LAS VEGAS — Someone who was unfamiliar with the fighters would not be able to tell which was 40 years old and which was 29.
Manny Pacquiao, who started his pro career when Adrien Broner was starting kindergarten, threw nearly twice as many punches (568 to 295) and landed more than double (112 to 50), to win one of the least dramatic decisions of his recent career.
Broner was in survival mode in round twelve, landing just one punch in the final round, showing just how far he had slipped since his first defeat in 2013, when he rose off the canvas twice against Marcos Maidana and desperately sought a knockout win. At the final bell he leapt onto the neutral corner and raised his arms as if he had won. His victories, to the extent he has them nowadays, are moral.
Broner’s post-fight claims that he won the fight were met with derision, and solidified his position as a high profile, low risk opponent for the welterweight division.
For Pacquiao, a man with nothing left to prove, he proved he could still beat a decent contender. But he clearly wants more, a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, whom he had pursued for years before losing a unanimous decision in the sport’s richest fight ever in 2015. He wanted a chance to run that back, this time with a healthy right shoulder. That man was sitting at ringside when Pacquiao made his case.
“Tell him to come back to the ring and we will fight,” said Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 knockouts), who was fighting in Las Vegas for the first time since 2016.
Mayweather, who returned to the ring twice since his 2015 retirement to box mixed martial arts fighters, displayed no inclination that he could be coaxed into the ring for another go.
The only upset in the main event went against fight observers who read more into their “chance” meeting at a basketball game and Mayweather’s presence at ringside than apparently was there.
Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, said it isn’t always about the money for “Money” Mayweather and insists that he has no interest in fighting again as he approaches age 42.
“He doesn’t have the motivation, the desire. He’s living his best life,” said Ellerbe.
The only Mayweather who showed up to the post-fight press conference was Jeff, the uncle of Floyd Jr., who was not surprised to hear Broner’s claims of victory.
“I already knew that was coming, he says that shit after every fight,” said Mayweather, who added that Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs) came only for a payday. He doesn’t see any reason competitively for a rematch with his nephew.
“From what I saw, fighting Pacquiao wouldn’t mean anything. It would be the exact same fight again I think,” said Jeff Mayweather.
Outside of Mayweather, there are no true “super-fights” left to chase. The rest of the division is filled with younger, hungry titleholders who lack defining wins and would relish getting an older legend like Pacquiao on their resume’.
There is Errol Spence, the IBF welterweight title claimant who is considered the frontrunner in the division. He’s a massive 147-pounder and a pound for pound candidate who is set for a clash with the fellow unbeaten Mikey Garcia on March 16. A week from now, Keith Thurman, the true WBA title claimant, who makes his return after nearly two years out of the ring against Josesito Lopez in Brooklyn.
There’s also Danny Garcia, once a rising figure in the sport but who is is losing traction after defeats in two of his last three fights, and then there’s WBC titleholder Shawn Porter, a former Pacquiao sparring partner when Pacquiao was the indomitable Pacman of the late 2000s.
All of those fighters are handled by Premier Boxing Champions, the outfit Pacquiao signed with before the Broner fight. The WBO titleholder Terence Crawford is with his ex-promoter Top Rank, making any conversation about that matchup a nonstarter.
Without the momentum to continue talking about a Mayweather rematch, Pacquiao returned to the same line he had when he had been promoted by Top Rank, saying “I will ask my promoter, Al Haymon, PBC, for the future fights.”
But unlike in those days, when Bob Arum would throw out a few names to get the buzz rolling, Al Haymon is a private person who doesn’t speak to the media or enter the ring after fights. He’s such an elusive figure that fans had long mistaken Sam Watson, his public emissary, as Haymon.
Pacquiao repeatedly blew his nose and sneezed at the post-fight press conference, saying he had suffered a cold due to the cooler winter climate in Las Vegas. He says Broner will watch the fight eventually and see the error of his analysis and admit Pacquiao had gotten the better of him.
“I’m still here in this sport,” said Pacquiao, a first-term senator in the Philippines and the sport’s only eight division ever.
If a Mayweather rematch isn’t in the cards, it’s hard to see the end game.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at email@example.com.
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