It’s easy to be prisoners of the moment when discussing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, and deem their potential mega fight as the most important event in the history of boxing. In reality, though, is it actually that important?
The fighters involved don’t seem to think so.
Manny Pacquiao has come out on numerous occasions over the last few months and promptly expressed his laissez-faire attitude regarding squaring off against Mayweather. He seemed equally content with the prospect of not fighting his undefeated arch rival as he was with fighting him. It kind of seemed like despite all of the hype and the talk and the rampant speculation, Pacquiao viewed a bout against Mayweather as something rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of his career.
Mayweather, for his part, has been similarly unenthusiastic about fighting his Filipino counterpart. Sure the money is alluring, as is no doubt the idea of defeating the fighter deemed the sport’s best. But does Floyd actually need this win to solidify himself as one of the greatest of all time? Ten years down the line, will anyone really remember that some people some place thought he was ducking Pacquiao?
For all of the hate and disagreements regarding Mayweather’s current ranking among the top-tier fighters in the world, it’s undeniable that he’s special. Despite constant sabbaticals from the sport -- as a result of both legal and personal reasons -- Floyd has somehow managed to stay at the top of everyone's pound-for-pound lists. Keep in mind, this is a guy who has squared off against and beaten the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah, Arturo Gatti, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, and so on and so forth. You can debate how good those big names were by the time that Mayweather got around to them, but the big-name wins are there nonetheless.
And it’s also worth noting that you don’t get to 42-0 by accident. People often say that if Mayweather doesn’t fight Pacquiao then his undefeated record doesn’t mean as much. Come on, really? There have been a lot of great fighters who haven’t gone undefeated through their careers, and there have been a lot of unimpressive fighters that have gone undefeated, but neither of those two notions make Floyd’s achievements any less impressive.
His unique emphasis on defense has always served in stark contrast to his showboaty, outgoing personality – but it’s a pleasant change of pace from what most fighters do in this day and age. It's also something that sets him apart from the rest of the pack in historical terms. Sure, it can get boring for the casual fan to watch Floyd systematically take his opponents apart piece by piece, but for hardcore boxing fans, there’s nothing more thrilling.
Mayweather and Pacquiao are the Israel and Palestine of the boxing world. They’re so scrutinized and closely watched, that you can’t help but put everything they do under the magnifying glass. That’s what causes all of the overreactions and rushes to judgment that have been prevalent in discussions regarding them over the last couple of years.
Nevertheless, these are two great fighters. Their legacies are secure no matter what happens. Would we love to see them fight before it’s all said and done? Of course. Do they -- and more specifically, Floyd -- need to do it for the sake of their legacies?