LAS VEGAS - 'Greatest money-making fight in history" does not equate to "greatest fight in history." But you can't blame the promoters and sponsors of Saturday night's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao bout for following their natural instincts to overhype a fight that was overpriced at record levels in the MGM Grand Garden arena and on pay-per-view.
Not that Mayweather and Pacquiao hadn't earned their 1-2 spots atop the pound-for-pound rankings as the best fighters of their generation. Mayweather's unbeaten record, titles in five weight classes and unsurpassed defensive ability make him an obvious Hall of Famer just as Pacquiao's rise to win world titles in a record eight weight divisions qualified him as a Hall of Famer.
The anticipation of their matchup after off-and-on negotiations lasting five years was guaranteed to drive pay-per-view buys well beyond the previous record of 2.48 million for Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya on May 5, 2007. But that's just dollars and cents math driven by improved technology and greater reach to a mass audience.
The crowd's visceral passion to see them in the ring together finally was satisfied, but how satisfying the lopsided unanimous decision awarded to Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) was depends on your taste in boxing styles.
Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) by far was the more crowd-pleasing fighter, prompting roars from a sellout crowd of 16,507 every time he pinned Mayweather on the ropes and went to work.
But the judges liked Mayweather's defensive work enough to give him the fight by a score of 118-110 and two cards of 116-112. Count this boxing writer as not sold on the Mayweather mystique, as my card favoring Pacquiao 117-112 indicated. Where was the offense?
Where the fighters or this bout stand in recent boxing remains in question. A few days before the fight, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson called Mayweather "delusional" for saying he was better than heavyweight great Muhammad Ali, whose status as "The Greatest" has been universally accepted over the past half-century.
Ali never showed such disregard for his forebears as Mayweather. When the great welterweight and middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson died, Ali said he was the real "greatest."
And speaking of "Sugar Rays," the modern version -- Sugar Ray Leonard -- surpassed Mayweather as a world-wide attraction and standard-bearer for the sport. He took on all the top fighters of his time, generating a round-robin series of classic fights involving all-timers Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
As one who covered most of those bouts, Leonard-Hearns I in 1981 at Caesars Palace is etched in my mind as the greatest fight since the "Thrilla in Manila" between Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975. Leonard was the beloved U.S. Olympic gold medalist coming off his comeback win over Duran, and "Hitman" Hearns was the scary-good unbeaten KO artist. Leonard stopped Hearns in the 14th round in the days of 15-round title fights.
In the 1980s and '90s, there was a slew of fights every bit as big to boxing fans as Mayweather-Pacquiao, including Hagler-Hearns in 1985, Leonard-Hagler in 1987, the heavyweight trilogy between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield from 1992-95 and finally, Holyfield-Tyson I and II in 1996-97.
Of all those, the first Holyfield-Tyson bout was most similar to Mayweather-Pacquiao in that it was postponed for more than five years from its planned date while Tyson served a three-year prison term for sexual assault and then spent more than a year resurrecting his career and regaining his title belts. Holyfield then seized the title in back-to-back fights that were memorable for Holyfield's courage in stopping the bully Tyson in the 11th round of their first fight and for Tyson's mental collapse in the infamous "Bite Fight" rematch.
Compared to those, the drama of Mayweather-Pacquiao in the ring fell short.