Mayweather v Pacquiao five years on: Blockbuster fights we had to wait for

By Sports Desk May 02, 2020

When it comes to whetting the appetite for the big event through a combination of chicanery, politicking and delaying tactics, boxing is a sport in a league of its own.

But, while most leading promoters view their abilities to let an anticipated bout "marinate" as something akin to an art, frustration among fans generally sets in long before the fights they want to happen come to fruition.

Floyd Mayweather Jr's unanimous points win over Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas five years ago today is a case in point.

Talk of pound-for-pound king Mayweather taking on Pacquiao first emerged when the Filipino sensation jumped two weight classes to batter a shopworn Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008. The intervening period did Pacquiao and the sport itself few favours.

As the list below shows, it takes a special fight to handle the weight of such expectation.

JOE FRAZIER v MUHAMMAD ALI I (MARCH 8, 1971)

We can't really blame promoters for the wait for this one, as Ali endured an enforced three-and-a-half-year ring absence following a refusal to be drafted for the Vietnam War. In his absence, Frazier became a formidable heavyweight champion in his own right and, four years on from his previous title defence, Ali had the chance to regain his title at an expectant Madison Square Garden.

Was it worth the wait?

Absolutely. It takes a special fight to live up to and surpass the promotional banner of 'The Fight of the Century'. This was special. Ali's quicksilver skills were to the fore early on but Frazier was typically unrelenting and turned the tide on 'The Greatest'. A signature left hook shook Ali to his boots in round 11 and another put him on the seat of his shorts during a dramatic final round. Frazier won a unanimous points verdict and the most riveting rivalry in boxing history was on the road to the gripping and horrifying brutality of its final act in Manila.

MARVIN HAGLER v TOMMY HEARNS (APRIL 15, 1985)

Middleweight king Hagler was slated to face Hearns three years earlier before the latter suffered a hand injury. A delay became a cancellation, something that left simmering animosity within Hagler. That was stoked by a press tour of 21 cities to promote 'The War'. Enough was enough and, when the first bell sounded at Caesars Palace, the two men promptly set about trying to take each other's heads off.

Was it worth the wait?

Yes, yes and thrice yes. The eight minutes of unruly mayhem Hagler and Hearns shared together are frequently cited as the best fight of all time and serve as a barometer against which all other pretentions for boxing entertainment are measured. The first round remains scarcely believable as both men unloaded a torrent of heavy shots. Both were hurt, Hagler was cut badly but the exertions took more out of Hearns, who was unable to beat the count when 'Marvelous' deposited his exhausted frame on the canvas a minute into round three.

LENNOX LEWIS v MIKE TYSON (JUNE 8, 2002)

After sparring as teenagers, Lewis was unlikely to have anticipated both he and Tyson would be approaching 40 by the time they met in a professional ring. But the Briton's first reign as heavyweight champion coincided with Tyson's prison sentence for rape, while he won the title for a second time against an Evander Holyfield with infamously diminished ears following a rematch with 'Iron Mike'. Throw in both men being on either side of the HBO and Showtime pay-per-view divide, Lewis' shock loss to Hasim Rahman and Tyson biting his foe at the initial media event and it's a wonder their Memphis meeting ever came to pass.

Was it worth the wait?

Lewis will certainly think so because it left him emphatically as the last man standing from a great heavyweight era, with nothing left to prove. However, Tyson was a far cry from the 'Baddest Man on the Planet' by this stage and offered little after a moderately encouraging first round. There was even a sense of Lewis propping him up until the round-eight finale to prolong the punishment. In hindsight, Lewis scrambling through adversity against a prime Vitali Klitschko next time out stands as a better achievement, while Tyson was on his way to back-to-back losses against Danny Williams and Kevin McBride and a sorry career end.

BERNARD HOPKINS v ROY JONES JR (APRIL 3, 2010)

Waiting 17 years and the duration of a record-breaking run as middleweight champion for revenge would drive most men insane. Hopkins is not most men. During their initial fight in 1993, Jones befuddled him over 12 rounds. Both would go on to achieve greatness but stay away from one another's orbits for almost two decades.

