LAS VEGAS - Floyd Mayweather's self-styled claim as "the best ever" apparently was shared by the judges who gave him a clearcut unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden, but not by much of the crowd that booed it or by Pacquiao, who questioned it.
The victory improved Mayweather's record to 48-0 (26 KOs), leaving him one short of the 49-0 record achieved by undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano heading to what Mayweather said will be his final fight in September.
Judging by crowd reaction, many fans shared Pacquiao's belief that he was by far the more active fighter. But Dave Moretti gave it to Mayweather 118-110 and Glenn Feldman and Bert Clements each favored Mayweather 116-112. Newsday's card saw a much different fight, 117-112 for Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs).
"I outboxed him," Mayweather said. "He never figured out my left jab and my right hand. My dad [trainer Floyd Sr.] wanted me to do more, but Manny Pacquiao is a competitor and extremely dangerous . . . He's a great champion and a hell of a fighter. I can see why he's been so successful. He definitely had his moments in the fight."
According to CompuBox punch stats, Mayweather landed 148 punches to 81 by Pacquiao, including an advantage of 81-63 in power shots. Even so, Pacquiao often pushed Mayweather into the corner, where he landed punches in flurries that often had the crowd roaring.
"I thought I won the fight," Pacquiao said. "I hit him with solid punches. He didn't do anything . . . I thought I caught him many more times than he caught me.
"I was never hurt. I was very surprised by the scores."
The fight originally was scheduled to take place in 2010, but the delay stoked world-wide anticipation for a fight expected to generate record revenue of more than $300 million and purses approaching $180 million or more for Mayweather and $120 million for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach speculated that Mayweather might deviate from his usual cautious, defensive style to try for a spectacular early knockout. But a long delay due to problems with the pay-per-view systems processing orders pushed back the start to 11:59 p.m. EDT. Maybe it took the edge off the fighters, who probed cautiously in the opening round, with Mayweather landing a couple of quick rights.
In the second, Pacquiao succeeded in exerting more pressure and pushing Mayweather to the ropes to land quick flurries, but it was a struggle to get past Mayweather's longer reach.
Pacquiao adjusted in the third round, stepping right and planting and then coming back with the left inside Mayweather's jab. Often coming in low, he was placed in a headlock by Mayweather, who landed a sold right at the end.
Pacquiao found his rhythm in the fourth and had the crowd roaring as he drove Mayweather back with a straight left and followed with a flurry of power shots as Mayweather covered up. Twice more in the round, Pacquiao landed hard lead rights.
In the fifth, Mayweather was far more cautious, landing an early right and taking one back later. No real advantage in that round.
The sixth was another big Pacquiao round, opening with a three-punch combo before a hard left set up a flurry of seven or eight Pacquiao power punches. Pacquiao ended the round with a hard right counter.
Mayweather opened the seventh with a solid right but then got on his bike, moving away. Pacquiao cut him off expertly, continuing to move right, and landed a couple effective combinations, starting with a straight right.
In the eighth, Mayweather tagged Pacquiao a couple of times, once with a shot to the shoulder that Pacquiao shook off to show he wasn't hurt. But overall, it was a frustrating round for Pacquiao as Mayweather eluded him.
Even when Pacquiao wasn't scoring heavily in the ninth, he succeeding in pinning Mayweather in the corner or against the ropes for brief flurries. Mayweather tried to drop the right-hand bomb a few times and came close, but Pacquiao refused to be suckered into it.
In the 10th, it seemed Pacquiao was in control, not hurting Mayweather but beating him to the punch.
Perhaps sensing some danger he was in, Mayweather came out aggressively with a right lead in the 11th and followed it up with several more hard right hands in the round. One wasn't exactly an uppercut but was rising when it caught Pacquiao on the chin, stunning him. It was Mayweather's best round.
Pacquiao said he thought he was ahead entering the 12th round, but Mayweather was confident, circling and staying away as Pacquiao chased and tried to pop shots as much of the crowd chanted his name.
When it was over, Mayweather was more convinced than ever that the end of his career is near.
"That will be my last fight in September," Mayweather said. "I've been in the sport a long time, 18 years as champion. It's time for me to hang them up."
The most anticipated boxing event in years was delayed because of high pay-per-view demand causing problems for cable and satellite systems.
Jim Lampley, the main telecaster for the showdown, told viewers that "electronic overload" caused cable and satellite operators to ask for a delay.
Scores of angry tweets directed at various providers complained of problems with both ordering and watching. Some users said when they tried to order, the fight wasn't available. Others complained of picture problems or an inability to tune to the pay-per-view channel.
The bout is expected to be the most popular in pay-per-view history, with an estimated 3 million households buying the fight at nearly $100 each.