LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather Jr. was getting ready to make his ring walk about the time Manny Pacquiao arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Philippine Airlines Flight 102. He'll be occupying a cell at the Clark County Detention Center by the time Pacquiao makes his way to this gambling city for his June 9 fight with Timothy Bradley.
The two are seemingly destined never to be in the same spot at the same time. Certainly not in the ring, something Mayweather made clear Saturday night after taking on Miguel Cotto in a bruising fight that, if not his best, was certainly among his most exciting.
"The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is not going to happen," Mayweather said. "It's not my fault."
More on that later, although Mayweather could be called out for using some convoluted logic about why the fight won't happen. Suffice it to say he believes he's in the driver's seat for any mega-fight and is both suspicious of Pacquiao and unwilling to take equal money for the bout.
After making a minimum $32 million in an impressive performance Saturday night against Cotto, Mayweather could be excused for dismissing what would be the richest fight in boxing history. But, with jail time coming up for a domestic abuse charge, there will be plenty of time for reflection about his future.
"I don't know where we're going to go from here, because we basically have fought everybody in this sport," Mayweather said. "I don't have to fight if I don't want to."
Indeed, Mayweather hinted of retirement following his tough battle with Cotto, which ended with Mayweather claiming a piece of the 154-pound title with a unanimous decision. But there's huge money still to be made, and he's a fighter who burns through cash with a Money Team entourage that seems to grow with each fight.
Unlike most of his fights, though, Mayweather looked like he had been in a fight after beating Cotto. He had welts under his both eyes and spoke deliberately, like a fighter who was exhausted by the effort needed to capture the 43rd win of his unblemished career.
He could have danced about and beaten Cotto without taking the most punishment of his career, Mayweather insisted. But he wanted to give fans a good show, and make them happy they spent $69.95 on pay-per-view to see him fight.
Having Justin Bieber and 50 Cent accompany him into the ring was entertaining, sure. But the action in the ring was even better.
"Things happened tonight, and we both had to fight. But the main thing is that we got the victory," Mayweather said. "The fans were happy. It's about impressing fans and giving them what they want to see."
The fans did enjoy it, although it was a strange strategy for the normally defensively oriented Mayweather, who said a few days before the fight that he wasn't going to get into any brawls in the ring because he was worried about his future health. Both fighters paid a price for this brawl, with Cotto going to a local hospital for examination instead of attending the post-fight press conference.
They traded punches for 12 rounds without taking a second off, and the sellout crowd at the MGM Grand arena stood and cheered most of the way. Mayweather was the sharper and cleaner puncher, but Cotto had his moments, too, landing some big shots to Mayweather's head and body.
Although Mayweather ended up winning easily on all three ringside scorecards, the fight was in doubt in the middle rounds, and he never really dominated until he caught Cotto with an uppercut that buckled his knees in the final round.
"You're a hell of a champion," Mayweather told Cotto in the ring afterward. "You're the toughest guy I ever fought."
Most in boxing figure Pacquiao would be even tougher for Mayweather, which may be the reason he seems to want no part of him. Mayweather said before the fight he believes Pacquiao used steroids to bulk up and it would be dangerous to fight him, although he has offered no proof of his claims and is being sued by Pacquiao for defamation.
Afterward, Mayweather said the fight wouldn't be happening because Pacquiao is tied to promoter Bob Arum, and he doesn't want to deal with Arum. He said he offered Pacquiao $40 million to fight — with $20 million wired to him within 24 hours of accepting — and was turned down. The fight could easily make each man much more than that, but Mayweather believes he is the true attraction and won't agree to split the proceeds 50-50 with Pacquiao.
Mayweather's more immediate future is a bigger worry for him than a Pacquiao fight. He's going to be spending much of the summer in a jail cell for his no contest plea to domestic abuse stemming from a fight with the mother of his children. It will be the first long jail stretch for Mayweather, who has a history of such charges over the years.
He didn't feel much like talking about it after the fight, preferring instead to highlight his contributions to charity and some vague plans to help hungry and homeless people. Still, he acknowledged that the impending move from his multimillion-dollar mansion to a spartan cell was weighing on him.
"The only thing it can do is make me stronger as a person," Mayweather said. "When it comes to June 1, I have to accept it like a man."
On this night he was certainly man enough, putting on a show that even his detractors had to admire. The knock on Mayweather has long been that, although he's a masterful boxer, he often fought too defensively to excite fight fans and was seldom worth the money they put out to watch him in their living rooms.
Against Cotto he fought, and fought hard. He beat a brawler, and he beat him at his own game.
Aside from the punishment that showed on his face, the night was a huge success for Mayweather and his many minions. Though he hinted at retirement, few in boxing doubt that he will be back in the ring, if only because the money is so big he can't afford not to be.
Who knows, if jail does indeed make him stronger, maybe he'll even be up to taking on Pacquiao.
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