Was it worth the wait?

Like Lewis, Hopkins took huge satisfaction from this redemptive triumph. But the wily veteran's age-defying exploits at the end of his career were often more enjoyable on paper than they were in the ring. A defensive master to frustrate the best, Hopkins in his 40s was never particularly easy on the eye. And, while the Philadelphia great extended his peak impressively, Jones' best days were far back in the rear-view mirror. Either side of this fractious, foul-stained encounter, he was knocked out by Danny Green and Denis Lebedev.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR v MANNY PACQUIAO (MAY 2, 2015)

As the sport's biggest draw, Mayweather was a master at making sure he fought the best on his terms at a time of his choosing. Did the Pacquiao who scythed through Ricky Hatton and beat up Miguel Cotto in 2009 represent too much of a risk? Nine fights and five years later, 'Pacman' was yet to record another stoppage and had been brutally knocked out by his nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez. The Money Team were ready to do business.

Was it worth the wait?

Mayweather was truly masterful here, perplexing Pacquiao and running out a clear winner. However, a brilliant performance does not necessarily make for a brilliant contest – a near constant during Mayweather's peerless late career. The prospect of Pacquiao throwing fewer punches than his rival would have been unfathomable five years earlier, when this contest would have been far more competitive and rewarding.

GENNADIY GOLOVKIN v SAUL 'CANELO' ALVAREZ I (SEPTEMBER 16, 2017)

Mayweather's astute timing of when to box an opponent was also evident when he schooled a greenhorn Alvarez in 2013. The Mexican pretender to his pound-for-pound crown was paying attention. Middleweight title wins against Cotto and Amir Khan came at catchweights below the 160lb limit before he stepped down a division to dethrone Liam Smith as opposed to facing Golovkin, who was busy standing a succession of full-fledged middleweights on their heads. After an all-Mexican grudge match against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, the time was right.

Was it worth the wait?

Yes - a big drama show! Canelo and GGG served up 12 rounds of high-skilled, pulsating action and soaked up one another's best shots – a particular novelty for any Golovkin opponent. Few doubted the Kazakh superstar had done enough to take the verdict on the cards but a split decision draw meant they were obliged to reconvene in Las Vegas a year later. That time another disputed decision in an even better fight went Alvarez's way and a third encounter is in the works.

Related items

  • Eric Garcia to leave Man City? Another frustrating exit for the Etihad academy Eric Garcia to leave Man City? Another frustrating exit for the Etihad academy

    Manchester City's preparations for their eagerly awaited Champions League showdown against Real Madrid have been thrown into flux by the news teenage centre-back Eric Garcia will not sign a new contract at the club.

    Garcia has established himself as Pep Guardiola's first-choice central defensive partner for Aymeric Laporte since the Premier League resumed.

    However, the 19-year-old has been heavily linked with a return to boyhood club Barcelona and Camp Nou looks increasingly likely to be his next destination following Guardiola's shock disclosure on Thursday.

    Garcia is far from the first bright young thing to look beyond the environs of the Etihad Campus. Here, we look at how those next moves panned out, as Phil Foden's impressive first-team breakthrough increasingly looks like the exception to the rule.

    ERIC GARCIA

    Garcia's defection feels like it will cut Guardiola deep – the City boss having lavished praise upon "a guy who doesn't make mistakes", making for a pointed contrast with the out-of-favour Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones. Plenty of City youngsters have had a strong argument in terms of having no obvious pathway to the first team but, even allowing for the arrival of Nathan Ake and further reinforcements being sought at centre-back, this in not really a case Garcia can make.

    He made seven of his 13 Premier League appearances after lockdown this term. It seems a simple case of Barcelona's allure being too strong to ignore.

    BRAHIM DIAZ

    Brahim is back in Manchester this week with Real Madrid, meaning his reasons for departing have common ground with the Garcia situation. The forward was similarly offered fresh terms at the Etihad Stadium but, despite 15 appearances and two goals across all competitions, the plethora of attacking options at Guardiola's disposal undoubtedly came into his thinking. Madrid paid €17million for Brahim last January and have not shown a great deal more inclination to give him a run at the highest level.

