Mayweather and Pacquiao: Boxing’s post-modern era is ending

 

Editor’s note: The fight was watched via pay-per-view.

 

MANILA (The Filipino Connection)—Five years of waiting ended with a crafty technician of a defensive boxer, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., timing his counterpunches and jabs and forcing the planet’s blitzkrieg pugilist, Manny Pacquiao, to unusually pummel less.

Like any big super fight, discontents abound. In Sugar Ray Leonard versus Marvin Hagler (1987), judging could have gone either way and Leonard’s win by split decision win forced the “Marvelous” Hagler to retire in deep acrimony.

May 2, 2015 was the day when two phenomenal boxers, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, brandished boxing's post-modern era in a big-time fight. Mayweather won, but the global thrill that these boxers' phenomenal talents had created is about to end (Photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

May 2, 2015 was the day when two phenomenal boxers, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, brandished boxing’s post-modern era in a big-time fight. Mayweather won, but the global thrill that these boxers’ phenomenal talents had created is about to end (Photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

This Fight of the Century’s displeasure, one might say, may not only be because the suddenly composed-but-still-brash Mayweather —a “bad guy” to some— won, or that the match was more of a “fun run” and counterpunches and timed punches were enough to win fights.

Global fight fans still have a hangover of what boxing’s title fights should be: combatant, brutal, frontal, smash mouth. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. brought to the sport’s richest fight a post-modern style of boxing that’s uniquely effective and within the rules; in the same boat, Manny Pacquiao’s style —speed that barrels volumes of fists from varied angles— is another post-modern boxing form that had marveled the world and that’s attached to boxing’s traditions.

There’s discomfort over the taller Mayweather’s signature styles: circling the angled punches, calculating the counterpunch, shimmering the shoulder roll, and moving around the ring when barrages of punches whirl around. To some observers, the US$200 million fight’s a dud, over-hyped, full of modern-day cowardice —especially coming from a taller fighter.

But if one’s lacing up boxing gloves, there’s appreciation of how calculated punches can win fights. That has been part of boxing’s cardinal rules starting at the amateur level; at the professional level, with backdrops such as Muhammad Ali, Leonard, Hagler, Mike Tyson and others cementing the trait of boxing as a head-on combat sport, the world’s fans and boxers (Pacquiao included) still have those fight images in their heads.

In the case of Pacquiao, whom Mayweather baited to come forward many times in the May 2 fight in Las Vegas, Mayweather’s defensive stance is hard to crack. That defense had clipped Pacquiao’s punching ferocity (even as the Filipino later on said that shoulder injuries hampered his performance). After the fight, connected punches were clearly more for “Money:” 48 percent as to Pacquiao’s 27 percent.

There’s still the Pacquiao of old: relentless, wide-angled punching combinations and power. But what the world wanted to see that Saturday night in Las Vegas was a more engaging Mayweather while not abetting the American’s signature moves.

The world did not see from Mayweather a counterpuncher who’s like a Sugar Ray Leonard, whose 15-punch counterpunching flurry to the head of the indefatigable Marvin Hagler in the 12th round of their April 6, 1987 super fight (while Leonard’s cornered in the ropes) made the “Marvelous” one look like a bouncy leather speed bag.

There in Las Vegas, Mayweather outsmarted everyone worldwide, doubters and haters included.

Defense clipped offense. Elusive footwork and body movements created frustration. Timed counters staved off a momentum that can push the flurry of punches. An “awkward” fighter warded off another “awkward” competitor.

The shoulder roll, Mayweather’s signature move that sees his left shoulder shielding him and setting him for the right straight (or even a left hook), was the perfect counter to the many-angled, blistering volumes of shots from Pacquiao. But can the shoulder roll create some excitement?

In the case of former super middleweight and heavyweight champion James Toney, he eludes using shoulder rolls but remains close with the fighter while landing the counterpunching blasts —and can even barrage a series of punches like Pacquiao (especially when Toney was then a middleweight). With the welterweight Mayweather, there’s the position to land the effective counters to the head and the body, plus the footwork to move out of the opponent’s strike zone that people saw as “hugging” and “running away” —Mayweather’s ways of thwarting the multiple angles of Pacquiao’s punches and his footwork. Mayweather never moved out more quickly in his fights than what he did against Pacquiao.

Unfortunately for the fans awaiting a combative fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, the modern-day shoulder roll of Mayweather rolled on. No matter how “awkward” and irksome it is for the fans, and for the combatant Manny Pacquiao.

Legions of fans from a Southeast Asian nation cried over their hero's loss after years of savoring the joy of every Manny Pacquiao victory. Happiness remained, though, that the underdog Filipino fought gallantly--and that the Philippines was at the center of gravity of a sport's global craze. (Photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

Legions of fans from a Southeast Asian nation cried over their hero’s loss after years of savoring the joy of every Manny Pacquiao victory. Happiness remained, though, that the underdog Filipino fought gallantly–and that the Philippines was at the center of gravity of a sport’s global craze. (Photo by Chris Farina of Top Rank)

Nevertheless, the “Fight of the Century” showed how two “awkward” fighters are today’s post-modern boxers. The two not meeting again for a sequel, say this September, already spells the end of this post-modern boxing era (an era that Mayweather says is his: he’s “the best ever,” or TBE, as Mayweather claims).

This era saw Mayweather make pay-per-view boxing his kingdom, and his brash persona did not dip his fans’ show of support to him. During this era also, Pacquiao’s ascension to world titles in eight divisions out of thin-reed beginnings, and coming from a country —the Philippines— that’s way outside the sport’s radar for boxing’s greats, is the modern world’s sporting wonder.

During this era, and thanks to Mayweather and Pacquiao, boxing got reinvigorated. People expressed the hope of boxing’s resurgence given this colossal bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao. It did resurge. The hype did it.

People’s hang up with the thrill of boxing has the images of Ali, Frazier, Tyson, Lewis and even Evander Holyfield —all heavyweights. Mayweather and Pacquiao, both welterweights, are heavy weights in their own right.

Mayweather and Pacquiao are post-modern phenoms of boxing.

At last, May 2nd happened. Their era ended after the final bell rang that day.

Whether Mayweather got (or did not get) the victory he had wanted Saturday night, his era’s end is near. My last fight’s in September, Mayweather said: “It is time to hang up the gloves.”

Pacquiao, lingering a shoulder injury, has a contract with Top Rank Promotions up to 2016. His era’s culmination is coming.

The excitement that’s in the weight of both their names, and in the post-modern era that both of them had created at the turn of the new millennium, is winding up.

The world now awaits who’s next in line to thrill everyone, hoping that the sport becomes —or continues to be— a headliner beyond the greatest post-modern fighters in American Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Filipino Manny Pacquiao.

 

 

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About JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO