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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Sometimes a champion can lose a little, even while winning by a lot. And a challenger who is clearly defeated can nonetheless score a win of sorts, a moral victory that he can carry with him into his future career. So it was at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night: Wladimir Klitschko successfully defended his heavyweight championship of the world by deserved unanimous decision, but Bryant Jennings – who did not begin boxing until Klitschko’s second and current world title reign was entering its fourth year – deserved plaudits for taking the fight to the Ukrainian champ with a moxie that, ultimately, was not enough to overcome his deficit in experience, strength, and skills.
This was a fight that Klitschko was widely predicted to dominate, and although he clearly won the great majority of rounds, and the outcome was rarely if ever in doubt, Jennings did enough to make the champion look less than comfortable on several occasions; even as Jennings lost the fight, he managed to win over large segments of the announced crowd of 17,506.
Jennings (19-1, 10 KOs) came out of his corner at the opening bell all nervous energy, circling the outside of the ring and showing constant upper body movement that had Klitschko struggling to land his vaunted left jab. In the second, the Philadelphian sought to get close enough to score against his larger foe, but even though Klitschko’s jab was not landing cleanly, its very existence was successful at keeping Jennings at bay; and on those occasions when Jennings was able to slip underneath it, Klitschko wrapped him up before he could do any more damage.
In the third, Jennings’ movement began to diminish and Klitschko’s jab increased its potency; on two occasions in the round, it was followed by a straight right hand, the second of which appeared to catch the American’s attention. Klitschko’s right hand, when utilized to maximum effectiveness, is a mighty weapon, yet it was deployed relatively rarely, leading some to wonder if it was damaged. No, said Klitschko, it was fine; the problem was Jennings.
“He didn’t give me a chance to throw the right as much as I wanted,” he said by way of complimenting his opponent.
As if realizing he was falling behind, Jennings came out for the fourth swinging for the fences, although a wild left hook missed by a mile. As he stepped forward rather than move sideways, he presented Klitschko with greater opportunities of his own, and the champion simultaneously scored against and frustrated his foe by punching and clinching, a fact that Jennings noted afterward.
“Every time I started working, he held,” he complained. To his credit, though, he refused to be intimidated by the champion’s tactics, keeping his hands moving even as Klitschko wrapped him up. “As he was holding I was hitting him to the body. I must have hit him with about 100 body shots. Not much to the head though.”
The contest became an absorbing clash of styles, Klitschko working the left jab and looking to land a right hand behind it, Jennings circling then leaping forward with punches from odd angles. By round seven, feeling increasingly comfortable with his performance levels, Jennings was even showboating, shrugging in response to a trio of Klitschko punches and yapping at him as the referee pulled them out of clinches. Referee Michael Griffin took a point from Klitschko for that clinching in round 10, and had Jennings been able to also win that frame, the two-point swing could have provided strong momentum; but by this stage, Jennings was finally running out of energy and ideas, throwing punches with insufficient frequency and landing them with inadequate accuracy.
The American began the twelfth and final frame with desperate lunging punches, but Klitschko slipped effortlessly out of the way; and then, when he most needed to stage one final desperate assault, Jennings stood with his back to the ropes, unintentionally offering Klitschko an invitation he readily accepted. A series of left-right combinations thudded through Jennings’ guard, and a punctuating right hand rattled him badly. It was not enough, however, to prevent the fight going to the scorecards, where Klistchko (64-3, 53 KOs) prevailed by margins of 116-111 (twice) and 118-109.
“I thought the scores should have been closer,” protested Jennings, although frankly they were probably as close as they could have been. “We’re two confident fighters. I’m a man. He’s a man. When we got in the ring tonight we both came to fight. He rapped me pretty good a couple of times when he penetrated.”
In pushing a dominant world champion hard, even without ever truly seeming likely to win, Jennings emerged with genuine credit. He’ll surely receive other chances. Klitschko, a decisive victor, nonetheless showed hints of vulnerability that might provide potential further foes with at least a smidgen of optimism. But for now he remains firmly top of the heap, and the roar of the MSG crowd was still ringing in his ears as he soaked up the adulation and gave praise to his beaten foe.
“This has been an absolutely great experience,” he said of returning to the Garden. “I loved seeing all the fans. I can’t wait to come back here again.”
Jennings, he said, “would have beaten a lot of heavyweights tonight. Bryant is a great athlete and a top contender and I welcome him to the top of the heavyweight division.”
