It’s an unmistakable phenomenon that you only really see if you pay close attention. Even though boxing pundits, critics and aficionados are constantly berating Floyd Mayweather Jr. for his perceived ducking of Manny Pacquiao and his classless behavior, they secretly kind of love him.
Call it the Darth Vader Effect. We all supposedly detested Vader -- but the Star Wars movies were so much better when he was around.
Same thing with today's boxing scene. Boxing people sulk when Mayweather’s not running his mouth, guzzling champagne at a Vegas club opening, insulting 80-year-old announcers, and they hope for his return so that they can once again put him at the helm of the sport – in his rightful place as boxing’s main piñata.
Look no further for a clear cut example of this than Kevin Iole’s rankings of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world shortly after Mayweather’s controversial victory over Victor Ortiz. Somehow, with only one fight to his name and after a nearly a year and a half away from the sport, the undefeated champion rose to No. 2 in the rankings and pulled in 17 of 42 first place votes. Above Sergio Martinez. Above Amir Khan. Above Nonito Donaire.
After one fight.
A fight, mind you, that lasted all of four rounds and ended with what in many circles was deemed a “legal sucker punch.”
Pacquiao, meanwhile, has consistently been fighting all comers with no bias and zero resistance and, yet, it’s as if the boxing community is thirsting to replace him with Mayweather even though it never stops doting over the former. Like Luke Skywalker, Manny is a force for good, he cares about his homeland, and he’s the nicest guy in the sport. Everyone loves Manny.
Well, nobody actually seems to want Manny to stay atop the boxing ranks.
There are a number of possible reasons for this. For one thing, maybe despite their protests to the contrary, folks are tired of Pacquiao’s reign at the top. Keep in mind, this is a guy who thoroughly been dominating opponents since 2008 in a manner that really hasn’t been seen in about a decade. Prior to 2008, he was still handily beating down the opposition, though, of course, not in the same historical fashion. After a while folks get tired of the same guy running the show – no matter how nice he is.
Or, perhaps, people don’t like Pacquiao as much as they say. For all of the lovable qualities that he exhibits between the singing and the philanthropy and so on and so forth, he’s also a very controversial figure in the ring. His career, as Mayweather never ceases to remind us, has constantly evolved in a somewhat unique fashion. That, in some circles at least, causes a bit of doubt regarding how legitimate his rise to the top was. Folks can’t help but wonder why it took so many years for Pacquiao to become the Pacquiao we know today.
Heck, maybe it’s something else entirely. Maybe Pacquiao’s rabid supporters turn the general public off. Perhaps Mayweather’s bad boy persona, as repulsive as it is, also fascinates the fans. Maybe deep down, it is an American vs. Non-American issue.
Regardless, as the boxing world desperately seeks some alternative form of entertainment while Pacquiao and Mayweather run in circles around one another, this pervasive love-hate relationship that pundits and critics have with the latter fighter is definitely something to keep an eye on.