By Lyle Fitzsimmons
A week ago, the mere mention of Money-Pacman II drew held noses.
A week later, it’s drawing desirous sighs.
Though both nicknamed combatants from last May’s windfall/snoozer have said they plan now to focus on other things, it’s difficult to imagine the drumbeat not getting louder for an encore in the immediate aftermath of Manny Pacquiao’s return to top-level competitive relevance on Saturday night.
Make no mistake. The Filipino was a legit betting favorite going into the weekend. And it wasn’t hard to find people at the MGM Grand who expected him to beat Tim Bradley for – in practical terms – a third straight time. But not as many of those people thought they’d see what they ultimately saw.
Which, as Freddie Roach suggested, was “the beginning of bringing back the old Manny Pacquiao.”
And what that means to you, me and anyone else who charts the paths of boxing’s highest-profile supernovas, is that it’s time to start counting days until we might just see them intersect once again.
Of course, even after the congressman’s surprise resurgence, some retain their contrarian stripes.
They’re too old. They were too dull. It’s time to cede the stage to other wannabe stars.
All logical stances. But in the case of Mayweather and Pacquiao, all wrong, too.
Regardless of their ages, it's no stretch to suggest -- after Sept. 12 and April 9 -- that both remain among the world’s top-10 fighters. And given the frequency with which promoters annoy fans with safety matches, simply railing against this one “just because” is akin to cutting off the nose to spite the face.
The Filipino’s ferocity with a repaired right shoulder surely injects an element of “What might have happened last May if he were healthy?” into rematch chatter. And that dovetails as well into a conspiracy mantra that Mayweather’s pre-fight IVs might have given him an unfair competitive edge.
And just in case you didn’t hear, a lot of people cheered when the idea was tossed out in the ring during HBO’s post-fight interviews. Regardless of what happened the first time and in spite of the indignation some feel obligated to cling to at all costs, plenty would still be into it for Round 2.
Even if half the original audience ditched, you’d still have the third-biggest pay-per-view of all time.
Not so bad for a couple middle-aged guys.
Bottom line, regardless of how some feel about the fighters, their ages, their reps or their waffling about walking away, there’s no concrete reason why putting the sport back on the world’s front page with a rematch would mean anything negative for anyone on any side of the business.
“I would like to see him fight again,” Roach said at the late-night press conference on Saturday.
Me, too, Freddie. Me, too.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior bantamweight title -- Bacoor, Philippines
McJoe Arroyo (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Jerwin Ancajas (No. 3 IBF/No. 36 IWBR)
Arroyo (17-0, 8 KO): First title defense; Fifth fight outside United States (4-0, 2 KO)
Ancajas (24-1-1, 16 KO): First title fight; Eleven straight wins by KO/TKO (40 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: Ancajas has the home crowd and a nice little KO streak, but he’s been feasting on the sorts of guys who typically are found on KO streaks. Arroyo isn’t one of those. It ends here. Arroyo by decision
IBF junior lightweight title -- Mashantucket, Connecticut
Jose Pedraza (champion/No. 8 IWBR) vs. Stephen Smith (No. 1 IBF/No. 11 IWBR)
Pedraza (21-0, 12 KO): Second title defense; Twelfth fight in United States (11-0, 7 KO)
Smith (23-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Second fight outside United Kingdom (1-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Pedraza hasn’t yet secured recognition as the world’s best 130-pounder, but he’ll continue to build a resume here. Smith isn’t a bad fighter, but he’s not on the same level. Pedraza in 10
WBC featherweight title – Mashantucket, Connecticut
Gary Russell Jr. (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Patrick Hyland (No. 16 WBC/No. 63 IWBR)
Russell (26-1, 15 KO): First title defense; Fighting in 11th state (NV, WA, CA, NY, OH, MS, TX, TN, MN, FL)
Hyland (31-1, 15 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight scheduled for 12 rounds (2-1, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Hyland has a nice record and has shown a willingness to cross over and fight in the U.S. There’s been success in the past, but he’s in here to make the star look good. He will. Russell in 8
WBO cruiserweight title – Brooklyn, New York
Krzysztof Glowacki (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Steve Cunningham (No. 6 WBO/No. 11 IWBR)
Glowacki (25-0, 16 KO): First title defense; Second fight in United States (1-0, 1 KO)
Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KO): Ninth title fight (4-4); First fight at cruiserweight since 2012
Fitzbitz says: Both men have stopped Marco Huck in cruiserweight title fights. And either man has a chance to maybe get him again with a victory. Says here it’ll be Cunningham. Cunningham by decision
Last week’s picks: 4-0 (WIN: Troyanovsky, Joshua, Selby, Ramirez)
2016 picks record: 18-4 (81.8 percent)
Overall picks record: 750-252 (74.8 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.