Floyd Mayweather said this past weekend after beating Robert Guerrero, that even if he were to fight Canelo Alvarez next and beat him, "they" would come up with a new opponent for him to face. Mayweather was right, though the statement did raise some questions.
But what about an old opponent he never did face?
Manny Pacquiao, who will face Brandon Rios on November 23 in Macau, still lingers in the thoughts of fans both casual and dedicated. For the casual, it's an itch that was never scratched. For the dedicated, the old "styles make fights" rule comes into play.
Sure, Pacquiao went 0-2 last year, a bogus loss to Timothy Bradley followed by a vicious knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez. Sure, Mayweather would be a much bigger favorite now than he would have been in 2009-11.
And yet, the fight didn't happen. So we don't know, which seems a sticking point for many people out there. They still want to see Mayweather face Pacquiao.
It speaks not only to the great marketability and loyal fan bases of both men, but to the beauty of boxing, in a way. Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KO) does not have the hype machine behind him now the way he did a couple of years ago, and for good reason. We know he's still a terrific fighter and a big draw, though, which means that he's done that with his own work, not simply because we were told he was a star.
Many of you reading this, diehard fans for the most part, will be quick to roll your eyes at the Mayweather-Pacquiao idea. It's been about four years of this question, and you're understandably sick of it.
I am, too, for the record. What has piqued my interest in this topic again is the response I saw online after Mayweather's win over Guerrero on Saturday. Many still called for a fight with Pacquiao, and maybe they're the goofs who don't pay much attention, the Skip Bayless boxing fans/hack analysts of the world, but those people spend the same $60-70 on pay-per-view that you and I do, too. Their opinion counts at least as much, and given that both Mayweather and Pacquiao have long tried to reach out beyond just that hardcore fan base, to find the people who may not care to follow boxing every day, or even once a week, but will part with their cash a couple of times per year to see The Big Fight.
Truthfully, I was stunned by how much Pacquiao talk there was after the fight on Saturday. But when you think about it, is it really that surprising? Pacquiao, 34, is still by far a bigger name than the likes of Robert Guerrero, or potential Mayweather foes like Amir Khan (whose fame is the main reason that fight is possible), Devon Alexander, or Danny Garcia. Canelo Alvarez is probably still beneath Manny in terms of star power, too, though that fight, for most of us, is likely more interesting today.
Is the biggest money fight in the world still Mayweather-Pacquiao?
Maybe. That is, in the world where Pacquiao is actually an option. This, sadly, is that world less now than ever before.
With Showtime having Mayweather under contract for his next five fights, and Pacquiao a Top Rank (and thus HBO) loyalist who has never once given any indication that he's truly considered leaving Bob Arum's stable -- except, I guess, for that classy Golden Boy briefcase full of cash ordeal, For The Fans™ -- the fight remains an impossibility for the time being. Last year, Manny extended his deal with Top Rank through 2014, so the earliest this fight could happen is 2015.
Mayweather will be 38 years old then, Pacquiao 36 until December of that year. So, I suppose that sounds about right. Many of us have felt for years that if the fight were to actually happen, it would come when they were no longer near the top of their game -- and they've already started slipping, without question.
Whether or not it's still a money fight in 2015, since we're playing make-believe and forecasting the future all at once here, would depend on a lot of things. Mayweather would have to stay at the top of the heap. Pacquiao couldn't afford any more defeats, probably. If he were to get knocked out again in any fight, there would be plenty of call for him to retire from the sport, save his health, and go full-bore into his waiting political-celebrity career. And he might actually do that.
These remain the only two guys in the sport who can draw a million pay-per-view buys in the United States. And they are both Hall of Fame-bound legends, the two best of their generation, the modern kings of the sport. My guess is that, yes, this remains the richest fight out there.
It's less of a guess to say this: The fight still cannot be made. So this was about 830 words on what is still a relevant-but-dead issue.