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Pacquiao still the people’s champion

The scorecards were read the way they should be read. And the quick-jabbing Floyd Mayweather Jr. walked off the ring the same way he got on it ― still undefeated, except this time, he added a third welterweight crown to his name.

But where the fight could not be quantified by numbers, where heroes are measured by heart and the blazing gusto by which they pursue their mission, a hurting Manny Pacquiao didn’t get off the ring a loser.

Even the crowd agreed, giving him a stamp of roaring approval inside the MGM Grand that was supposedly the home of his pound-for-pound rival.

Manny Pacquiao leaves after a press conference following his defeat to Floyd Mayweather. (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Manny Pacquiao leaves after a press conference following his defeat to Floyd Mayweather. (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

“I thank God for this victory and appreciate everyone who came out to support us,” said the 38-year-old Mayweather, who added Pacquiao’s World Boxing Organization (WBO) crown to his World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) collections, his voice nearly drowned out by boos from the sellout crowd of 16,507 that thought the wrong man had won the fight.

The judges, however, saw enough to settle the debate on which fighter was the greatest of his era. Dave Moretti scored it 118-110, while Glenn Feldman and Burt Clements saw it 116-112, all for the Michigan-born Mayweather, who has made this Nevada gambling oasis his home.

Mayweather’s victory allowed the brash champion to validate his claim to greatness.

“It’s no different with (Muhammad) Ali. He called himself the greatest,” said Mayweather (48-0), who said he got a check worth $100 million inside his locker room after the fight.

“But this is my era,” he added. “And in my era, I am TBE (the best ever).”

The celebrity-filled crowd, however, had Pacquiao winning all 12 rounds. Every punch thrown by the Filipino ring icon, even if it whiffed past its target, was met with a loud crescendo of cheers. The crowd egged him on and Pacquiao continued winning their hearts by doggedly chasing after an opponent too slippery to corner.

“I thought I won the fight,” Pacquiao said, and the crowd roared in agreement.” He didn’t do anything.”

From an entertainment point of view, true, Mayweather did score. Any purist would have to admire the way he methodically used his jabs to create space when Pacquiao tried to cut the ring into tight claustrophobic pockets, and launch counters when the eight-division champion missed.

And Pacquiao missed a lot.

Mayweather threw more shots, according to Compubox, 435-429, but the glaring difference was in the percentages:

Mayweather landed 148 for 34 percent while Pacquiao landed 81 for 19 percent. Pacquiao threw a lot of power punches, 236-168, but what mattered was how many connected and Mayweather struck 81 times (48 percent) to the Filipino’s 63 (27 percent).

“I did what I had to do to win this fight,” said Mayweather. “As long as I stayed on the outside, I was able to stay away (from his punches).”

And he was able to hit back at critics, who placed all the blame on him for only agreeing to this fight five years after the world had demanded it.

“You all said before that this was the guy who was going to beat me,” said Mayweather. “You all said Floyd was a coward, Floyd was scared and Floyd’s a chicken.”

“I made you eat your words.”

As it turned out, though, it wasn’t that much of a fair fight.

Pacquiao had been nursing a shoulder injury for weeks and about an hour-and-a-half before the match started, his team requested that he be allowed to take pain-numbing shots.

“No excuses, no alibis,” said the 36-year-old Pacquiao, however. “There were things that we wanted to do that we could not do because of the (pain in my) shoulder. That’s why you saw me when I tried combinations, I would back off because my shoulder hurt.”

Still, there were times when Pacquiao managed to put together a semblance of an attack against the elusive Mayweather.

“(Pacquiao) had him on the ropes, we kept (Mayweather) guessing,” trainer Freddie Roach said. “But we just didn’t do enough. It was difficult to get certain punches off during the fight because his shoulder hurt.”

And, of course, there was the fact that the opponent was an artful dodger.

“I fought smart,” Mayweather said.

Mayweather clinched, ducked and swerved away from trouble many times, especially when Pacquiao landed clean shots and looked to be setting up combinations.

At one point in the fourth round, Pacquiao drilled Mayweather with a left that backed Pretty Boy to the ropes. Pacquiao opened up with a series of power shots but Mayweather shelled-up a la Joshua Clottey, and there was little damage created.

Except maybe to his reputation.

Fans inside MGM Grand’s Garden Arena booed loudly each time Mayweather turned every Pacquiao attack into a clinch and jeered in a collective amusement every time Mayweather backed out of trouble.

It sure wasn’t an awe-inspiring performance, especially from an athlete that drove the price of this super fight beyond a skyscraper’s roof.

But it effectively neutralized Pacquiao. The jabs held off Pacquiao’s vaunted combination of speed and power and his slick movement negated Pacquiao’s footwork and ability to hit from side-to-side angles.

“It was only when I stayed in the pocket that he was able to do what he wanted,” Mayweather said.

And even then, Roach, who was confident they had the game plan to hand Mayweather his first loss, admitted they could not squeeze enough out of Pacquiao’s shoulder to build on those pocket exchanges.

By Francis T. J. Ochoa

(Philippine Daily Inquirer)