Mayweather v Pacquiao five years on: Pac-Man hungry for more as he enjoys late renaissance

By Sports Desk May 02, 2020

Good things come to those who wait, right? Well, that is not always the case in boxing, as demonstrated when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao finally met on May 2, 2015.

The bout was dubbed 'Fight Of The Century', a do-not-miss battle between two long-time rivals that had been brewing for years (and years).

Instead, the main event fell a little flat, failing to live up to the hype – hardly surprising, considering for how long it had been talked about – with Mayweather emerging victorious by unanimous decision after 12 rounds in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao left the ring that night at the MGM Grand with a sore shoulder and a bruised ego. The long-awaited opportunity had rather passed him by - at 36, and with a career in politics already lined up, his future as a fighter was unclear.

Yet while Mayweather only fought once more before initially retiring – 'Money' made a comeback to face Conor McGregor for a lucrative meeting that moved his career record to 50-0 – Pac-Man is still going strong, overcoming an unexpected setback to prove his doubters wrong.

 

THE LAST HURRAH...OR NOT

Nearly a year after the Mayweather fight, Pacquiao returned to action to face a familiar foe in what he claimed beforehand would be his boxing swansong.

"I'm so happy to be hanging up the gloves after this fight because of what I have done," he told the media ahead of facing Timothy Bradley for a third time. “I'm sure I will be sad after that fight. That's life.”

Pac-Man had his eyes on becoming a senator in the Philippines, but did not look beyond Bradley, who had won their first meeting via a controversial split-decision verdict, back in 2012.

Pacquiao had prevailed in a 2014 rematch and also came out on top in the final episode of their trilogy, dropping his opponent twice on his way to a points triumph.  

That was meant to be that, except before the end of 2016 he was back between the ropes again. Jessie Vargas was no match as Mayweather watched his former opponent from close quarters at ringside, adding fuel to talk of a rematch.

Victory secured the WBO welterweight title for Pacquiao, who demonstrated that despite being just shy of his 38th birthday, he still had plenty left to give. "He's not done fighting yet," said trainer Freddie Roach.

 

AN ALMIGHTY UPSET

Jeff Horn was due to be nothing more than a stepping stone. The Australian nearly missed his big opportunity – Pacquiao at one point seemed set to face former gym-mate Amir Khan instead – but had home advantage on his side. It was one of the few things experts felt he had going in his favour.

However, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane witnessed the mother of all upsets in July 2017, in part thanks to some questionable scoring.

Horn did more than just surpass pre-fight expectations just by making it to the final bell, though. He showed a willingness to stand and trade with a legendary name, as well as coming through a ninth-round storm that looked at one stage certain to sweep him away.

He finished strongly too, but it was still a surprise to most when the challenger was declared a unanimous winner on all three cards. The verdict raised serious questions over the judges' scoring, as well as Pacquiao's future in the sport.

The WBO conducted a review into the outcome at the behest of the Philippines government, but a secondary check only vindicated the original outcome.

 

CALL IT A COMEBACK

If there were doubts over what Pacquiao had left in the tank after losing to Horn, he has emphatically quashed them since.

A year after the unexpected setback Down Under, and with Roach replaced by Restituto 'Buboy' Fernandez in his corner, a refreshed and focused fighter stopped the heavy-handed Lucas Matthysse in the seventh round in Kuala Lumpur.

Having claimed before the first bell to be the underdog, Pac-Man dissected an opponent admittedly there for the taking, knocking him down in the third and fifth rounds before a left uppercut finished the job. "I'm still here," he said afterwards, as if a first stoppage win in nearly a decade had not made that point.

After Adrien Broner managed to go the distance to lose on points in January 2019, Pacquiao gave a demonstration of his abilities when dealing with Keith Thurman just six months later.

The Filipino dropped Thurman in the first round on his way to a split-decision outcome that showed, despite this being the 71st outing as a professional, he remains at the top table in a packed welterweight division.

Mayweather may have nullified him astutely five years ago, but Pacquiao's late resurgence suggests Father Time cannot quite get the better of him just yet.

Even at 41, there are still a few chapters to be written before closing the book on a storied career.

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