- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A greeting from the sport of boxing:

Welcome back, everyone.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen you.

You haven’t paid much attention to us in a while. Oh, you might have found something on your social media page from time to time about this fight or that fight, or heard some friends mention a fight they found on HBO or Showtime while surfing with the remote on a Saturday night.

But to have on your plate as a full course meal? To see it dominating the sports pages or trending daily, to see a fight become a national debate — it’s been a long time, maybe more than a decade.

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would like to welcome you back. You can join them on May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, or in your living room for a one-time fee that may be larger than your monthly cable bill.

We’ve finally got a fight. It may be a fight that is taking place five years too late, and it may be the last fight you care about. But this is the one that will awaken the masses who maybe think boxing has disappeared and been replaced by a sport where they kick and grab each other.

The last fight that captured the attention of the world? Some would say a previous Mayweather fight — when he faced the Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya, in 2007, generating a record 2.3 million pay-per-view buys. But the last truly big fight we’ve had ­— the one that your grandmother may have an opinion about — was Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson in 2002 for the heavyweight championship of the world.

It generated 1.97 million pay-per-view buys, but that was the last fight that had the atmosphere of a major event — the kind that everyone counts the days to see.

That fight, of course, proved to be a disappointment. Tyson was a shot fighter by this point in his career, and Lewis handled him with ease for seven rounds until his trainer, Emanuel Steward, told Lewis to stop playing around and knock him out — which he did in the eighth round.

That fight — like this one — happened years too late.

Mayweather, who will turn 38 on Tuesday, and Pacquiao, who turned 36 in December, are at the end of their careers. Both have looked vulnerable with each passing fight. Pacquiao went the distance against lesser opponents in two of his last three fights. Then, of course, there was the knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round in 2012. Mayweather struggled against the bigger Marcos Maidana in their first fight last year, but did come back to dominate him in the rematch.

This fight will not be the best of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Neither one, though, is the shot fighter that Tyson was.

They aren’t Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns in their primes, either.

One casualty of this mega fight already is perspective. You’ll hear from some so-called experts that this is the biggest fight since Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier met in “The Fight of the Century” in March 1971. Bet on Mayweather-Pacquiao being labeled “The Fight of the Century” ­­­— not a stretch since this is year 2015 of the 21st century, although De La Hoya-Mayweather was also promoted as the “Fight of the Century” in 2007.

But Mayweather-Pacquiao bigger than the first Leonard-Hearns fight? Bigger than the first Leonard-Roberto Duran fight? Bigger than Leonard and Marvin Hagler? Please. Need I go on?

Then again, we are in the age where the last breakfast we had is the greatest breakfast in the world — and we’ve got the pictures on social media to prove it.

The place we are now in the media landscape will inflate Mayweather-Pacquiao to new heights for hype. It certainly will feel like the biggest fight in history, because history is written now 140 characters at a time. The social media explosion during Mayweather-Pacquiao fight week will certainly be like nothing we’ve ever seen in boxing.

If the fight matches the hype, then you’ll be glad you came back.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.


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