Five years of anticipation and two months of hype failed to live up to its billing.
Boxing fans expected a bout for the ages when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao finally fought Saturday night in Las Vegas. Mayweather and Pacquiao had provided sufficient standout performances that their fight would rival epic ring battles such as Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns.
Instead of another classic similar to the fights featuring the aforementioned Hall of Famers, Mayweather turned his bout against Pacquiao into another dominant, risk-free and tactical match. Mayweather further solidified his status as best fighter of his generation after his convincing unanimous-decision victory over Pacquiao in their welterweight title unification bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“I was the better man tonight — a more calculated fighter,” Mayweather said. “I took my time, had patience.”
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Mayweather (48-0) set up the pace from the opening round, keeping his distance and moving in angles. He was effective with a lead left jab and right to the head. Adeptly slipping Pacquiao’s lead shots, Mayweather also was effective with right counter punches to the head.
“I knew in my heart I knew I was beating him,” Mayweather said. “I was beating him easily. He was applying pressure, but he wasn’t landing any punches. I was constantly keeping the jab in his face.”
The fight’s judges validated Mayweather’s performance and spared him the drama of an outlier scorecard in a similarly convincing bout against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013. Dave Moretti scored the bout for Mayweather 118-110, and Burt Clements and Glenn Feldman both had him winning 116-112.
“I always knew I was the smarter fighter,” Mayweather said. “I knew he was tough, but his footwork, compared to my footwork, was totally different. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. We believe in taking less punishment as possible. Other fighters got baited in engaging toe-to-toe with Manny. And that’s what he wanted.”
“Everything is calculated moves. I’m 10 steps ahead of any fighter. Even when he hit me with a good shot — I said, ‘I’ve been here before. I know what it takes.’”
Although Pacquiao (57-6-2) stalked Mayweather throughout the 12-round distance, the native of the Philippines failed to unload the heavy punch volume that helped him win world titles in eight separate weight classes and earned him the lucrative pay date with Mayweather. According to punch statistics, Pacquiao connected with 81 punches compared with Mayweather’s 148.
After the fight, Pacquiao revealed he sustained an injury to his right shoulder during training three weeks ago. Pacquiao and his trainer, Freddie Roach, said there was brief talk of postponing the bout that is expected to break the all-time pay-per-view record of 2.4 million buys.
“Three weeks before the fight we skipped training because of that reason,” Pacquiao said. “We did an MRI, and there was a tear in my right shoulder. Two weeks before the fight, one week before the fight my shoulder was getting better. At least I could use it.”
Pacquiao enjoyed his best round in the fourth, when his pressure resulted in repeated lefts to Mayweather’s head. But Mayweather prevented Pacquiao from using the productive round into a tide-changing rally.
“What we wanted to do we couldn’t do because of my shoulder,” Pacquiao said. “I don’t want to make alibis or reasons. I’m happy because I went 12 rounds, fought a good fight.”
Mayweather, 38, said he plans to fight again in September and retire with no immediate visions of surpassing heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record.
“I didn’t come into this boxing business to outdo anybody,” Mayweather said. “I just wanted to be me. Everybody wants to come in this game to break a guy’s record. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.
“Rocky Marciano is one hell of a champion. He’s one of the guys that paved the way for me to be where I’m at — Rocky Marciano, Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson. This is my era.”
Thursday (10 p.m., Fox Sports1): Manuel Avila vs. Erik Ruiz, 10, junior featherweights.
Friday (9 p.m., ESPN2): Amir Mansour vs. Joey Dawejko, 10, heavyweights.
Friday (10 p.m., TruTV): Glen Tapia vs. Michael Soro, 10, junior middleweights.
Saturday (9 p.m., HBO): Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. James Kirkland, 12, junior middleweights.