    RABBI MATONDO

    Another attacking player who assessed the star-studded cast ahead of him and decided he would be better off elsewhere. The curious thing about Matondo's €9m move to Schalke in the same month Brahim left is he had not troubled Guardiola's first-team squad, even if he had made the breakthrough with Wales at international level. Eighteen months on, he has 27 Bundesliga appearances and two goals to his name. It is nevertheless difficult to imagine Matondo taking the course of action he did without another man blazing a trail...

    JADON SANCHO

    Sancho was set for a place on City's 2017-18 pre-season tour alongside Foden. But while his fellow England youth international went on to enjoy a sparkling debut against Manchester United in the International Champions Cup, Sancho kicked his heels at home. Contract negotiations and, as a result, relations with City had broken down. In the bigger picture was the club looking to add Alexis Sanchez to their already considerable forward line.

    Sancho sensed his career would be allowed to flourish at Borussia Dortmund and, as he reportedly moves towards a return to England at Manchester United having established himself as one of the most lethal attackers in Europe, it is impossible to argue he was proved anything other than emphatically correct. If he steps out at Old Trafford next season, it will sting on the blue side of Manchester.

    JASON DENAYER

    Denayer's tale is arguably one that came into the thinking of Sancho and others when considering their future prospects at the Etihad Stadium. Having impressed on loan at Celtic in 2014-15, City gave the Belgium defender a five-year contract. They then signed Nicolas Otamendi for £32m and loaned the youngster to Galatasaray, where he returned in 2017-18 after a season with Sunderland. Denayer will also play in the Champions League last-16 this week with Lyon, who he joined in 2018 for €10m having never managed a competitive appearance for City.

    MARCOS 'RONY' LOPES

    In the same month Denayer received wildly mixed messages about his future, Portuguese winger Lopes moved to Monaco for €12m after spending the previous season in Ligue 1 at Lille. He produced a handful of exciting cameos while on the fringes of Manuel Pellegrini's City squad, having become the club's youngest ever goalscorer at 17 years and eight days in a January 2013 FA Cup win over Watford. Even then, Lopes – who recently joined Nice on loan from Sevilla – saw the writing on the wall.

    "I knew it wouldn't change anything because I knew the players at City at the time, I knew the money involved," he told The Athletic earlier this year. "I knew in my head that to play more, I would have to leave."

  • Manchester City v Real Madrid: Hazard back in England to salvage 'worst' season Manchester City v Real Madrid: Hazard back in England to salvage 'worst' season

    He might have a winners' medal in his pocket at the end of his first LaLiga season, but Eden Hazard is in no mood to spare himself.

    Long touted as a potential marquee signing for Real Madrid, the Belgium star made the move to the Santiago Bernabeu for an initial €100million last June.

    However, by the time Zinedine Zidane had masterminded a post-lockdown overhaul of Barcelona to claim the title, the dream had long since turned into something of a nightmare.

    "We have won the title collectively this year, considering it has certainly been the worst season of my career individually," Hazard told France Info after injury woes – most notably a broken foot that required surgery – restricted him to 16 top-flight appearances.

    He scored once in 1,086 LaLiga minutes and has failed to find the net in five Champions League appearances for the 13-time winners so far.

    The peculiarity of this elongated season means a chance to salvage something arrives on Friday in familiar surroundings.

    Madrid are 2-1 in arrears ahead of their last-16 second leg against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. If a remontada is to become reality, they will probably need an individual to step up and produce something truly special – particularly considering talismanic captain Sergio Ramos is suspended.

    It was another Belgian, Kevin De Bruyne, who stole the show in the Spanish capital back in February as he majestically created Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching the winner from the penalty spot.

    Although firm friends throughout their gilded careers, it is hard to imagine the distinction of being Belgium's outstanding footballer lying elsewhere sitting too well with the lavishly gifted Hazard.

