By MIKE AWOYINFA
AFFICIONADOES of the “sweet science” of boxing will tomorrow night feast on their dream fight. The long-awaited fight. The fight that many thought would not be possible.
As a boxing fan, I have yearned for it, wished for it, prayed for it. And finally, it is here. Tonight in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather, the unbeaten boxing champion will finally walk into the ring to face the man he has consistently avoided: Manny Pacquiao. The pride of Philippines. The bionic fighter, slugger and a brutal puncher with a fist of iron.
This is boxing at its best. It’s the best versus the best. The best defensive boxer against the best attacking boxer. The thinking and adjusting fighter versus the ever-surging fighter always coming at you to rip off your head. The vain, boastful, undefeated champion who knows all the tricks in the book of boxing against the one who has tasted defeated yet is still the man to beat the undefeated. This is a clash of contrasting styles. It is a tough one. And anyone can win.
Great fights have come and gone. Fights I keep rolling back the tapes to watch on Youtube. Fights like Cassius Clay versus Sonny Liston, Mohammed Ali versus Joe Frazier I, Thomas Hearns versus Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Leonard versus Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson versus Evander Holyfield. But none of these fights can match the expectations of Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather. It’s a fight between a man who came from nothing to something versus a man who from day one has been trained not to lose a fight. It is a fight between vanity and humility. It is a fight between the loud and the quiet. It is a fight between a fighter with the bad boy image and a fighter who looks meek, humble and prays before a fight. It is a fight between the orthodox fighter and the southpaw. It is a fight between the defensive attacker and the attacker’s attacker.
Mayweather is the defensive genius who has gone to win world titles in five divisions, not defeated for 20 years and earned half a billion dollars in career earnings.
On his part, Manny Pacquaio is the boy who started as a street urchin, turned into boxing to become a legend of boxing and a Congressman. He too has won in many divisions of boxing. He is a symbol of hope among his countrymen, a man who works to fight poverty and helps the poor by donating part of his money to help alleviate poverty. When it comes to boxing, he is sensational, he is unstoppable, he is indomitable, he is the Pacman.
For the first time, boxing experts are divided as to who will win. Some favour Pacquiao who is coming in as the underdog, while some think Mayweather is simply too smart to fall to Pacquiao’s “reckless” and relentless onslaught. The two boxers have trained and trained. And they are ready to go. For the first time, Mayweather is subdued. He is not boasting or talking trash as before, because of the respect he has for the man he is facing. A man he has avoided so many times. A man he has given all kinds of conditions from regular Olympic-style drug tests to taking the lion’s share of the money. Everything he asked for, Pacquiao has conceded. All in the interest of making this fight happen.
Now, the die is cast. No place to run. No place to hide. You have to face the enemy. The two strong men have to meet in a Darwinian survival of the fittest and a place in boxing history. Win or lose, the two boxers will have their places in boxing’s hall of fame. They are both champions. True champions.
I love the two of them. I love Mayweather. And I love Pacquiao. Both of them are good at what they do. Two masters in the art of inflicting pain. Two warriors trained to brutalize. Two champions who have watched the opposition fall many times to their brutal and devastative punches. Two entertainers who have thrilled boxing fans and are set tonight to thrill us more and to take their fighting prowess to the next level.
In the past it used to be that heavyweight champions rule the boxing ring. Not anymore. Today, the heavyweight division is lackluster, if not dead. The boxing champions of the world are small men fighting big fights. Mayweather and Pacquiao are the best of the small fighters who have set the box office records with their fights commanding outrageously big money never dreamt of in the days of Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson and all the boxing greats the world has known.
For those who ordinarily could have turned criminals or used their God-given talent negatively, boxing has offered an escape valve to riches. Boxers like Mike Tyson and Sonny Liston were champions nurtured from the underworld of crime which could have killed them or get them rotten behind bars. Instead they found fame and fortune in boxing where they are legalized to inflict pain or even kill inside the ring.
This is one fight I cannot afford to miss. If it means keeping an all-night vigil to watch it, I will. I want to be part of history. I want to witness this historic fight. I want to be able to tell my grandchildren about the night Mayweather faced Pacquiao.
Who do I support? In whose camp do I belong? Well, just like I supported Buhari all the way to defeat President Jonathan, I am sticking out my neck for Manny Pacquiao to win. I will bet on Pacquiao to turn Mayweather into “Badweather.”
But you never can tell. This guy Mayweather is bad. And when you are bad, it means you are good. He knows every trick in the book. He is the consummate boxing artist. He is undefeated. Failure is not in his dictionary. He knows what to do to win. He has his own strategy. And he is going out there to execute his strategy. But in the world we live in, no man is unbeatable. Every man his master. Win or lose, they are both boxing greats who have carved their names in the annals of boxing.
May the better fighter win. And may the sweet science of boxing be the ultimate winner.