Manny Pacquiao didn’t knock out Chris Algieri on Saturday night, but he was so dominant in his victory over the hopelessly outclassed challenger that it hardly seemed to matter. Pacquiao floored Algieri six times on the way to a unanimous decision and retained his world welterweight title at the sold-out Cotai arena in Macau, China. Algieri’s bid for a real-life Rocky upset was snuffed out in front of Sylvester Stallone himself, who sat ringside with Arnold Schwarzenegger, recording the one-sided beatdown with his smartphone.
Pacquiao stalked Algieri from the opening bell with whipping punches, forcing the overmatched Algieri to spend much of the fight either frantically back-pedaling away from Pacquiao’s onslaught or peeling himself off the canvas. Aside from wondering what kind of weird voodoo hexes Pacquiao’s mom was casting from her seat in the crowd, the only significant drama in the HBO pay-per-view main event was whether Pacquiao would snap his five-year-long knockout drought. In the end, a 12-round thrashing would have to suffice.
Algieri, a slick but feather-fisted boxer who was given little chance of beating the Filipino icon, was cast as a would-be Balboa after his surprise split-decision win over light welterweight titleist Ruslan Provodnikov earned him a shot at Pacquiao's WBO belt. But soon as the judges handed over their predictable scorecards on Saturday night, Pacquiao called on his arch-nemesis, unbeaten pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, to finally meet him in a super fight that first fell apart in 2010.
“I think it’s time to make that fight happen,” Pacquiao said of the long-discussed showdown. “The fans really deserve that fight. It’s time to say, yes, so people can prepare for early next year.”
As viewers of HBO’s pre-fight reality series 24/7 can attest, Algieri possessed only a fraction of Mayweather’s skills and none of his menace: The 30-year-old part-time fitness instructor still lives with his parents in suburban Long Island, holds a masters degree in clinical nutrition, and enjoys extolling the virtues of avocados nearly as much as he likes working out in spandex shorts.
Many hardcore boxing fans didn’t think Algieri deserved to share the ring with the sport’s only eight-division champion. But as the fight drew near, some wondered if, after Pacquiao’s nearly 20-year professional career (he made his pro debut as scrawny 16-year-old in 1995), his spectacular brand of ring savagery had been sufficiently diminished to allow the taller Algieri’s reach, jab and timing to eke out a world-shaking upset. By the end of the fourth round, Algieri’s ineffectiveness had pretty much banished that fantasy scenario back to the boxing blog threads from whence it came.
Pacquiao, who hasn’t notched a knockout since his 12th-round stoppage of Miguel Cotto in 2009, hoped to recapture the KO mojo of his fearsome late aughties prime, when he was rampaging through boxing’s elite ranks and destroying the likes of Cotto, Oscar de La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Pac-Man later defeated a series of iron-chinned challengers including Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, and Shane Mosley on his way to getting robbed of the decision victory in his first Tim Bradley fight and being famously knocked out cold midway through his fourth fight with Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012.
Since rebounding with a decisive victory over Bradley in the rematch, perhaps there was room amid that grueling schedule for an easy win over Algieri on the way to—just maybe!— the megabout with Mayweather. That epochal clash, of course, has been stalled for a variety of reasons, ranging from squabbles over the pay-per-view split to whether Pacquiao even deserved the fight after his devastating knockout loss to Marquez.
But as both fighters approach the twilight of their careers, it remains the most lucrative potential match-up in boxing, even coming several years past both their primes. It would undoubtedly be the richest prizefight in history, with some speculating it could be worth a head-exploding $1 billion.
And now it may be closer to happening than anytime since 2010, when the original negotiations collapsed. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has claimed that there have lately been meaningful, behind-the-scenes talks to bring together Showtime, which has a contract with Mayweather, and HBO, which has Pacquiao under contract, for a joint pay-per-view extravaganza.
Judging from recent comments from both Mayweather and Pacquiao—who called out Mayweather during his ring interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, at the post-fight press conference, and again on Sunday —there will be increasing pressure for the fight to get made.
''If boxing is to be considered a major sport then the fight has to happen,” Arum said on Sunday. “The nonsense needs to cease. There are no excuses anymore.''
Mayweather, who would still be a favorite to win against Pacquiao, suggested, in his own way, that he would be open to the fight after his win over Marcos Maidana in September.
''If the Pacquiao fight happens, it happens,'' Mayweather said. ''You can ask the same questions and get the same answers. I call my own shots.''
So, while the fight could happen, it could also easily fall apart again, leaving a sad asterisk on the careers of the two greatest boxers of their era. Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has said that if Mayweather isn’t next, he’d like to move his fighter down to 140 pounds, where the knockouts have come easier. But here’s hoping that Pacquiao will soon get the chance to fight ‘Money”, instead of yet another wannabe “Rocky.”
Photos by AP Photo / Kin Cheung