    Perhaps an outing in east Manchester can stir a return to his very best.

    In December of the 2016-17 season, City and Chelsea were neck and neck at the top of the Premier League when the Londoners travelled north.

    De Bruyne hit the crossbar from point-blank range with the hosts 1-0 up and then Hazard took over, the master conductor as Antonio Conte's Blues took apart Pep Guardiola's men on the counter-attack. He scored the game-sealing goal in a 3-1 victory as a disintegrating City finished with Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho sent off.

    In the return match at Stamford Bridge, Hazard netted a brace in 2-1 win that put Chelsea on the brink of the Premier League title.

    His efforts that year yielded 16 goals and five assists, sitting handsomely alongside the 14 goals and nine assists from 2014-15 when he first inspired the Stamford Bridge outfit to glory. City came second in that earlier campaign and Hazard walked off with the PFA and FWA end-of-season awards.

    There is no suggestion that, at 29, Hazard will not be able to scale such heights again. Whether he can this week, however, is another matter.

    Zidane seems to be as in the dark as anyone else.

    "I think Eden had little [injury] problems recently because, when he finished playing [against Villarreal], he had problems; he didn't end well," he told reporters after Hazard's final appearance of the LaLiga season in Madrid's penultimate match.

    In the final six games of the campaign, the after-effects of Hazard's injury woes restricted him to 70 minutes on the field. The outing against Villarreal accounted for 62 of those.

    "I hope that, with this break, he recovers completely," Zidane added. "Those that know about this, about looking after players, will try to get Eden well again."

    It is probably wise to look towards 2020-21 with a clean slate. But maybe all it will take is one elegant shuffle of the feet, a deft lay-off or one of those beautifully balanced dribbles for the memories to come flooding back – for both Hazard and those in sky blue trying to stop him – in the country where he forged a path to the top of the game.

  • David Silva's legacy secure as he begins 'Last Dance' for Man City against Real Madrid David Silva's legacy secure as he begins 'Last Dance' for Man City against Real Madrid

    Joleon Lescott remembers the time he tried to imitate one of David Silva's signature moves on the Manchester City training ground with a rueful chuckle.

    Having been on the receiving end as Silva subtly changed direction to engineer space and leave his team-mate behind him, an obvious thought occurred to the former England centre-back.

    It can't be that hard, surely?

    "He had the ball and I've closed him down and he's kind of dipped his shoulder to go to the right and gone back on the left," Lescott explained to Stats Perform News.

    "I've tried to mimic the movement he did and ended up injuring my knee.  

    "I've tried to dip down to the right, tried to move as fast as him but I'm obviously a bigger frame and it was just like, 'Ooh, nah. That didn’t feel good. Let me just go and stand on the sidelines for the rest of the session'."

    If feels like a handy illustration of how Silva makes the most of the things he does with a ball at his feet seem effortlessly simple, when in reality they are anything but.

    THE MISSING PRIZE

    Friday's Champions League last-16 match with Real Madrid could be his last for City. If Pep Guardiola's side are able to capitalise upon their 2-1 first-leg advantage, it will be on to Lisbon and the mini-tournament to conclude the closing stages of this season's competition.

    Over the course of 10 trophy-laden seasons in Manchester, Silva has played an integral role in each of the club's four Premier League successes. The first of those, secured in unforgettable fashion in 2011-12, was the club's first top-division title in 44 years. The previous season, Silva played a part in Yaya Toure's winning goal against Stoke City in the FA Cup final that ended a 35-year trophy drought.

    Such honours, once pipe dreams, are now the norm in east Manchester. Silva opened the scoring in last year's 6-0 final win over Watford for his second FA Cup winners' medal, completing an unprecedented domestic treble in 2018-19. This term, he lifted a fifth EFL Cup.

    Another golden era ran roughly parallel in Spain colours, with Silva a cap centurion as part of arguably the finest international team of all time. A rare header in the final of Euro 2012 against Italy set up a 4-0 win, further evidence of a handy knack on showpiece occasions.

