On May 2, 2015, whose boxing history will repeat itself?
Not since “Thrilla in Manila” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975 has a fight shaken up the boxing world as the “Fight of the Century” between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. this May 2, 2015 (May 3 in Manila, Philippines).
“I believe this is what you’ve been waiting for,” Pacquiao said of the fight, set to go down in the history of sports as the grandest, most lucrative fight to date owing to both boxers’ stellar careers.
But the significance of May 2, is not limited to the year 2015, and can be traced back to the glory days of both fighters, before countless negotiations and failed attempts at a match.
Again, fate or coincidence? It depends on the boxer you ask.
May 2, 2009
Exactly six years ago–May 2, 2009–Pacquiao brutally knocked out British boxer Ricky Hatton at the 2:59 mark in the second round of their fight in Las Vegas.
It was a stunning, absolute victory that not only cemented further Pacquiao’s place in boxing history, after being named the 2009 pound-for-pound king one month earlier.
The win proved more fortuitous when coupled with Mayweather’s announcement on the exact same day that he was coming out of a 21-month retirement to fight Mexican boxer and Pacquiao archrival Juan Manuel Marquez.
Before Pacquiao, Mayweather was the undisputed pound-for-pound king and had retired with a record zero losses.
Public, media clamor
On Sept. 19, 2009, Mayweather won against Marquez via unanimous decision. Barely two months later, Pacquiao defeated Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto via technical knockout in the 12th round.
The two victories served only to fan the flames for a dream matchup between Pacquiao and Mayweather. Rumors swirled that the deal was nearing completion amid public–and media–clamor, then at an all-time high.
But negotiations between both camps didn’t materialize after Mayweather demanded a blood test within 30 days before the fight.
Six years later, the clamor–while not as red-hot as it used to be–remains.
Cinco de Mayo
But why set the touted Fight of the Century on May 2?
Mayweather chose the date, and the reason lies in arguably one of the American boxer’s favorite words: money.
For Money, May 2 itself is not as significant as the Mexican holiday closest to it: May 5, or more commonly known as Cinco de Mayo.
His affinity for the holiday dates back to his bout against Oscar de la Hoya on May 5, 2007, where he showed up to the fight in full mariachi attire in mockery of his Mexican foe and his diehard fanbase.
Mayweather went home not only with a victory after a close split decision, but also a $25-million purse from the fight’s whopping $130-million revenue.
Since then, eight of his nine fights have been staged during Mexican holidays. Four of these were held on the weekend of Cinco de Mayo while the other four, on the weekend of Sept. 16, or Mexican Independence Day.
Big-ticket boxing matches scheduled on these holidays are huge cash cows due to the large Mexican and Mexican-American communities in Las Vegas – and Mayweather wants to cash in.
His investment in these holidays is paying off, too. In 2014, Mayweather was named the highest-paid athlete by Forbes magazine, as he is only the second athlete after basketball legend Michael Jordan to take home a $100-million purse after a match.
The irony is not lost on Mexicans, some of whom lament that Mayweather should not hog the Cinco de Mayo spotlight because the latter is not at all Mexican by blood.
But Mayweather is quick to defend his preference for Mexican holidays.
“Last time I checked, any holiday is a day that’s for everyone,” he had said in an interview with FightHype.com. “I embrace my Mexican fans, just like I embrace my African-American fans. Just like I embrace my white fans. I love everybody.”
Said Mexican fans include Marquez, who predicts that Mayweather will win against Pacquiao on May 2.
Pacquiao, too, has his own share of Mexican fans predicting his victory: De la Hoya and Erik Morales, and the Puerto Rican Cotto.
Predictions left and right
In fact, everyone and anyone is making predictions left and right. One permeating question, a multitude of answers: Who will emerge the champion?
Forty years ago, Thrilla in Manila asked the same question and drew the same passionate responses from boxing fans.
A fast-moving Ali won against Frazier the slugger – then considered the underdog and cheered on by the audience at Araneta Coliseum – via technical knockout in the 14th round.
Now, Pacquiao, widely acclaimed as a perpetual punching machine for the speed and high volume of punches he throws, faces Mayweather with his signature shoulder roll defense with lighting fast counters.
History as a predictor can go both ways: either in favor of Pacquiao as the faster boxer of the two, or to the detriment of the Filipino, widely considered the underdog in this matchup.
Whichever way the Fight of the Century goes, only one boxer will own history on May 2, 2015.
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