Johnson's World: The Fight of the Century

What can we learn from the so-called “fight of the century”?

July 1, 2015

Do you follow boxing? Even if you don’t, you could hardly escape all of the hype that surrounded the championship bout in Las Vegas last May between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

The fight, rumored and hoped for for many years, was an athletic disappointment when it finally took place.

Very few of us are professional boxers or fight promotors, so what can we learn from the so-called “fight of the century”? There are lessons for us all. In Johnson’s World there are always lessons.

Leo Durocher’s old saw that “nice guys finish last” is not universally true, but it does remind us that being a good guy in and of itself is no guarantee of success.

Manny Pacquiao is the consummate nice guy. A congressman in his native Philippines, he also serves in his nation’s army reserves. A Rotarian who knows the value of giving back to society, he spent his hours after the fight of the century volunteering at a Nevada orphanage.

Floyd Mayweather, by contrast, is the fighter people love to hate, with his penchant for bombastic statements and a history of domestic violence. He revels in his nickname “Money” and flaunts a mouthguard stuffed with hundred-dollar bills.

The fight of the century took place on Mayweather’s home turf, but you would never know it to listen to the crowd cheering Pacquiao and booing Mayweather. Clearly PacMan was the audience favorite.

Or maybe not. Fans cheered Pacquiao but bet their money on Mayweather, and he delivered. As Arthur Miller’s character Willie Loman demonstrated in Death of a Salesman, being popular is not enough. You still have to deliver.

After the fight of the century it was revealed that Pacquiao had a torn rotator cuff. Apparently he had been injured during training.

None of us can be at our peak every day, but still we must play on. There are times when we must just suck it up and move forward as best we can. A world-class bout with an undefeated champion is not one of those times. If you are going to take on giants, make sure you are ready and standing tall.

Don’t get into the ring with a champion if you aren’t at your best. It is hard enough to win when you are on top of your game. Don’t stack the odds against yourself, and certainly don’t do it when you will be fighting the fight of the century.

Speaking of the “fight of the century,” it wasn’t. The whole didn’t equal the sum of the parts. A boxing match between the two greatest fighters in the world: how could it not be the match of the century?

For starters, this match should have taken place in 2009. Both fighters, while great, are now well past their prime. These guys are at the ends of their careers.

In the case of Mayweather, his biggest interest was in protecting his professional record of zero losses. That meant he would inevitably stick with his proven defensive style, of which he is an undisputed master. Good for his win/loss record, but it doesn’t make for a very exciting match.

At first blush, it was the fight of the century. After careful examination of the facts, there was no way it could have been any such thing.

Hype surrounds us. Don’t automatically buy into it, especially if you are being asked to invest.

There is one last very important point. Floyd Mayweather isn’t called “Money” for nothing. He’s the highest paid athlete in the world. But he didn’t get anything for winning the fight.

Both he and Manny Pacquiao earned literally hundreds of millions of dollars, but the split was agreed upon before the first punch was ever thrown. That’s right; there was no financial incentive for either one to win the match.

Know your objectives. Have a great fight, or make a fortune. Try to do both, but keep your top priority uppermost in your mind.

Laugh or cry, it is your choice. But do it all the way to the bank.