Floyd Mayweather doesn’t frustrate me; boxing’s relentless greed does

The Pinoy faithful cheer national hero Senator Manny Pacquiao on. Alas, it just wasn’t to be.

When the decision was announced, the silence from the overwhelmingly Filipino crowd at the Farm House bar in Taipei’s “Combat Zone” said it all. There was some half-hearted, almost apologetic booing and, in a few cases, some wilful delusion. “It’s bullshit,” said a Pinoy named Dave, shaking his head. “He just ran away all the time. Manny won.”

Did he genuinely believe that?

“Yes, definitely. How can you win when you just run?”

It was unsurprising that Dave was gutted. I’d asked his table for predictions as the fighters were being introduced and he’d gone with a first round KO for the Pacman. Was he perhaps being a little unrealistic? “He will be in the emergency ward after the fight,” he cackled.

Later, as I stood at the bar munching on some vinegary Filipino pork rinds, Dave passed on his way to the toilet. “Maybe it was a draw,” he said. “But it’s still bullshit.”

While Dave remained combative, most of his compatriots knew the game was up. Many simply shrugged or sheepishly mumbled when I asked for their thoughts. What they couldn’t bring themselves to say, their dejected demeanour gave away. Their man had been soundly beaten.

An Englishman who I was chatting and who divides his time between Manila and Taipei approached me after the fight and said “Bloody outrageous, eh?” Not in the least, I insisted, explaining why I thought Mayweather had clearly and comprehensively won. He became quite pensive. “Fair play, there, mate. Maybe I was just influenced by the crowd,” he said. “I’ll have to go back and watch it again.”

Light streamed into the dingy bar as he made his exit. “The voice of reason,” he called back. I think that’s the first and last time I’ll hear that.

At the same time a close friend was texting me calling something remarkably similar. Not about me being the voice of reason. This guy has known me since I was eight. No, it seemed that a fair few people thought it was daylight robbery.

Quite what they and the Guardian’s boxing writer Kevin Mitchell were watching, I don’t know.

At the beginning of Round 3, commentator Mauro Ranallo (I think it was him for the international broadcast) announced a punch count of 11/32 (34%) for Floyd Mayweather and 6/44 (13%) for Pacquiao. Were the figures for the latter – incredibly low by his percussive standards – surprising, Ranallo asked his co-commentator WBA “super” super-middleweight champion Andre Ward?

Nope. “That’s what happens when you fight a master counter puncher like Floyd,” said the articulate Ward, who knows a bit about these tactics. “He cuts the punch count in half because he’s not there to be hit. And then, when you do throw, he counters, so you don’t want to throw a hundred punches a round.”

A few friends and people in the comments sections following articles like the Mitchell one above have repeated that people who had Pacquiao even close just simply don’t understand boxing. I kind of feel the same but want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were caught up in the moment and watching with their hearts rather than concentrating and fully engaging their critical faculties.

Here are the stats provided by one of the many people rubbishing Mitchell’s bizarre claim that compubox had got it wrong and that he could somehow tell better from ringside how many punches had landed. I haven’t confirmed them, so am willing to stand corrected should they be inaccurate but I didn’t need a computer to tell me that Pacquiao was outboxed in every area and landed next to nothing:

Mayweather | Pacquiao 435 Total punches thrown 429 148 Total punches landed 81  34 Percentage 19 267 Jabs thrown 193  67 Jabs landed 18  25 Percentage 9 168 Power punches thrown 236  81 Power punches landed 63  48 Percentage 27

I don’t watch boxing any more. The last time I did (I think) was the Mayweather-Alvarez fight in 2013 and, before that, god, maybe Haye-Klitschko. Aside from some old classics on YouTube, if there was anything in between that and Mayweather-De La Hoya in 2007, I cannot remember it.

Unlike a lot of people, I’m not put off by Mayweather’s performances. In fact, I think he is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, though a thoroughly unpleasant man. I like watching him in the way I did, say, Pernell Whitaker. That said, I can understand why people have grown tired of his cautious approach and parsimonious output.

Those querying whether his displays are worth US$200 million are missing the point, though. Are we under any illusions over what we will get with him? As De La Hoya said before the fight – the variable was Pacquiao. Mayweather’s approach was a given. It was up to the Filipino to do something that no one else has managed thus far (a couple of disputed decisions notwithstanding). He failed, as I suspected he would.

Mayweather’s fights are worth whatever people are willing to pay, and people are paying to see if someone might actually be able to do a number on him. Pacquiao couldn’t and looked jaded but I thought it was a half-decent fight, not the snorefest many have described.

