Floyd Mayweather basked in the glory of his comprehensive points victory over Manny Pacquiao by mocking those who had accused him of avoiding the Filipino.
Mayweather produced a technical masterclass to post scorecards of 118-110, 116-112, 116-112, securing the 48th victory of his unbeaten career before a celebrity-packed crowd at the MGM Grand.
The richest fight in history was short on action – Oscar De La Hoya tweeted “sorry boxing fans” as his verdict on the bout – but purists will view Mayweather’s clinical dissection of a fighter expected to be his toughest foe yet as the work of a genius.
For the five years until the welterweight rivals finally met, Mayweather had been taunted with predictions that he would fall to Pacquiao’s fists and the 38-year-old American was determined to savour the moment.
“Everyone was saying that I was scared and Floyd was going to lose. They said this guy could beat Floyd. Floyd is a coward. Floyd is a chicken,” Mayweather said. “I made you guys eat your words. Write this tomorrow – ‘we weren’t believers, but Floyd Mayweather has turned us into believers’.
“Muhammad Ali called himself the greatest, but this is my era. And in my era I’m TBE (the best ever). I was born a winner and will die a winner. I’m the American dream.
“A lot of people wanted to turn this fight into good versus evil, but I didn’t care to entertain that. I believe in the good man just like he does. I pray and I love my family. I didn’t really appreciate people calling this God versus the devil. He’s done a lot of bad in his life, nobody is perfect. Manny has made mistakes, just like me.”
The victory has been tainted by Pacquiao’s claims that he was carrying a shoulder injury that prevented him from using his right hand properly, but Mayweather’s victory was so conclusive that any appetite for a rematch will be minimal.
The size difference was substantial and Mayweather used his extra five inches of reach to pick Pacquiao off at will, the jab and right cross his tools of choice, although there was also the occasional left hook.
For spells he was chased around the ring – Pacquiao’s coach Freddie Roach said he “ran very well” – and his movement in the later rounds made the tiring underdog look clumsy at times. When pinned against the ropes, he would take shots on his gloves before spinning out of danger and finding the target with his jab.
Most of the 16,507 crowd had come to see a Pacquiao victory and Mayweather was regularly booed, his defensive style winning few fans as the battle between the two finest boxers of their generation failed to match expectations.
Pacquiao’s best round was the fourth when he landed with a hard southpaw left and, for a moment, the MGM Grand Garden Arena sensed an almighty upset was on the cards as he unleashed a barrage of blows, but Mayweather’s survival instinct took over.
“He hit me with a solid shot. I can’t say he’s the toughest fighter or hardest puncher I’ve faced, but I can see why he has got where he has in boxing. I could counter and calculate all of his moves,” Mayweather said. “I knew I had him from round one. I thought I was beating him easily. He was applying pressure but wasn’t landing punches.”
Only one outing is left on Mayweather’s six-fight deal with Showtime and the Las Vegas resident is adamant he will retire once he has fought again in September, although he was reluctant to discuss any potential names for a contest in which he could equal Rocky Marciano’s celebrated 49-0 record.
Even having the attention of the sporting world upon him has failed to rekindle his love for boxing, but he spoke at length about the $100 million cheque handed to him by his promotional team after the fight and included the obligatory mentions of his Bugatti sports cars, private jet and mansions.
He also promised to hand back all of his world title belts on Monday to give other fighters their chance, saying nothing will be on the line when he steps into the ring for the final time in five months. “It hasn’t been two hours and you’re trying to put me right back in a battle. Let me enjoy my victory. Can I enjoy my victory please?” he said.
“All I want to do is go home and rest and I’m not thinking about Manny Pacquiao this time.
“My love and passion for boxing is not what it once was, but this is my job and I have to do my best at it. This fight hasn’t changed anything, it’s just another day at work. It’s no different to the guy I fought in my third fight. It’s the same feeling.
“I’m not going to miss the sport. Before I wanted to be at every boxing event, but throughout the years I lost the love for the sport.”
Pacquiao claimed during his post-fight interview that he felt he had won, but it was hard to argue a case for him taking more than two rounds. The 36-year-old looked clumsy as he charged in at times, seeking to engage Mayweather in the type of fight that suited his strengths, and it would be hard to justify a rematch given the lop-sided outcome.
In the end, a fight, five years in the making and dubbed as a battle between “good versus evil” and “the fight of the century” simply underlined what many already realised – Mayweather’s status as the finest boxer of his generation.