It was labeled the “Fight of the Century” and one many believed would never happen.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Filipino star, Manny Pacquiao, had circled the wagons around each other for years, allowing the media to control the narrative.
As each fighter rose to stardom through their individual paths and reasons, it seemed inevitable, yet highly unlikely, that they would ever face each other in the ring. Many believed Mayweather cherry picked easy, aging targets until he met a game Miguel Cotto and young stud, Canelo Alvarez. However, as boxing languished in what many described as a decline, the powers that be began to start the conversation of this super fight.
Time progressed and then randomly at a Miami Heat basketball game in January 2015, the two happened to be at the same place at the same time and suddenly the inevitable took a huge step towards becoming a reality. From that point, CBS Network President, Leslie Moonves, had a meeting with Freddie Roach who confirmed that Pacquiao was amenable to the fight.
But the biggest hurdle would be Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions, Pacquiao’s promoter and Mayweather’s former promoter.
Mayweather and Arum had a contentious relationship since Floyd parted ways due to what he felt was a lack of understanding on Arum's part of his potential in regards to marketing. "Pretty Boy Floyd" needed to go in the Champ's eyes, and Arum's success in promoting the good guy images of his athletes was hindering Floyd's growth.
Mayweather thrives on controversy and understood a long time ago that his ability to be polarizing would catapult him to superstardom. Arum did not. However, Arum agreed to the bout and with Mayweather under a long-term contract with Showtime Sports, a subsidiary of CBS Networks, the fight was made.
With the world in disbelief and salivating to finally see a fantasy fight played out in reality, the stage was set at Mayweather’s hometown arena, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In a surprising, unprecedented and yet long awaited by the fans, desired move, Showtime and HBO came together to jointly produce and broadcast the event. Tickets for the fight went on sale on April 23 after and sold out in one minute. Only 500 tickets went on sale to the public, priced at $1,500, $2,500, $3,500, $5,000 and $7,500 for the 16,800 capacity MGM Grand.
But the true testament to the power of the event was its record-shattering pay-per-view sales and eventual destruction on the traditional pay-per-view model for events that followed. The fight broke PPV viewership records in the United States, with 4.6 million buys and over $410 million in revenue, surpassing the previous $150 million revenue record set by Floyd Mayweather vs. Saúl Álvarez, the 2.48 million buy record set by 2007's Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr., and a pre-fight estimate of $270 million from 3 million households.
In its aftermath, people unfamiliar with Mayweather’s defense heavy style ridiculed him for "running" instead of micing it up in the middle of the ring with Pacquiao. Others who looked for Pacquiao to finally disrupt the Mayweather hype train were highly disappointed with his performance. In the end, a majority of fans felt the fight was a completed let down, especially after being burdened with high prices for both tickets and viewing.
Mayweather vs. Pacquiao not only obliterated revenue numbers, it also set the stage for Premier Boxing Champions' model of TV time-buys and the resurgence of boxing on free TV. In addition, HBO has forfeited on paying licensing fees for many top-level bouts in the event's wake and many fights are relegated to PPV for distribution with low sales as a result.
With Mayweather on the verge of breaking or matching his historic financial gains in a proposed fight with MMA star, Conor McGregor, we can look back at the fight with Pacquiao as the day Mayweather was not only the best but when boxing pulled the rug out from under itself.