By Lyle Fitzsimmons
They’ll both be in the Hall of Fame.
They’ll rarely be mentioned without the other in an adjoining sentence.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no A-side when comparing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
Freddie Roach’s assessment notwithstanding.
To these eyes – both before and after May 2015 – it’s always Pretty Boy/Money over Pac Man.
And not just because of a schooling administered 1,543 days ago in the Nevada desert.
Rather, when the resumes and their contexts are lined up side by side, Mayweather has more check marks in his column. His armload of titles is a bit less broad than Pacquiao’s, but the sheer dominance of his performances against high-end opposition at similar weights from 130 to 154 pounds trumps the quantitative lighter-weight advantages of his Filipino nemesis.
For example, while Pacquiao had the more celebrated scalps at 130, Mayweather dominated a two-time champion to capture his championship (Genaro Hernandez) and ended both a 23-fight win streak (Angel Manfredy) and a 33-fight win streak (Diego Corrales) in subsequent one-sided title defenses. Had he stayed there for a prolonged period, he’d likely be listed as one of its top all-time champs.
Similar to 130, the case for Mayweather at lightweight is one of mathematics. While Pacquiao was dominant in blowing out a tailor-made David Diaz, Mayweather initially struggled and then handled a legitimate commodity in Jose Luis Castillo before padding the 135-pound resume with two more one-sided wins. He gets the nod with clear quantity over comparable quality.
When it comes to welterweight, there’s a good chance Pacquiao would have been the choice had a poll been taken at the height of the pre-Mayweather hype in 2011. His erratic results in subsequent fights, however – including an undeserved win (Juan Manuel Marquez III), a devastating KO loss (Marquez IV) and the Mayweather flop – elevated Floyd’s pristine tenure (12-0, 3 KO, 5 title belts) to new heights.
Quality and quantity fall on the side of Mayweather at junior middle, too, where Miguel Cotto had won three straight fights and Oscar De La Hoya had scored a knockout win in his previous outing before fighting Mayweather. Those two bouts, plus the dissection of an unbeaten Canelo Alvarez (remember him?) in September 2013, represent more of a risk than Pacquiao ever took above 147.
Lastly, on common foes, it’s true that Pacquiao’s victories – particularly against De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton – were more viscerally violent than Mayweather’s, the actual quality of common wins has significantly more to do with when they occurred and in which weight class.
Pacquiao gets full credit for beating the Englishman in his most natural division, but Mayweather had the tougher test in several other cases – including Oscar and Cotto at 154, and Shane Mosley at 147 coming off a Margarito win rather than after a loss to Floyd and a draw with Sergio Mora.
But that doesn’t mean Manny’s resume isn’t gaining ground.
His clear win over Keith Thurman last weekend (115-112 here) was a testament to career excellence and prolonged relevance, and sets him up for more meaningful activity on the far side of 40 than Mayweather – with Conor McGregor as his lone post-40 test thus far – has dared to publicly ponder.
And while reaching for Errol Spence Jr.’s top rung on the PBC welterweight ladder shapes up as a disaster, it’s no less commendable that pursuing greatness still seems as motivating to the part-time senator as it did when he was chasing flyweight and lightweight titles at ages 20 and 30, respectively.
Incidentally, Spence is a 2/3 pick to become Pacquiao’s next dance adversary, according to odds provided by BetOnline, leading a field that also includes Amir Khan (5/2), Shawn Porter (3/1) and Terence Crawford (5/1) alongside longshots Mikey Garcia (12/1) and McGregor (100/1).
A win against any of the ones not named McGregor would be a career enhancer.
Rematches with Thurman and Adrien Broner are 20/1 and 80/1, while a return with a supposedly reticent Mayweather is also down the list and was deemed a dead issue by mouthpiece Leonard Ellerbe.
That’s either a blessing or a tragedy, depending on who’s asked.
Chances are, too, that it’s not the last any of us has heard about it.
Of course, regardless of how it plays out, it’d be no crime for a burned-out “Money,” now nearly four years past a non-novice foe, to express zero interest in rejoining the Pacquiao fray at age 42.
He beat every man he faced, owes nothing to a sport he helped buoy during promotional cold wars and UFC explosions and has earned a celebratory ceremony a few years down the road in Canastota.
But with each hour that passes since his last victory – and with every midlife mountain his generational nemesis climbs in the meantime – the less there’ll be to separate their bodies of work for eternity.
So, what’ll you give me for a TBE hat… with an asterisk?
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
IBF junior lightweight title – Arlington, Texas
Tevin Farmer (champion/No. 9 IWBR) vs. Guillaume Frenois (No. 3 IBF/No. 23 IWBR)
Farmer (29-4-1, 6 KO): Fourth title fight; Twenty-two straight wins since 7-4-1 career start
Frenois (46-1-1, 12 KO): First title fight; First fight in the United States
Fitzbitz says: Farmer’s got his eyes on bigger prizes than an anonymous Frenchman with zero notable success on the international stage. No reason to believe an upset is imminent. Farmer by decision (95/5)
WBA super featherweight title – Baltimore, Maryland
Gervonta Davis (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Ricardo Nunez (No. 2 WBA/No. 39 IWBR)
Davis (21-0, 20 KO): Second title defense; Twelve straight wins by KO/TKO (44 rounds, 3.66 average)
Nunez (21-2, 19 KO): First title fight; Zero career fights beyond eight rounds (55 rounds, 2.39 average)
Fitzbitz says: There’s little reason to believe Davis, given his success on a significantly higher level, will encounter much trouble here. Regardless of what happens, it likely won’t last too long. Davis in 3 (99/1)
WBC/WBO super lightweight/junior welterweight titles – Arlington, Texas
Jose Carlos Ramirez (WBC champ/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Maurice Hooker (WBO champ/No. 4 IWBR)
Ramirez (24-0, 16 KO): Third title defense; Decision wins in all three scheduled 12-round fights
Hooker (26-0-3, 17 KO): Third title defense; One TKO, two decisions in three scheduled 12-round fights
Fitzbitz says: I like Hooker and believe, side by side, he’s got a more varied skilled set. But Ramirez is too dogged, too rugged and too persistent over 12 rounds. Styles make fights. Ramirez by decision (70/30)
Last week's picks: 1-1 (WIN: Plant; LOSS: Thurman)
2019 picks record: 59-13 (81.9 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,070-356 (75.0 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.