A Non-Boxing Fan's Guide to Mayweather-Pacquiao

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

By Eric Raskin

Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao is the sort of fight that stimulates conversation from people who rarely speak of boxing and draws the eyes of those who almost never watch the sport. It is the crossover-iest (yes, it’s a word, no need to look it up) of crossover fights. So for those who aren’t hardcore boxing fans, don’t know much about the combatants, and/or don’t understand what makes this one of the two or three biggest boxing matches of the last 50 years, here is everything you need to know as fight night approaches, especially if you want to impress by dropping some knowledge at your fight night party.

The Essential Details

Date: Saturday, May 2, 2015

Site: MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada

Where Can I Watch? Pay-Per-View

Start Time: Broadcast begins with two undercard bouts at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT.

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

5 Things to Know About Floyd Mayweather

1. He’s undefeated as a professional with a record of 47-0, 26 KOs, with his last loss coming via controversial decision in the semifinal round of the 1996 Olympics.

2. He has been widely considered the number-one "pound-for-pound" boxer in the world for the majority of the past 10 years. Boxers only face opponents in similar weight classes, so the pound-for-pound list is a subjective measure of how good a boxer truly is, regardless of size.

3. His style is that of a defense-first technician, combining a brilliant boxing mind with exceptional hand speed to outbox most opponents, typically over the full 12 rounds (instead of ending things early with a knockout).

4. He has held titles at 130, 135, 140, 147, and 154 pounds, including lineal championships in all of those weight classes except 140 – that means he beat the man who beat the man, as opposed to merely holding one of the many belts distributed by boxing's handful of sanctioning bodies.

5. He has perfected a materialistic “Money” Mayweather persona that may or may not accurately reflect his real personality but has definitely enhanced his box office.

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

5 Things to Know About Manny Pacquiao

1. He boasts a professional record of 57-5-2 with 38 KOs, forged against a higher overall level of competition than any fighter of his generation can boast.

2. He was briefly considered the number-one pound-for-pound boxer in the world, thanks in part to a brief Mayweather retirement from 2008-2009, and is currently ranked number two on most lists.

3. He has updated his fighting style a couple of times under the guidance of trainer Freddie Roach, and the one-time explosive, reckless southpaw puncher is now more of an explosive, careful southpaw boxer-puncher after suffering a stunning knockout loss in his fourth fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.

4. He has held titles at 112, 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147, and 154 pounds, including lineal championships at 112, 126, 130, and 140.

5. He is the most beloved Filipino athlete of all-time and is even an elected congressman in his homeland, but he has also won over global audiences with his ready smile, humble charm, and ability to create thrilling in-ring action.

Photo: Will Hart

Photo: Will Hart

The Titles at Stake

The concept of a championship in boxing has long been diluted by the proliferation of the for-profit sanctioning bodies, and three of those belts are at stake here—two that Mayweather will bring to the ring, one belonging to Pacquiao. But the most important title here is that of lineal welterweight (147-pound limit) champion. It is a title that has been vacant since Mayweather temporarily retired seven years ago, but with the number-one and number-two fighters in the division finally facing each other, the winner will claim supremacy over the weight class. If that winner is Pacquiao, he will become the first boxer ever to hold lineal championships in five weight divisions.

Also at stake is the unofficial title of pound-for-pound king. Whoever wins—unless it’s by highly controversial judges’ decision—will be considered the best in the sport.

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

Photo: Alexis Cuarezma

The Story Behind The Making Of The Fight

This could be a long one, but for primer purposes: It was red hot in late-2009/early-2010, when Pacquiao had stopped Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto in succession and Mayweather had come out of retirement to dominate Juan Manuel Marquez. The fight was nearly signed for May 2010 with a 50/50 purse split, but fell apart at the last minute over a disagreement on drug-testing protocol.

Mayweather and Pacquiao danced around each other for the five years, with most boxing fans slowly losing hope that the mega-fight would ever happen. But with both men having virtually run out of marketable opponents, discussions began again in the fall of 2014, this time with a 60/40 purse split in Mayweather’s favor on the table. When fate found both fighters courtside at the same Miami Heat game in January after weather delayed Pacquiao's plane, they interacted directly in person for the first time. That conversation helped cut through much of the clutter, HBO and Showtime agreed to terms on a joint broadcast, and the fight was finally announced on February 20, 2015.

Photos: Alexis Cuarezma

Photos: Alexis Cuarezma

Why It’s Such a Big Deal

It’s rare that the two best pugilists on the planet and the two biggest stars in boxing line up as the same two people. It’s rarer still that such a circumstance occurs and the fighters happen to compete in the same weight class. And not only are Mayweather and Pacquiao boxing’s best and boxing’s most bankable, but they also reside on opposite ends of the image/personality spectrum. Much like the weather event that helped make the fight happen, it's a perfect storm.