A big, hyped up Ultimate Fighting Championship match-up has surpassed anything professional boxing has to offer to sports fans, except a super bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
I recently went to an establishment that served adult beverages that was showing UFC 134 in Rio. Two fighters named Anderson Silva and Yushin Okami were the main card. Silva defeated Okami by TKO with ease.
The look that the gathered fans had in their eye when Silva bloodied his opponent, mauling him with every sculpted, lethal muscle was one of primordial delight. It was probably the same sort of look that young men once had when they watched Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fight with nothing but their Everlast gloved hands.
When Silva was completing his disfigurement of Okami’s face, the fans, mostly made up of young men in there twenties adorning Tapout t-shirts, screamed in a blood thirsty chorus, “Finish him! Finish him!”
I’ve been a boxing fan my entire life and I’m a late-bloomer to even knowing what the UFC was. I find the bloodbath that a UFC match can become too extreme. I don’t get any pleasure out of watching full body carnage. The target audience for UFC is the same demographic of young males that have grown up on acceptable gore and brutality in PG-13 rated movies.
A Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweater Jr. fight has to happen to propel boxing back into the forefront of entertaining, man-to-man combat.
Pacquiao is a self-effacing politician with lightening quick jabs and Mayweather Jr., an undefeated, boastful fighter who beats his opponents by his rhythmic defensive technique and potent punches, have polar opposite personalities and fighting styles, adding layers of drama to the possible bout.
An agreement for the fight almost happened in March 2010. Reportedly, Pacquiao agreed to fight Mayweather and the promoters of both camps agreed, but disagreements over Olympic style drug tests resulted in the bout to be called off.
Then there was the issue of Mayweather asking Pacquiao to participate in random blood and urine testing up to the fight date. Pacquiao said giving blood too close to the fight day (14 days) would weaken him. Though, having several tattoos, Pacquiao stated he had a fear of needles. The closer the negotiations came to looking successful, the stranger the excuses became.
If Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao could put their differences aside and come together for this event it would be the stuff of boxing legend. The pay-per-view would be through the roof. It’s estimated, according to Golden Boy Promotions, that both fighters would make somewhere north of $50 million each in the split. A ticket for the bout would be the hottest ticket for a sporting event this century, hotter than a ticket for any recent Super Bowl.
Mayweather’s mouth has been still when it comes to all things Pacquiao. Is it because he knows if Pacquiao were to beat him it would chip away at his already inflated ego and tarnish his undefeated record?
It’s a mistake if Mayweather retires never fighting Pacquiao. Forget about all the money he’d leave on the table, but for sheer, unadulterated pride you would think he would want to. When he’s an old, rich ex-boxer in some sweaty sparring gym somewhere telling his war stories, he can say he finished his career with an undefeated record, but I hope someone around him is quick to say, ‘yeah, that’s all good, but you never fought Pacquiao.’
Both fighters need the fight for their legacies, but Mayweather’s legacy depends on it, win or lose.
There is no sports legacy when people think about the UFC yet, I repeat-yet. For a sport that has only been in existence since 1993, there hasn’t been a bout that has penetrated pop culture like so many boxing matches over the last fifties years have, like Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson or Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Sugar Ray Leonard.
Although, that could all change. In August, Dana White, the president of UFC, announced a seven year broadcast deal through FOX Sports subsidiary, ending the UFC’s Spike TV and Versus partnership. The deal included four events on the main FOX network, which started in early November.
Boxing needs Pacquiao vs. Mayweather before boxing becomes an ancient, irrelevant sport to even those who love it for its heightened theatre and brutal, choreographed beauty.