Despite being more than 5,500 miles and eight time zones removed from the epicenter of the boxing world early Saturday morning in Las Vegas, leave it to retired pound-for-pound king.
In yet another masterful takeover of the narrative on boxing’s biggest day of 2018, Mayweather succeeded in taking attention away from the much-hyped middleweight title rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin — at “the house that Floyd built,”no less — in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 41-year-old Mayweather, who was in attendance at a music festival in Tokyo, posted a video on Instagram of him approaching Manny Pacquiao at the event and announcing what alluded to a December rematch (and a “nine-figure payday” that he deemed “easy work”).
The majority of boxing media members woke up Saturday to a fire drill as they scrambled to make sense of the interaction: Was it planned in advance? Is there a fight contract? What might Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank have to say about this?
Details remain sketchy to all of the above, but it’s clear from the timing of the announcement that it was just another calculated move from Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs) to remind the world of his star power and the obvious longing he has to still be considered the biggest — not to mention, the richest — in all of combat sports despite his recent flirtations with retirement.
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This also wouldn’t be the first time that Mayweather successfully usurped the spotlight from his former rivals in Alvarez and promoter Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy.
Just last summer, as the promotional engine began to hum for the first Alvarez-Golovkin bout that was being billed as the biggest of the calendar year, Mayweather swooped in at the last minute to announce he was returning from retirement. Not only did Mayweather join UFC champion Conor McGregor in creating a spectacle and pay-per-view juggernaut only topped by his own 2015 blockbuster with Pacquiao, he scheduled it three weeks before Alvarez-Golovkin.
One year later, Mayweather calculatedly stole the thunder of Alvarez-Golovkin II by making it all about him. Yet, even more important questions than the ones above might be this: Can Mayweather be trusted? And does this fight actually have a chance at taking place in 2018?
In many ways, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Yes, Mayweather succeeded in fooling some earlier this year by wasting months of the media’s time talking about his intentions, at 41, to make his debut inside the UFC’s Octagon. Yet outside of that, when Mayweather speaks and attempts to use his name to move mountains within the sport, they typically move simply because of the unsurpassed wealth he has commanded.
Let’s not forget how many journalists — including and especially this one — wasted many a breath saying a Mayweather-McGregor fight would never come into existence. Ultimately it did, with both earning hundreds of millions of dollars and an astounding 4.4 million PPV buys. Even if Mayweather-Pacquiao II did half of that, it would still be tied for the fourth-biggest PPV in combat sports history.
Would the rematch be an obvious money grab? Without question. And let’s not forget the possibility of viewer fatigue after so many angry casual fans shelled out $100 to watch their first bout three years ago after a never-ending soap opera build of more than five years, only to see Mayweather disarm Pacquiao in a brilliantly technical victory that proved to be an entertainment flop.
The timing makes a lot of sense for this fight to not only happen, but to still hit it big. Members of Mayweather’s camp told me as recently as May that he was still itching for one more marquee fight and had intentions on returning. Pacquiao, meanwhile, is fresh off a knockout of Lucas Matthysse — to break a nine-year drought without a KO — that fooled some to believe Filipino icon had turned back the clock despite being months away from turning 40.
Although Pacquiao looked good in dispatching 35-year-old Matthysse, he did so in the face of almost nothing in terms of counter fire against a faded opponent. He did, however, pick up a secondary WBA welterweight title for his trouble, which videos of his interaction with Mayweather early Saturday caught Pacquiao mentioning.
“I have the belt,” Pacquiao said, before Mayweather quickly responded with, “I’m going to take it from you like I did before.” Mayweather went on to offer, “We gonna take the belt. We gonna get the payday. And I don’t want no shoulder excuses.”
The reference to the shoulder could prove to be key in terms of how this fight might be sold in a manner that it would entice casual fans who are still angry about their first meeting. Despite not showing signs of it during the fight, Pacquiao blamed his unanimous decision loss after the fact on an injured right shoulder and underwent surgery in the months that followed.
Playing up an angle that Pacquiao is returning healthy in search of revenge could still be enough to entice fans who are lustful for nostalgia and vulnerable to Mayweather’s unique ability to force you to pay money in hopes that he loses to see this aging rematch still be a success on PPV.
The fight would also come at a unique time in the changing landscape of the PPV business amid multiple promoters turning to upstart streaming networks like Top Rank’s deal with ESPN+ to the upstart marriage between Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn and DAZN.
It’s almost absurd to consider that Alvarez-Golovkin II is the first major PPV of 2018 and it came in September. It’s also the first PPV since their first fight 12 months ago. Yet, here comes the aging PPV stars of generation’s past, looking to make one final greed play to command the spotlight.
Laugh and groan all you want — it just might work.
Either way, credit and fair play goes out to Mayweather for commandeering the narrative once again and doing so halfway across the globe on a day that should’ve been about Alvarez and Golovkin. Until the next big star in waiting steps forward and takes his economical crown, Mayweather will remain the biggest star in the sport whether he’s technically active or not.
All hail the king.