    That victory made it three major tournament triumphs in succession for Spain, following Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Since leaving Valencia for City in the latter year, Silva has won it all apart from the Champions League.

    The coming weeks could still amount to a beautifully scripted ending to the story. A 'Last Dance', perhaps. Just don't expect Silva to be the outspoken star of his own Netflix documentary a couple of decades from now.

    "As difficult as this time is for everyone, he's probably in the back of his head thinking he's happy he's not receiving the attention when he leaves," Lescott said, with City poised to announce farewell plans after Silva's final game.

    "He's so humble and down to earth, it's crazy. It's ridiculous to think that he lives a lifestyle that's so simple considering what he's achieved. He's a credit to everyone who was around him growing up - his parents, his family, who I've been lucky enough to meet on numerous occasions.

    "I can't speak highly enough of him. There's never a time when I've asked him something – a favour or text him or contacted him – and he's not got back to me.

    "Not that many people have been lucky enough to be in his presence outside of football and I can confirm that he speaks English very well!"

    CHANGING THE GAME

    Despite that reluctance to speak publicly too often, Silva has received plenty of warm words over recent weeks. Players and pundits alike have queued up to declare him a great of the Premier League era.

    It is a situation few envisaged 10 years ago, with Lescott initially among the doubters.

    "I remember me and Shaun Wright-Phillips having a discussion about the physical demands of the Premier League and would he be able to cope," he said. "It was due to the fact we were playing 4-4-2 then. We didn't play 4-3-3.

    "David was going to have to play as a winger. If you look back then and think of David coming up against someone like a Micah Richards at right-back, it was going to be difficult physically.

    "But with his football IQ, he was able to create a role in the team that only he was able to adopt. He'd come off the line – full-backs didn't want to be that high up the pitch and wingers didn't want to drop that deep to pick him up.

    "He was able to just be free, but not shirk his defensive responsibilities. In those areas, knowing where to pick up the ball, his intelligence for that is second to none.

    "His football IQ is as good as you'll see. If you think, there are not many times David Silva gets tackled."

    When he arrived, players of Silva's ilk were cast somewhere between a curiosity and a luxury in the English game. Glance through top-flight squads today and most feature someone trying their hand at the art he mastered.

    Elite games in England today are frequently won between the lines and in the half-spaces, as much if not more often than by a ball over the top or via a conventional winger hitting the byline. This shift and expansion in the Premier League's stylistic palate owes much to Silva and feels like his lasting gift, threaded through the division as quietly and subtly as one of his passes.

    "He definitely changed the way people view the Premier League and that role," Lescott added.

    "I spoke to Steven Gerrard about him and he said to play against David was unreal. So that's the ultimate kind of praise.

    "Robert Pires was similar but was more direct than David. In terms of that role, David made it okay for you not to always go on the outside. That's not something he was taught at City, he just understood the game well enough in order to do it.

    "He's definitely, definitely one of the all-time greats for Man City and the Premier League."

    CITY'S GREATEST?

    Having shared an era with Toure, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and the club's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero at City, it is Silva who is most often suggested the successor to Colin Bell – the ex-England midfielder widely viewed as the club's finest ever player for the best part of half a century.

    While those celebrated team-mates have dealt in huge moments, Silva was there for all of them, astutely pulling the strings and knitting the whole tapestry together. Gerrard is far from alone in his admiration. He is the players' player.

    Now 34, Silva's diminished capacity for the physical work he has always relished has given City an insight into a future without him. He is not a guaranteed starter against Madrid, Guardiola having carefully managed his workload in the most demanding games this season.

    De Bruyne has proved a statistical marvel this season, Phil Foden is blossoming and Guardiola can also call upon the lavish gifts of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva in his creative department. And yet, as Silva adopted a bit-part role, a yawning gap to Liverpool has opened up quickly.

    Seeing him depart a European champion would be the perfect fuel to begin the task of bridging it. But even in that best-case scenario, City will soon have confirmation Silva is impossible to imitate – just as Lescott learnt all those years ago.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.