpunched, avoided trouble and landed crisp, clean shots. He connected on 148 of his 435 punches, according to CompuBox, including 81 of his 168 power shots. He controlled the tempo and at times made Pacquiao look amateurish. Pacquiao landed just 19 percent of his punches (81 of 429), the 14th straight opponent Mayweather held under 40%. He won a unanimous, and not at all controversial, decision.
And in front of a sellout crowd of 16,507 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and what is expected to be a record-setting pay-per-view audience, he made no new fans in the process.
It’s difficult to describe the evolution of emotion on a night like this. At just after midnight—the main event was purposely delayed to accommodate prospective buyers who were dealing with ordering issues on Time Warner Cable—the two biggest stars of this generation stood in opposite corners. It’s something so few believed would actually happen, creating a palpable buzz in the building. That buzz faded soon after the opening bell, like air slowly leaking from a balloon. A cutting Pacquiao right hand in the fourth round provided a temporary lift—until Mayweather recovered and resumed picking Pacquiao apart.
“He had some moments in the fight,” said Mayweather. “But I kept him on the outside. I was a smart fighter.”
No one refutes that. Mayweather is a surgeon. He’s not exciting and he’s not even in the conversation for the best of all time, not with a Swiss cheese-holed resume that is missing far too many important pieces. But he is a master tactician who evolves in the ring; he identifies opponents' best weapon, like Pacquiao’s loaded left hand, and neutralizes it. Beyond that fourth-round punch, Pacquiao didn’t land anything of substance.
Drama? Suspense? Not here. The only intrigue came earlier on Saturday, when CNN’s Rachel Nichols and ESPN’s Michelle Beadle—two media members who have been outspoken critics of Mayweather’s history of domestic violence—tweeted that they had been denied credentials by Team Mayweather.
Mayweather’s camp was quick to deny it, but Beadle said there were emails confirming her suspicions and Nichols said a public relations person told her this week that she would not be credentialed. Nichols is a longtime newspaper reporter who is now the face of sports at CNN; Mayweather pushes the theory that domestic violence doesn’t exist without photographic evidence of it. You choose who to believe.
You can’t be critical of Mayweather’s performance because, hey, what do you expect? He’s the most well conditioned athlete in sports, a fighter who, at 38, probably could have 2-3 more years left at the top if he wants because of how hard he works. “You have to appreciate the genius of Floyd,” said Ross Greenburg, former president of HBO Sports. And you do. But you appreciate the skills of Willie Pep and Pernell Whitaker, too; doesn’t mean you want to watch them.
Mayweather will wake up on Sunday $100 million richer, and the money won’t stop rolling in from there. HBO vice president Mark Taffet says he has never seen this kind of buy rate, making the question not ifMayweather-Pacquiao will eclipse three million pay per view buys, but by how many.
He will check an open box on his resume, padding an impressive legacy. Yes, everyone would have preferred to see Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2010. A younger, less shopworn Pacquiao might have had more success penetrating Mayweather’s defense and Mayweather, says Greenburg, “might not have been so brave.” Late, though, is still better than never.
Mayweather will be remembered for winning this fight, even though this fight will not be remembered. There will be no Mayweather-Pacquiao II, no further collaboration between HBO and Showtime, two competing networks that make the interactions between the Montagues and the Capulets look civil by comparison. Mayweather and Pacquiao will go their separate ways, and they should: As much as everyone wanted to see it happen, no one wants to see that again.
GALLERY: SI's BEST PHOTOS OF MAYWEATHER-PACQUIAO
Mayweather vs Pacquiao: SI's Best Photos
Floyd Mayweather won a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao to run his record to 48-0 on May 2. Here are SI's best pictures from the bout.
Two of the judges scored the fight 116-112 for Mayweather, while the other judge scored it 118-110.
Mayweather was successful in throwing his his jab to keep Pacquiao at bay.
Pacquiao threw far fewer punches than he normally does in a fight, with Mayweather actually throwing more. (Text credit: AP)
Pacquiao chased Mayweather around the ring most of the night, but was never able to land a sustained volume of punches. (AP)
After the fight, it was disclosed that Pacquiao injured his right shoulder in training and that Nevada boxing commissioners denied his request to take an anti-inflammatory shot in his dressing room before the fight. (AP)
By winning the welterweight bout, Mayweather cemented his legacy as the best of his generation. (AP)
Pacquiao thought he had won the bout, largely on the basis of a few left hands that seemed to shake Mayweather. (AP)
There were no knockdowns, and neither fighter seemed terribly hurt at any time. (AP)
Mayweather fought confidently in the late rounds, winning the last two rounds on all three scorecards. (AP)
The crowd of 16,507 cheered nearly every time Pacquiao threw a punch. (AP)
Ringside punch stats showed Mayweather landing 148 punches of 435, while Pacquiao landed 81 of 429. (AP)
In the corner, Mayweather's father kept yelling at his son to do more. But Mayweather was content to stick with what was working and not take a risk that could cost him the fight. (AP)
Pacquiao landed probably the biggest punch in the fight in the fourth round — a left hand that sent Mayweather into the ropes — but he wasn't able to consistently land against the elusive champion. (AP)
"He's a very awkward fighter, so I had to take my time and watch him close," Mayweather said. (AP)
Pacquiao had vowed to take the fight to Mayweather and force him into a war. His camp thought Mayweather's 38-year-old legs weren't what they once were. (AP)
"You're tough," Mayweather said to Pacquiao after the bout, hugging him in the ring. (AP)
The fight unfolded before a glittering crowd of celebrities, high rollers and people who had enough money to pay for ringside seats going for $40,000 and up. (AP)
In the final seconds of the fight Mayweather raised his right hand in victory and after the bell rang stood on the ropes, pounding his heart with his gloves. (AP)
"I thought we pulled it out," Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. "I asked my man to throw more combinations between rounds. I thought he fought flat-footed too many times." (AP)
Mayweather says he'll fight one more time before calling it a career.
Pacquiao was escorted into the ring by Jimmy Kimmel.