Saturday’s fight between boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao has the potential to become the biggest sporting event of the decade. It also could be the biggest “who cares?” event of the decade.
In all likelihood, it will become both simultaneously, enthralling devotees of the “sweet science” while being ignored by legions of other people who couldn’t care less about it.
Millions of fans the world over will be shelling out about $100 for pay-for-view broadcasts or crowding into sports bars that will be showing the fight on their big-screen TVs. (Be forewarned: Not all the usual proprietors will be showing the fight because of the cost to them. Many will be featuring hockey and basketball playoffs instead. Among those promising to air the fight are the Minneapolis establishments Sneaky Pete’s downtown and Ray J’s Northeast. If you want to make sure the fight is on, call your favorite watering hole beforehand.)
For every person who is counting down the hours until the first punch, there’s someone else who is appalled by the very notion of the bout. There are people drooling over the prospect of a fight that has all the makings of a punishing marathon, but there also people who, in light of the recent focus on the dangers of sports-related concussions, question the very notion of cheering on men who are pounding each other in the head.
The sport’s supporters point out that the training exceeds that of any other athletes, with boxers spending months getting ready for single fight. Fans also are intrigued by the nature of the competition: two people facing off one-on-one with, literally, no place to hide. It’s a sport that is often a test of will as much as skill.
Which camp are you in? If you’re still among the undecided, here are five arguments in favor of each stance.
You should care because …
1. This has all the makings of a battle for the ages. Mayweather and Pacquiao are considered far and away the two best boxers in the world, and neither wants to be ranked second. The juxtaposition of their styles also is intriguing. Mayweather is primarily a defensive fighter, while Pacquiao is extremely aggressive. Both fighters are renowned for their hand speed.
2. The potential prize money is outrageous, even by pro boxing’s outrageous standards. Mayweather could collect upwards of $180 million for his night’s work, some number crunchers estimate. Pacquiao will get a smaller cut of the pot, but he won’t be clipping coupons next week, either. He’s predicted to get as much as $120 million. Tickets to attend the fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas started at $1,500 for seats in the back row of the top deck. And ticket income is a molehill compared with the mountain of money that pay-per-view is expected to bring in — as much as $300 million in North America alone, according to some projections. Toss in sponsorship fees and the foreign rights, and the bout’s total revenue will start to rival the gross national product of a small country.
3. This showdown has been highly anticipated for years. Mayweather was the world champion when he announced his retirement in 2008. While he was sitting on the sidelines, Pacquiao took over as champ. Mayweather came out of retirement in 2009, and boxing fans could hardly control their enthusiasm over the prospect of a faceoff between the two. In fact, Ring magazine listed the failure of promoters to arrange a fight between them as the “event of the year” in 2010.
4. Mayweather has been the world’s highest paid athlete the past three years — and after he cashes his paycheck for this fight, he’s guaranteed to keep that ranking for 2015. He is clearly the king of the hill.
5. Everyone will be talking about the fight Monday at work.
You should not care because …
1. They’re welterweights, which means that they weigh 147 pounds or less. Throughout the history of boxing, the classic fights have involved heavyweights, the giants who stand as larger-than-life modern-day gladiators. While we’re not questioning the two fighters’ toughness, we can’t help but notice that many of us have mothers-in-law bigger than they are.
2. Boxing is passé. Sure, it was huge back in the day when boxers such as Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano (no, he wasn’t the guy in “Rocky”) were headlining bouts. And it was still pretty big when the superstars were Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. (Yes, millennials, Foreman had another career before he became a guru of kitchen gadgets.) But the trendy combative sports these days involve martial arts. You’re much more likely to hear people talking about MMA (mixed martial arts) and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) than the welterweight championship. And, while we’re on the topic, what sort of measurement is welterweight, anyway? There’s already enough confusion over the metric system. Do we really need to add yet another completely fabricated quantification?
3. Ring magazine listed the lack of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight as the event of the year in 2010. A nonevent qualifying as event of the year? There would seem to be a lot of other nonevents of greater nonmagnitude, including the comet that didn’t smash into Denver or the tsunami that didn’t wash away Los Angeles.
4. Mayweather is hardly known outside of boxing circles. Even nonsports fans know about Ali, and names such as Brett Favre, Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek at least ring a bell with people, even if they can’t detail those athletes’ accomplishments. Most members of the general public couldn’t tell Mayweather from Papa Smurf.
5. No one you associate with will be talking about the fight Monday at work.