sport news Why Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao's 'Fight of the Century' was a ...

The two men had traded verbal blows for six long years but this was the first time they had met. Their eyes locked across a crowded Miami basketball court and they gave each other a nod that said it was time to do business.

They both wore blank expressions and walked towards one another like gunslingers in a spaghetti western. But no blows would be exchanged tonight. Just phone numbers, a shake of hands and a verbal promise to at last make the richest fight in boxing history.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would meet again in the weeks that followed that January night in 2015. Egos were put to one side and numbers were crunched inside lavish hotel suites as they divided up the potential spoils of a multi-million dollar fight.

Four weeks later, contracts were signed and the news the boxing world had long been waiting for was made public. Mayweather and Pacquiao would meet in Las Vegas on May 2, 2015, to decide who was the greatest of them all. 

The fight was on but what had taken them so long?

Floyd Mayweather (left) and Manny Pacquiao finally stepped in the ring together in 2015

Floyd Mayweather (left) and Manny Pacquiao finally stepped in the ring together in 2015

Mayweather and Pacquiao had quarrelled for six years before agreeing to the fight

Mayweather and Pacquiao had quarrelled for six years before agreeing to the fight

Money, rows over drug tests and lawsuits delayed a bout labelled the 'Fight of the Century'

Money, rows over drug tests and lawsuits delayed a bout labelled the 'Fight of the Century' 

Pacquiao was 36 and Mayweather 38 when they fought - many felt they were past their peak

Pacquiao was 36 and Mayweather 38 when they fought - many felt they were past their peak

Eight years earlier, Mayweather and Pacquiao seemed destined never to meet. After legacy-defining victories over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton in the space of seven months in 2007, ‘Pretty Boy’ as Mayweather was then known, decided it was time to hang up his gloves and ride off into the Vegas sunset to spend his millions. In June 2008, he confirmed his retirement at the age of 31 and bowed out with an undefeated record of 39-0.

Pacquiao was a distant star in a weight class far far away. He was world champion in the 130lb junior lightweight division, a whole 17lbs lighter than the relative giants at welterweight, the division where Mayweather had reigned. But his star was burning bright. 'Pacman' started his career in the 122lb super-bantamweight division and had gone on to win six world titles in as many weight classes. But at just 5ft 5in it seemed impossible his rise would continue and that he would one day assume Mayweather’s vacant throne.

But Mayweather’s retirement was the trigger for ‘Pacman’s’ ascension and the beginning of their famous rivalry. The Filipino won a seventh world title at lightweight with victory over Mexican Juan Diaz in June 2008 and then moved up two weight classes to convincingly defeat former Mayweather foe De La Hoya at welterweight six months later. In May 2008, he beat another ‘Pretty Boy’ victim, Hatton, via a spectacular second-round knockout to confirm his status as boxing’s pound-for-pound king.

Mayweather was king at welterweight in 2007

Pacquiao was fighting down at junior lightweight

Mayweather was welterweight champion in 2007 but Pacquiao was junior lightweight champ

Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya via split decision in 2007 to become pound-for-pound king

Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya via split decision in 2007 to become pound-for-pound king

'Pretty Boy' then secured his legacy with a stunning 10th round knockout of Ricky Hatton

'Pretty Boy' then secured his legacy with a stunning 10th round knockout of Ricky Hatton

After running out of opponents and motivation, Mayweather retired on 39-0 in June 2008

After running out of opponents and motivation, Mayweather retired on 39-0 in June 2008

Mayweather had seen and heard quite enough. The thrill of stacking up dollar bills in casinos and roller-blading around his Vegas mansion had worn off and weeks later he confirmed his return and tellingly gave a lukewarm analysis of Pacquiao’s thrilling win over De La Hoya. ‘He did what he had to do,’ he said through gritted teeth. 

Though he hadn’t fought for 17 months, he’d never really been away. He’d continued to hone his craft inside his Mayweather Boxing Club and maintained a healthy weight just above the 147lb limit. ‘I could box 12 rounds right now,’ he crowed, while confirming Juan Manuel Marquez - a man Pacquiao had defeated via split decision 14 months earlier - as his opponent for his hotly anticipated comeback.

On September 19, 2009, 21 months after his win over Hatton, Mayweather bamboozled Marquez for 12 rounds on his way to a unanimous points victory. With Pacquiao set to fight Miguel Cotto for the vacant WBC world title that November, it seemed inevitable that a super-fight with Mayweather would materialise if he could defeat the Puerto Rican and win a record eighth world title at an eighth different weight class.

Mayweather's retirement sparked Pacquiao's rise as he won lightweight world title in 2008

Mayweather's retirement sparked Pacquiao's rise as he won lightweight world title in 2008

He moved up to welterweight and stopped De La Hoya in 2008 to become boxing's new star

He moved up to welterweight and stopped De La Hoya in 2008 to become boxing's new star

Pacquiao then knocked out another former Mayweather victim Hatton to complete his rise

Pacquiao then knocked out another former Mayweather victim Hatton to complete his rise

Irritated by Pacquiao's rise, Mayweather came out of retirement in 2009 after 21 months out

Irritated by Pacquiao's rise, Mayweather came out of retirement in 2009 after 21 months out

He produced one of the performances of his career to bamboozle Juan Marquez on his return

sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more

He produced one of the performances of his career to bamboozle Juan Marquez on his return

Pacquiao fulfilled his part of the deal with a 12th-round stoppage of Cotto. Inside the MGM Grand, his supporters chanted ‘We want Floyd.’ His trainer, Freddie Roach, told the Las Vegas Sun: ‘We'd break him down and beat him up. Floyd can't break an egg; he's fragile. He hurts his hands all the time. I have a great game plan for Mayweather,

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