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
In welterweight action, Brooklyn’s Sadam “World Kid” Ali remained undefeated with a unanimous ten-round decision over Francisco Santana. Santana looked to draw the local fighter into a brawl while Ali, last seen looking impressive knocking out Luis Carlos Abregu in November, focused on using his footwork to put himself in position to land hard single shots. A series of those punches – a short right followed by a left hook – appeared to stun Santana badly in the tenth, although the Californian recovered quickly and made it to the final bell. Several rounds appeared tough to score, and a number of ringside observers felt the fight was a close Ali win or even a draw, but the three judges saw it much wider, giving Ali the win by counts of 97-93 (twice) and 100-90.
“This is a dream come true fighting here at Madison Square Garden,” said Ali afterward. “I loved fighting here. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again. I thought I won the fight. He was a tough fighter; he hit very hard but I was able to withstand his punches. I’d like to fight a Top 10 opponent next.”
HBO Boxing's Jim Lampley sits down with Wladimir Klitschko to talk about his return to the United States after a seven year layoff, his relationship with Emanuel Steward, and more.
Wladimir Klitschko came calling, but Bryant Jennings had to say no. Having seen Klitschko's victims start as sparring partners, Jennings chose to wait for a bigger opportunity.
Brooklyn native Sadam Ali walks through his neighborhood and talks about the excitement leading up to a fight at New York's Madison Square Garden.
A childhood stutter and series of twitches led to bullying from classmates, but Francisco Santana overcame these obstacles thanks to boxing.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Eventually, they all end up defeated, their strength and will either beaten rapidly or bludgeoned steadily out of them. It has been that way with all of Wladimir Klitschko’s challengers over the last 11 years, ever since a shock loss to Lamon Brewster that seemed at the time to portend the effective end of a promising career but in fact kick-started the development of Klitschko 2.0. That new, improved fighter – now with better defense and greater confidence – has been generally acclaimed as the best heavyweight in the world for a number of years now, and at Friday’s weigh-in for Saturday’s HBO World Championship Boxing title defense against Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings, there was evidence that it is not only those who confront him inside the ring who end up as mere shells of their previous selves.
For months, Shannon Briggs (whose come-from-behind stoppage win over Sergei Liakohovich in 2006 was arguably the last great heavyweight title fight) has chased and taunted Klitschko: gatecrashing his press conferences, confronting him over lunch and even using a boat’s wake to knock him off a paddleboard, desperate to goad the Ukrainian into offering him a title shot. But Klitschko remained unmoved and largely impassive in the face of such insults, and on Friday (and indeed at Tuesday’s press conference), Briggs stood meekly on the other side of a rope line, unleashing the occasional “Let’s Go, Champ!” but otherwise seeming to recognize that his efforts had failed, that he had nothing left to offer bar a caricature of his recent act. Indeed, after Klitschko and Jennings had weighed in, Briggs offered, not a challenge, but encouragement. “Face off,” he cried at the two combatants, and they duly obliged, staring unflinchingly into each other’s eyes for what felt like a good minute and was certainly long enough for even the assembled spectators to start to feel uncomfortable.
His willingness to lock the champion’s gaze for as long as possible suggests – as his respectful but confident utterances during the fight’s build-up also suggest – that Jennings has not yet acquiesced to the inferiority complex that Klitschko is so effective at instilling. And indeed, there are many reasons why he should not: he is young, athletic, and undefeated, and possesses good hand speed and a strong punch.
But Jennings began boxing only six years ago, after Klitschko’s second world title reign was already three years old. His nineteen pro fights pale into insignificance when set against Klitschko’s ledger of 66 paid contests and a solid amateur career. And while Jennings may be big and strong, he is – unusually for 6’3”, 227 pound man – at a distinct size disadvantage against the champion. Klitschko, an imposing physical specimen, stands 6’6” tall, and on Friday outweighed Jennings by close to 15 pounds.
Klitschko is bigger, more experienced, and frankly better. This is the heavyweight division, where one punch can change anything; and Klitschko can be beaten, as Brewster was the last one to show. Klitschko is far from dismissive of his challenger, hyping him up as “a real life Rocky Balboa from Philadelphia.”
But Rocky lost his first shot at Apollo Creed, and the likelihood is that, by the time all is said and done on Saturday, Jennings too will be licking his wounds and joining a mass of antecedents forced to acknowledge their fealty to Klitscho’s reign.
Wladimir Klitschko 241. 6 lbs
Bryant Jennings 226.8
Sadam Ali 146.8 lbs
Francisco Santana 146.4