LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao was always going to get his $20 million. That was part of the deal that lured him to this gambling city, where wealthy whales and B-list celebrities gathered ringside to watch him beat up yet another pretender to his crown.
On this night his opponent was a reluctant combatant, there seemingly only to get his own big payday. But Pacquiao wasn’t about to let that ruin his plans for a big evening on the Las Vegas Strip.
He fought poverty, beat Shane Mosley, and shared a dais with Paris Hilton. The president of the Philippines called to chat, then it was off with his massive entourage for a concert at a neighboring casino.
All in a night’s work for the little fighter who can.
“People know I’m trying to do my best,” Pacquiao said. “I think they’re satisfied.”
Hard not to be when the most entertaining fighter since Mike Tyson worked as hard inside the ring as he did later in a concert that stretched into the wee hours of the morning. It wasn’t Pacquiao’s fault that Mosley spent most of Saturday night trying to find a spot between the ropes where Pacquiao couldn’t hit him rather than try to put up a good fight.
Hilton certainly seemed happy about it all. The faux celebrity joined Pacquiao and his wife at the post-fight news conference to give her analysis of the fight, and the verdict was, well, favorable.
“It was a very amazing fight,” she said.
Others who might know boxing a bit better would probably disagree, but there wasn’t a lot Pacquiao could do about it. He floored Mosley with a left hook in the third round and spent the rest of the night chasing after him despite a cramp in his leg that made his opponent even harder to catch.
Much like with Tyson in his prime, though, Pacquiao mostly got a pass for his choice of opponent. Though the 16,412 fans at the sold-out MGM Grand arena booed in the later rounds, they were booing Mosley, not Pacquiao, for a fight that dragged on for 12 full rounds before coming to a predictable end.
Indeed, most fans – Hilton included – seemed to be happy just to see Pacquiao in action. That’s the lure of the Filipino phenom, who continues to be the biggest draw in the sport even while being fed a questionable diet of opponents in recent fights.
Mosley was the latest, a fighter who looked shot in his bout last year with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and looked even worse against Pacquiao. Once a great fighter, Mosley at the age of 39 lacks the reflexes to compete anymore even if he refuses to recognize it.
“I don’t think he tried to win the fight, he just tried to survive,” said Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao. “When you get to that point in boxing it’s time to call it a day.”
Promoter Bob Arum tried to defend his pick of Mosley as Pacquiao’s latest victim, saying Pacquiao is so good that no fighter can look good against him. That’s bogus, of course, because there are certainly other fighters out there who could not only give Pacquiao a challenge but could conceivably beat him.
No. 1 at the top of that list, as everyone in boxing knows, is Mayweather, who seems as reluctant to sign for a fight with Pacquiao as Mosley was to actually fight him. But the clamor for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight has died down with Mayweather inactive and facing legal problems that could land him in jail, and that fight seems even longer away than it was before.
Next up for Pacquiao will likely be a third fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, who fought to a disputed draw with Pacquiao in 2004 and then lost a split decision to him two years later. But, while that fight is somewhat intriguing, Marquez is basically a lightweight while Pacquiao has grown into a full-blown welterweight who would have a big size advantage.
Pacquaio will make another $20 million regardless of who is in the ring with him. That’s big money for any fighter, even if a fight with Mayweather could conceivably double that purse.
Before that happens, though, Pacquiao has stuff to do back home. The biggest sports hero the Philippines has had is also a congressman trying to build a hospital in his province, and the yellow gloves he wore in the fight were, he said, a symbol of the fight to end poverty in his native country.
He may or may not go down as one of the greatest fighters ever. That will be for boxing historians to decide when his career is finally over.
But as his excellent weekend in Las Vegas showed, he may be the hardest working fighter ever.