Mayweather and Pacquiao! Finally!
Any sports fan with a pulse has to find it quickening at the news that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have finally agreed to throw down for the pound-for-pound crown.
Tough to overstate the magnitude of this one but it's easily the biggest fight of the decade and probably bigger than any fight that took place in the 90s too. It's a clash between two first-ballot hall-of-famers who are still near the top of their games, and a mega-event that figures to smash the pay-per-view records Mayweather set in his 2007 showdown with Oscar De La Hoya.
It's also compelling evidence of something I and a lot of boxing purists have maintained since the UFC emerged as a dominant force on the combat sports scene.
Boxing ain't dead.
In 2007 Mayweather's 12-round decision win over De La Hoya was supposed to herald the end of boxing's run as a mainstream sport. After that fight, the UFC was supposed to crowd the sweet science out of the collective sports consciousness.
Purists and casual fans alike had grown tired of the proliferation of titles that cheapened the meaning of each belt, and of inter-promoter bickering that kept the best fighters from clashing. After Mayweather and De La Hoya fought we were supposed to turn away from all that drama and tune into the brutal simplicity of the UFC, where Dana White makes sure the best always fight the best (as long as the best are under contract).
But instead of getting lost, boxing got a clue. Great fights started happening regardless of who held what belt. Miguel Cotto fought Shane Mosely, then Antonio Margarito. Mayweather flattened Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao pounded his way through three weight classes.
Suddenly sports fans were paying attention.
Instead signalling boxing's death, Mayweather-De La Hoya led to boxing's re-birth on the mainstream sports scene, of which Pacquiao's ascent from Filipino cult hero to stateside Nike pitchman is a stunning example.
But for Pacquiao, conquering Madison Ave. is one thing; conquering Mayweather is something else.