IT’S the rematch you didn’t ask for, the rematch you didn’t particularly want, but it’s the rematch you’re probably going to get. Just when the attention of the boxing world was about to turn to Las Vegas and Canelo Alvarez’s second fight with Gennady Golovkin, Floyd Mayweather all the way from Tokyo broadcast his latest missive across social media. He is, apparently, going to re-emerge from retirement yet again to fight none other than Manny Pacquiao.
The timing is unlikely to be coincidental. Mayweather has never seemed one to share the limelight and “Money” turned the conversation towards himself once more.
“I’m coming back to fight Manny Pacquiao this year. Another nine figure pay day on the way,” he declared.
Despite being attention seeking behaviour, this does appear to be a pretty firm declaration of intent, all the more plausible as it came attached to a video of Pacquiao and Mayweather somehow in the same place, at the same time with the cameras rolling. “December,” Mayweather cries, “I think I need to make that comeback.”
Pacquiao, not one of the more renowned trash-talkers in boxing, tweeted, “50-1. No excuses.”
Presumably the ‘no excuses’ refers to his own excuse. Soon after his 2015 bout it emerged that Manny had gone into the Mayweather fight with a damaged shoulder. That revelation though hardly left the general public clamouring for a repeat. Mayweather’s points win over Pacquiao was so conclusive any dispute over who was the finest fighter of their era was settled.
To fuel a rematch there needs to be intrigue, something left unfinished or a question that needs to be answered. We needed to know whether Golovkin could get justice when he fought Canelo a second time (he couldn’t). When they rematched at Wembley Stadium in 2014 we needed to know whether Carl Froch could finish the job against George Groves (he could). When it comes to Mayweather vs Pacquiao, it’s unclear what more we need to see.
This is a far cry from 2015. Then the clamour to see them fight reached a feverish pitch. For so long Mayweather and Pacquiao had reigned supreme as the two best fighters in the world at any weight. That they were in the same division at the same time made it inconceivable that they’d spent about five years not fighting each other. Waiting so long for the fight to actually happen was either a genius marketing ploy, for making the event so massive, or a huge missed opportunity, for letting the perfect match up stew past its prime. Or both.
But the excitement at finally seeing the two facing one another in the moments before the opening bell is an indelible memory. The glorious moment when Pacquiao actually landed a punch in the fourth round not quite so much.
But the sport changes quickly. Three years, it turns out, is a long time in boxing. Their era is over. There are other stars in their prime now. In May 2015, the week after Mayweather fought Pacquiao, Anthony Joshua was knocking out Raphael Zumbano Love in Birmingham. This weekend he will headline his fourth consecutive stadium show in front of 80,000 people. Mayweather used to hold court in Las Vegas on the Mexican holiday weekends, now Canelo Alvarez has taken those dates as his own.
The sport might have moved on. But Floyd Mayweather hasn’t. When he burst out of retirement last year, to inevitably go 50-0 against Conor Mcgregor, a mixed martial arts superstar in his first professional boxing contest, the business case for that fight was hard to ignore. But it was theatre rather than sport. Mcgregor was never going to win, he just had to put on a good show. Mayweather and Pacquiao do remain famous enough to create a spectacle. But appearing for one more encore isn’t going to muster a last great performance. They seem more like faded stars too reluctant to let the final curtain fall and allow others to take the stage.
(Matt Christie will be back next week).
LONG GOODBYE: Mayweather [right] and Pacquiao are 41 and 39 respectively, and threatening another ght