Tom Sorensen

Who wins the long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?

WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao arrives at a fan rally Tuesday at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao will face WBC/WBA welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a unification bout.
WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao arrives at a fan rally Tuesday at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao will face WBC/WBA welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a unification bout. Getty Images

Let’s get this out of the way. If Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had fought five years ago, they’d be faster and stronger and we’d be less poor since we wouldn’t have to pay as much to watch them.

Ringside seats are going for approximately $1 million, and I paid $100 to watch at home. I could have bought the fight for a mere $90, but high definition was $10 more.

When I paid, I thought, Man, what a good deal. I would have paid $200. I don’t think I would have paid $300. But I might have.

The fight is a throwback. It’s not a throwback because the fighters are a combined 74 years old. It’s a throwback because on Saturday night their fight will be the biggest sporting event in the world. It will be bigger than the NBA and bigger than part III of the NFL Draft.

There was a time when boxing regularly dominated athletics, a time when boxing, baseball and horse racing ruled U.S. sports. Cars existed then. Computers, fast food and high definition television did not.

Mayweather and Pacquiao have brought boxing back. The stay will be brief. But how many other sporting events would you pay $90 or $100 to watch?

For more than a decade the two men have roamed boxing rings, each dominating in his way. Imagine the world’s two best football or basketball teams playing everybody but each other. Finally they’ll be in the same ring at the same time.

Mayweather is the greatest boxer of our time and perhaps of all time. I’m not saying he’s the greatest fighter. But boxing, hitting without being hit, is his art.

Watch his hands and his feet. Watch the way he frustrates opponents. Unable to get to him, they take uncomfortable and unconventional risks. Those risks often result in repeat meetings with Mayweather’s snapping left jab.

Pacquiao doesn’t play defense the way Mayweather does, but his offense is vastly superior. He comes with fast hands, an array of punches, stunning combinations and deftly moving feet. He’s in, he’s out and he’s on you. His punches swarm.

Pacquiao will be busier than Mayweather because he has to be. Mayweather is 5-8 and has a 72-inch reach. Pacquiao is 5-6 and has a reach of 67 inches. Yet for a man with a compact build, Pacquiao can fight from the outside.

Mayweather is so good defensively that he doesn’t have to sustain an attack. Opponents come to him. He lacks Pacquiao’s power. But Mayweather will catch a guy off balance, surprise him with a punch and down he goes. Mayweather has knocked out 26 of his 47 opponents. Pacquiao has knocked out 38 of his 64.

The danger for Pacquiao is that Mayweather, who adjusts beautifully as a fight wears on, will anticipate the angles from which Pacquiao’s punches come. If he can time Pacquiao’s in-and-out style, Pacquiao has little chance to win.

The danger for Mayweather is that his laid back come-get-me philosophy will fail to suffice. If Pacquiao can get to him and win the early rounds, Mayweather will have to open up.

At 38, Mayweather is two years older than Pacquiao. But Pacquiao has fought more and been hit more. Both are superbly conditioned. But Pacquiao’s body is older.

Mayweather, 47-0, has fought 363 rounds. Pacquiao, 57-5-2, has fought 407.

Everybody has their favorite. Famous people are asked to predict a winner. Many of them sound as if they know little about the fighters or the sport.

Boxing fans could condescend. How dare you make a prediction! You think you know these guys? Spell “Pacquiao” without looking it up. No way do you nail the four vowel combination with which he ends his name.

Boxing fans shouldn’t condescend, because the sport needs peripheral fans. Peripheral fans have turned this from a fight into an international event.

The boxing bandwagon has for decades been a driver and a collection of empty seats. Go to a boxing card in or around Charlotte – even one as stunning as the March 6 Roy Jones Jr. card in Cabarrus County – and you feel as if you’re at a reunion. The same people show up for cards big and small.

Mayweather and Pacquiao won’t change that. Boxing tends to go as the heavyweights go, and that division has long lacked drama. But no fight in history has generated the revenue – and probably the attention and perhaps the drama – that Mayweather and Pacquiao have.

I respect Pacquiao as a man and as a fighter, so I’m picking him to win. That’s my heart talking, but my head believes, too.

Pacquiao is the underdog, and he would have been if they fought five years ago.

Five years ago doesn’t matter. What matters, finally and beautifully, is Saturday night. 

Sorensen: 704-358-5119;; Twitter: @tomsorensen