The Fight of The Century. The fight they were talking about for 5 years, and complained about it for hours afterwards, including yours truly.
I’m here to share a reflection that maybe it actually was a classic, but in ways that weren’t obvious, and in layers maybe we’ll never know. Or we’ll continue to learn in the coming days as everyone collectively learns how human these fighters are compared to the demigods that we were building them up as in the last couple months. Not to say that Floyd and Manny are normal humans. They represent the absolute pinnacle of human athleticism combined with one of the oldest of martial arts. They both carry the pride and spirit of champions past, but just a way we’re not used to yet.
The narratives coming into the fight were unusually flipped, where Mayweather was the one subdued in public, actually not claiming yet to win but touting supreme and cautious confidence. Critics of Floyd were already calling him scared, and even as the fight progressed, his own father claimed how he was fighting scared. Manny on the other hand flew early from the islands to Los Angeles eager to start camp before the fight was even announced. If being Filipino is a source, that just fueled the flame for fans anticipating the fight being made. Freddie Roach immediately began a campaign, marketing his 5-year gameplan and commenting on how pleased camp was progressing, even as rumors now swirled on how the camp hid details like injuries in plain sight.
Then the fight actually happened, and both fighters demonstrated why they were number 1 and 2 in the world. Except 1 was several stories upwards from 2, and 2 was flights up from 3 to N. And as the fight progressed and I was in fact only now realizing that we were watching the Floyd Mayweather Jr. show, and the champion’s adjustments slowly pulled away from the challenger.
The fight ended and Floyd immediately stood on the ropes and told the crowd “I won.” He crossed his arms and let the rain of boos wash over him. Manny took a while, but raised his arms, however he couldn’t feign, his head wasn’t raised. Floyd’s smiled shone through, as if he hasn’t smiled in years, and was gracious to his opponent for what seemed like the first time ever amongst the 47 previous opponents. “Thank you for marketing for me, those Foot Locker commercials, for bringing your fans, and giving me your best.” He seemed to say. Manny’s body might not have been 100% able, but his pride drove his legs to the steps of the canvas. Now, Manny seemed more broken than ever. Floyd thanked God, while Manny cursed his under an ever-amicable smile.
In his storied past, Pacquiao’s raw talents brought him out of the streets and into the land of lucrative prizefights. If God had ushered Manny to discover his gifts, it was Man that led him astray. His so-called yes-men had driven every decision in his life since his sensational strings of fights and displays of courage. He was yet refined, and reminded people about boxing’s savage past, and brought hope to simple men in a simple country. Yet that simpleness was exploited, all the way to the last hour where in pride and simple loyalty he could not even predict his own future. Instead his “team” and Bob Arum will determine his future.
On the other hand, Floyd celebrated as soon as he heard the clap of the 10 second mark. As his internal clocked wound to 48-0, his resume grew to one more champion defeated, and he relished the words he would impart to his doubters. But something tells me this win was different, how happy he was. Floyd was arguably already transforming into the affable personality hidden underneath the riches, his gifts, his vision. The prime example of the self made man making unheard business moves on a shark-infested environment, he seemed to finally allow himself to celebrate his accomplishments and shed his persona. He only has one fight left, what left does he have to hide?
As for Manny, I hope he can ask his own heart of his desires. A man of responsibility, he has carried a burden too big, in the name of God, to ever start complaining about what own needs are… but he should, and I hope he does. He carries an old soul derived from the great champions of the past, who at times carried their burden/debt/sins/guilt/pride to their death. Floyd is fiercely fighting that archetype, believing that champions who have served the sport deserve the best of this life. That new pride is a needed evolution for the souls in this sport, and will define its future. Cheers, everyone.