Pacquiao's free time is now spent revamping his personal life and working as a congressman in his native Philippines, while Mayweather is serving a jail sentence. But both are still in prime fighting condition, so even with recent roadblocks that have kept them from a bout, chances were still good that a fight would happen.
And what a fight it would have been. Mayweather is undefeated in the ring, a perfect 43-for-43 with 26 knockouts. Pacquiao had fought 60 times, winning 54 of those, 38 by knockout. His last lost was in 2005 — until Saturday night, that is.
In a decision that stunned Pacquiao and the boxing world, Timothy Bradley took down Pacquiao in a split decision, marring Pacquiao's sterling record of late.
The loss may also mean that the huge showdown between Pacquiao and Mayweather may never happen — or, if it does, may never matter.
Even people who knew nothing about boxing knew who Mayweather was as he rampaged through the last decade, and Pacquiao's name soon grew to similar prominence. If a casual fan knew only two boxers, it was Mayweather and Pacquiao. There was an expectation that they would fight, and there was a chance that getting them both in the ring would actually bring new people to boxing.
The years upon years of buildup helped. Mayweather seemed OK with the idea, then backpedaled with charges about Pacquiao's training and supposed drug use. Pacquiao refused to sacrifice his reputation — and a chance at an equal payday — for Mayweather's demands.
So, the chances for the fight dwindled, and any hopes went on hiatus as Mayweather headed to jail after his last win and Pacquiao prepared to fight Bradley.
But now, with this loss to Bradley, Pacquiao's record doesn't have the same shine. For Pacquiao, it's not a huge deal. He wasn't undefeated, and everyone who watched the fight knows what happened. He came out with his character intact. This could even help him in the long run.
But for Mayweather, this is a huge missed opportunity. Pacquiao was the final remaining elite fighter of Mayweather's generation — the only guy out there that people thought could actually beat Mayweather (another reason people said Mayweather was so loathe to fight). For Mayweather to prove he is the greatest boxer of this generation, he had to fight Pacquiao in his prime. Now, it seems the time has passed. He will not have a chance at Mayweather-Pacquiao when both fighters are so good and looking so unbeatable. Now, it will just be leftovers.
Pacquiao could still benefit from a fight with Mayweather, and he's right to stick to his guns until he feels comfortable with the preconditions.
But for Mayweather, stalling in scheduling this bout has marred any chance he had of showing definitively that he is the best fighter of this generation. He could have taken a challenge and beat all odds. Now another boxer has taken his glory.