Ray Chiongbian last week was the latest opponent to find himself on the end of a beating by Manny Pacquiao. Receiving in excess of 100,000 votes (nearly double that of his political rival); Pacquiao achieved a landslide victory resulting in his appointment as Congressman of his wife's province of Sarangani.
There is little doubt that Pacquiao won the popularity contest resoundingly back in his native Philippines, but back in the States, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is proving to be significantly tougher opposition than Chiongbian and is completely outfoxing Pacquiao in the PR department.
When initial talks commenced regarding the prospect of these two superstars stepping into the ring, there was no question as to who occupied the role of hero and villain in the piece. Fast forward to the present and the scenario has changed dramatically. Dare I say it; Mayweather may even be the hero and Pacquiao the villain?
February 2010 may be the pivotal point in Mayweather's career. Following the collapse in discussions between Camp Pacquiao and Mayweather, the next step for both proved crucial. The announcement that Mayweather had agreed to fight 'Sugar' Shane Mosley on May 1st raised many eyebrows. A man much maligned for taking risk aversive options both in and out of the ring had surprised everyone by agreeing to fight who many deemed to be his biggest threat.
Mayweather's detractors stopped moaning about the Juan Manuel Marquez farce. It even brought a halt to the Baldomir jokes and ensured suggestions that he was ducking Mosley could finally be put to rest. Mayweather himself stated "This one is for the fans, I have said since I came back to the sport that I only wanted to fight the best." And no-one could deny that fighting Mosley represented that exact sentiment.
Mosley's stature as a threat to Mayweather had been built by his knockout victory over Antonio Margarito and the refusal by the Pacquiao camp to entertain a bout with him following his victory. Freddy Roach's posturing over Mosley's weight with the 'We won't fight him at 144, 142 and eventually 140' scenario, along with Roach's infamous interview where he tactlessly informed the boxing public that "Shane came to the gym twice to ask me to let him fight Manny. I told him no both times for the same two reasons: First there isn't enough money there, and second, you're too good a fighter" has been detrimental to Pacquiao's reputation.
Mayweather's prioritising of money and alleged safety first attitude are what had ensured he wasn't a fan favourite, but essentially with the signing of the Mosley fight the roles had been reversed. The fact that the fight itself achieved 1.4million PPV buys and Mayweather pocketed $40million makes Roach's comments even more prone to criticism. Mayweather realises he can combine legacy and money, bringing back old and creating new fans. If taking the fight with Mosley didn't turn his detractors the manner in which he fought certainly did.
After being rocked in the 2nd round, Mayweather fought brilliantly winning the next 10 rounds in convincing fashion, and that whilst being on the front foot. The fact that he came to fight and his handling of adversity is what won him many fans that evening. Being hurt in the 2nd round was hugely beneficial to his standing as it showed Mosley was dangerous and that Mayweather was willing to face danger head on. Post fight Mayweather expressed his desire to have pleased the fans and he had succeeded. Marquez and Baldomir are well and truly forgotten and suddenly the public remember his fights with Corrales and Castillo.
Pacquiao meanwhile finds himself in the traditional Mayweather position where he is viewed as taking easy fights. Arguments about De La Hoya being weight drained, Cotto and his catchweight, Clottey being a punchbag, and Pacquiao's alleged ducking of Mosley are more frequent in light of Mayweather's conquering display. Mayweather talks of Sergio Martinez as his next opponent whilst Bob Arum shamefully suggests Antonio Margarito. Mayweather suggests stepping up to fight a World Champion two divisions higher than him whilst Pacquiao fights a disgraced boxer who most would prefer never boxed again.
If Pacquiao's reputation wasn't dwindling enough, this fiasco regarding WADA drug testing has damaged it even further. This is probably Mayweather's most effective move in ensuring he is the favoured fighter of the two. I don't for a second believe he is concerned with cleaning up the sport, nor does he really care if Pacquiao is on drugs. Cut off dates aren't negotiable if he is serious about WADA's principles. 24, 18 or 14 days doesn't really make a difference to Mayweather but it clearly does to Pacquiao.
Mayweather has utilised an issue he doesn't care about as a bargaining chip in being able to set other demands. He has also cast doubt on Pacquiao's morality and achievements along with giving the impression that by being negotiable over these irrelevant numbers, he is doing everything in his power to make the fight happen.
The PR victory certainly belongs to Mayweather who has not only won over fans with the legitimacy of WADA demands, but has planted seeds of doubt in the minds of many a boxing fan as to whether Pacquiao is on the juice. Pacquiao himself has exacerbated the situation with a litany of ludicrous excuses regarding his disapproval of random blood testing. His opposition has asked the questions and he has failed to provide satisfactory answers. Not only has the Filipino been presented as someone who ducks fights and cherry picks, but he has also been presented to be a cheat and a fraud. And most importantly fans are starting to believe it. Chiongbian could not have produced such an effective smear campaign.
This time last year Pacquiao had just blown out Ricky Hatton spectacularly in two rounds. He was everyone's favourite fighter. He was viewed as exciting, humble, a warrior who was a seven division World Champion that had fought all comers. No-one had anything but praise for the 'Fighter of the Decade'. Mayweather meanwhile was being criticised for further cherry picking due to agreeing to fight the significantly smaller Juan Manuel Marquez. One year later the roles are reversed. Mayweather has never been so popular and Pacquiao so unpopular.
Pacquiao might have been able to win the PR battle with Chiongbian, but in Mayweather's case Pacquiao is way behind in the polls right now. What a difference a year makes.