My problem with boxing these days is something different. It’s the way the best fighters are kept from each other, some – such as Mayweather –acquiescing in this charade and actively manipulating things to, if not duck opponents, be extremely selective about when they face them.

It’s been said over and over: this fight should have been made years ago. Mayweather didn’t use all the stalling tactics in the book because he was scared or he because really believed Pacquiao was doping (though he may well have believed it, his retraction of the accusations is a story in itself, as Thomas Hauser explains here).

Any time the fights the public wants don’t happen these days, it’s just because of greed. The wrangling between Bob Arum’s Top Rank, with whom Mayweather swore blind he would never work again, and the Mayweather camp may well have been contrived just to string this out for maximum profit.

Mayweather can ramble on about being the GOAT and the other silly acronyms I’ve seen being rolled out recently all he wants, but that zero that he’s so obsessed about is seriously devalued when you’ve stage managed your career the way he has. Just have a quick look at Ray Robinson’s record.

There’s 19 losses on there because he fought anyone and everyone at the drop of a hat, taking on some of the top boys three or four times. He fought his second professional fight a few days after his first and regularly topped 20 fights a year throughout his career.

I’m not saying we should go right back to those obviously dangerous days, but it does not surprise me in the least that fight fans worldwide long ago turned to MMA. I don’t watch UFC but, from what I can see, ducking/keeping fighters apart is not a part of the culture there (at least not yet).

The limited options for anyone in Taiwan wanting to watch this fight through legitimate providers illustrates a rapacity that defies logic. These guys are so blinded by greed that they actually lose out. Let me explain.

There is debate over whether a lack of access to official, paid streams is a factor in the burgeoning use of illegal channels or not. In my case, it’s not. I watched Chelsea claim the league title tonight on a pirate site. I’m not going to pay for this stuff when I can get it free.

In the case of this fight, though, I know that people were prepared to pay to guarantee a decent stream.

I presume Brass Monkey stumped up the extortionate fee required for licensed premises (US$1,500, I heard), though I’m still not sure how getting it via cable worked (I was told by the “voice of reason” guy that you could do it through local provider Chunghwa Telecom but a mate said they were clueless when he phoned to enquire).

I don’t know about Beer and Cheese, which apparently decided to show it at the last minute, but as the Patio Bar in Tianmu stated that their feed would be in Japanese, it seems that they hadn’t paid for it, making their demand of a prepaid reservation for NT$600 (albeit a minimum charge, which I suppose went toward the bill) rather cheeky.

With the cable options pretty much nonexistent for private viewers without a North American service provider, streaming was surely the way to go?

Top Rank were apparently up for it but HBO and Showtime quickly shot that down.They insisted people would have to buy the US$100 pay-per-view cable package, effectively preventing people around the world from giving them money. Great plan. They also took the unprecedented step of preemptively filing copyright infringement suits against sites that were advertising free streams for the fight.

Feeling pretty confident that one of the Filipino bars down in the Zone would have it on, I headed down their last night to confirm. After a couple of false starts, a girl grabbed me off the street (no) and said they’d have it on. Two hundred NT with one beer included, the pot-bellied manager behind her added. I told him I was off the sauce.

“No problem. You have a mineral instead.”

The next day, I actually saved my coupon until after the fight as I had decided I would break my four-month abstinence in the event of a Pacquiao win. Instant coffee with crappy creamer it was, though, and my attempt to wangle those pork rinds into the deal met with a thin-lipped rebuttal.

Things had looked decidedly iffy when we arrived with the build-up for the main event underway. They’d lost the signal and were struggling to retrieve it. “There’d be a civil war if this happened in Manila said “VOR”. He also told me that their feed was legit, which I found hard to believe.

But just as I was thinking about whether I could make it back across town to try streaming it on my laptop, they got it back and all was right with the world. The nerves jangled when it cut out again for a minute at the beginning of the third but after that it was fine.

It was great to watch it with a crowd of Filipinos urging their man on and, while they were obviously gutted, they got right down to their cheesy disco within 20 minutes of the post-fight interviews. These bars do a late morning, lunchtime trade on Sundays, with most of the customers coming in after attending church in the vicinity.

With all the curfew bullshit many of these workers have to put up with, this is about the only time they can let loose. Some of them were well-oiled by the time I left; one table was a couple of crates and two bottles of Scotch to the good as lunch was being served.

Still, this is basically why I can’t be bothered with boxing anymore. I’ll probably continue to poke my head in when the odd fight like this comes around but won’t go out of my way for a bunch of greedy bastards who have been perverting the sport and holding fans to ransom for far too long.

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