Boxing has been on the periphery of professional sport for much of the past 25 years.
Yet when it gets its act together, it still has no rival in terms of pulling power.
The Floyd Mayweather Jr-Manny Pacquiao fight was the hottest ticket in town – unless, of course, you were camped outside St Mary’s Hospital in London waiting for a glimpse of the new royal baby – and a bout tipped to generate more than $300 million.
What else but big-time boxing could bring an audience featuring names like Robert De Niro, Michael J Fox, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood and Jon Voight together in the one arena?
And yet even that list of celebrities was instructive: like boxing, their glory days are long gone. (Click here for full celeb gallery.)
It was a fight that should have been made six years ago, when both fighters were in their prime. But, for a variety of reasons, we had to wait until now.
Not that the public’s appetite had waned – the bout was a sellout and is certain to break pay-per-view records when the execs finally finish adding up those very big numbers.
But long-time boxing fans sniggered this week when the bout was mentioned in terms of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, or Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns.
Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is a lot of things – but an exciting fighter he is not. Blessed with phenomenal reflexes, he has built a career on the art of not getting hit.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, was electric in his pomp (between 2003 and 2010), but has aged considerably since his glory days.
This fight was never likely to be a war.
What it was, however, was a good, solid contest between two excellent professional boxers.
Anyone who tells you it was a great fight (as Showtime announcer and super-middleweight world champion Andre Ward did at the bout’s conclusion) has never seen a great fight.
Mayweather established himself early on, using a straight right counter to rattle Pacquiao’s cage on numerous occasions.
But Pacquiao adjusted to the speed, and by round four he was landing counters of his own to back Mayweather up.
Mayweather’s father and trainer Floyd Sr was concerned enough to ask his fighter for more, and Jr obliged by throwing, and scoring with, some crisp left hooks.
Nevertheless, this writer had the fight even after eight rounds.
But Mayweather was just a little too big and too accurate down the stretch.
Neither man was rattled, neither man was badly hurt and neither man went down.
In a bout that didn’t lag, yet never really electrified, Mayweather did enough to win a unanimous points decision by scores of 118-110 and 116-112 (twice).
The win took Mayweather’s professional record to 48-0, while it was Pacquiao’s sixth defeat and left him at 57-6-2.
Back in February I wrote that the fight was a $250 million cakewalk. It wasn’t, but for the most part it looked in Mayweather’s keeping.
After the fight he reiterated his stance that the final bout of his six-fight contract with cable network Showtime this September will be his last, and if he wins he would also equal Rocky Marciano’s iconic unbeaten record of 49-0.
(It would have been interesting to see Mayweather get dudded on the cards, just to see a 21st-century version of Larry Holmes’ “Rocky Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap“.)
Floyd’s claims of being The Best Ever (TBE™) is unprovable. Comparing fighters across eras never works.
What he can claim, however, is to be the very best of his generation.
He’s never been in an out-and-out war, and therefore never truly had his mettle tested in that kind of furnace.
That’s simply because he’s been superior to every other man he’s faced.
And the fact is that when people talk about who the greatest boxer in history is, Mayweather’s name should be right up there in the conversation with Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson.
People who denounce his claims as delusional are most likely jealous. Floyd is not a likeable man, but he is brilliant at what he does.
And perhaps his greatest achievement is mastering the art of self-promotion.
Seizing the blueprint of British featherweight champion Prince Naseem Hamed, Mayweather has reinvented boxing – winning more money as a lighter-weight fighter than any heavyweight in history.
He was superior to Pacquiao on Sunday. Not by a huge amount, but by enough.
And yet it was Mayweather who was booed loudly as he conducted his post-fight interview.
The 38-year-old is toxic, and is a serial abuser of women.
For all his success, he’ll never occupy the same space in our hearts as Ali or Pacquiao.
The aftermath of Sunday’s fight showed once and for all that Money can’t buy you love.
And Floyd Mayweather doesn’t care.