A fight can be described as a megabout if it still creates a buzz or debate even after it was staged 20 or more years ago. This is still the case of the marquee fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler on April 1987, which Leonard won via split decision.
Like the bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao on Sunday, many boxing fans felt the Hagler-Leonard fight was long overdue because both fighters were no longer in their prime when they fought.
But the similarity ends there.
In the Hagler-Leonard fight, the punches thrown was 792 and 629, respectively. On Sunday’s much-publicized fight, Mayweather threw 435 punches and Pacquiao 429.
Although Hagler criticized Leonard for “not fighting like a man,” at least Leonard clearly landed more punches, or 306 for a 49-percent accuracy rate, while Hagler landed 291 or 37 percent. By today’s standards, the punch output of the Leonard-Hagler fight made it a real war. The fight was seen as close one, and as to who was the real winner is still being debated up to this day.
While Sunday’s match was won by Mayweather based on the cards and punch stats, much of the talk years on would be possibly on how the fight failed to live up to its hype, mainly because one of the fighters looked like he was just interested in winning and collecting his huge paycheck. Definitely, it wasn’t Pacquiao.
When the dust settled, Mayweather got the nod of all the three judges, with two scoring it 116-112 and one had it 118-110.
When the Compubox figures came in, it was very clear Mayweather proved he was the more accurate puncher.
The American connected 48 percent of his punches or 148 out of 435, while Pacquiao’s connection rate was 19 percent, or 81 of 420 punches connected. It was in the jab department that the American outclassed the Filipino, or 67 of 267 jabs landed or 25 percent. Meanwhile, Pacquiao landed 18 of his 193 jabs thrown, for a 9-percent connection rate.
In the power punches department, the American landed 81 of 168 punches for an accuracy rate of 48 percent, while Pacquiao landed 63 of 236 power punches landed or 27 percent.
Pacquiao tried to press the attack many times, but Mayweather found it more convenient to run away occasionally, or many times.
Pacquiao’s best moments were in round 4, where he nailed the American with two left crosses that rocked the American. And the crowd went wild when Pacquiao rocked Mayweather with his patented lefts, because a knockout or knockdown would have been possible. That never happened.
On round five, Mayweather landed at least two good counters and seemed to have regained footing.
And when Mayweather started landing his jabs, hook and right cross on Pacquiao, albeit not on big volumes from the eighth round, it was very clear the American had established control of the fight.
Pacquiao would later disclose in the post-fight press conference that he sustained a right shoulder injury, which was unfortunate.
In the post-fight interview, he said he thought he won, adding Mayweather did “nothing.”
But Mayweather at the post-fight conference also claimed he injured both of his hands, which can be viewed as realistic because as early as four weeks before the fight, rumors were circulating of him treating his hands with antiseptic.
While Mayweather’s cleverness and smarts won him Sunday’s fight, it was obvious that fans were crying for a return of fistic brutality in the ring by rooting largely for Pacquiao, whose primal and aggressive style inside the ring has endeared him to fight fans.
It just so happened that in a number of marquee bouts, the counterpuncher is willing to play the part of the spoiler not exactly to please fight fans. One good example is how counterpuncher Gene Tunney beat fan favorite Jack Dempsey twice in the early part of the 20th century.
But when it comes to making fights generate a buzz decades later, two warriors must get into the ring and trade leather like there is no tomorrow even if they are past their prime. Clearly, Hagler and Leonard showed how to do it more than 25 years ago. But Mayweather seemed to have never thought of wanting to make last Sunday’s bout much talked about decades later. That’s not good for boxing.