The world's greatest boxer is too great for his own good. He can't find anyone who will fight back.
What happens when you're such a good boxer, you can't find anyone else to fight?
Manny Pacquiao, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, is a man who fires punches at angles that many in the sport have never seen. But he is more than a master pugilist--he is a charismatic Congressman in his native Philippines with designs on the presidency. Pacquiao, who grew up in the streets, likes to say that he fights to give people some relief from their suffering. He wore yellow gloves during his bout on Saturday night to symbolize his unity with his country's poor. "He's not a fighter, he's an entertainer," says Freddie Roach, his trainer. But he was frustrated because he hadn't been able to entertain the crowd who were booing the lack of action in his bout with the American Sugar Shane Mosley. Pacquiao won in a unanimous decision and retained the welterweight championship and the mythical pound-for-pound crown, but he had a difficult time getting over the boobirds. "It's not my fault," said Pacquiao, a typically joyful man, as way of explanation. "Of course I am happy that I won the fight but my first concern is the satisfaction of the crowd. I want to give a good performance. I think he felt my power. But what am I going to do if my opponent doesn't want to fight toe-to-toe?"
Mosley, one of America's greatest fighters, had the unfortunate task of facing Pacquiao. They squared off in front of 16,412 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mosley is 39. He has been a professional fighter for eighteen years and he is a future Hall of Famer, but he seemed to forget how to throw punches. Was he past his prime? Yes. But he has always been considered "a warrior," boxing parlance for someone who will risk bodily harm to win and Pacquiao trained harder than for any previous fight with the expectation that Mosley would attack him with everything in his aresenal. The arsenal was empty. His jab was so timid that it looked like a father caressing his child's cheek. He landed 82 paltry punches to Pacquiao's 182. He blamed his performance to Pacquiao's speed and power, which he couldn't handle. Strangely, he also blamed a foot blister, which didn't seem to hamper his frantic backpedaling from the Filipino.
There was a single moment of excitement In Round 3 when Pacquiao hit Mosley with a sobering left and Sugar crashed to the canvas. The crowd buzzed with jittery excitement, as they always do when it experiences a knockdown. Mosley looked like a kid in a supermarket who couldn't find his mother. But before the Pacman, as his fans call him, could finish him, Pacquiao's left calf muscle became so cramped that between rounds he implored his cornermen to massage it. Leg cramps have been an issue throughout his training runs in the Hollywood Hills and it was feared that it might flare up again. It did and Pacquiao couldn't pivot and pursue Mosley as relentlessly as he wanted to. It was an opening for Mosley but his heart wasn't committed to capitalizing on it.
Blisters, cramps...who knows? But it was certain that millions of dollars were pumped into the event, making it a showcase for the boxing game. ShowTime, which broadcast the bout, had relentlessly promoted the matchup for a couple months through a four-part documentary and by advertising it during the NCAA basketball tournament via its parent company, CBS. The fight was a big deal for boxing, which, anymore, is on par with poker in its popularity as a televised sport. It's a tough economy and ShowTime charged $54.95 for people watching it on television at home. While the pay-per-view buy numbers won't be known for a couple days, they are expected to be over one million, which is considered excellent in the boxing pay-per-view business. Given the CBS involvement and the growing popularity of Pacquiao--who has been featured on 60 Minutes, the Jimmy Kimmel, and many other television programs--the fight was touted as one that would bring the mainstream into boxing and help revive it in the United States. (Yes, this seems to be a theme once a year in the boxing promotions game.) Millions watched but will Pacquiao-Mosley keep them interested in the sport? On Pacquiao's press tour he met with President Obama at the White House. The Commander in Chief said he planned on watching the fight because he is a Pacquiao fan. Of course, no one believed Pacquiao would lose, but boxing experts--from writers to matchmakers--believed it would be an exciting bout. The president probably went night-night before the fight was completed.