Mayweather-Pacquiao -- Revisiting the richest fight in boxing history

How Mayweather vs. Pacquiao 2015 came to be (2:26)

Max Kellerman traces the origins of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao from 2007 to the ring in 2015. (2:26)

When Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally jumped in the ring together five years ago on May 2, 2015, the fight became the richest of all time.

Despite the money it generated -- $600 million in total -- the fight was poor in entertainment. But boxing has not seen an event bigger for global attention and money generated since, and it will remain significant for matching the best two boxers of a generation.

After over five years of trying to make the fight happen, the two welterweights and world champions in multiple weight divisions finally agreed to a clash to decide boxing's pound-for-pound king at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

It was one of the defining moments in boxing history, generated record amounts of money and was watched by millions around the world. But for a while, it looked like a dream fight that was impossible to make.

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Fight to get the fight | Making the Fight

The Fight | The Aftermath

Fight to get the fight

It all started in 2009 when Mayweather ended a brief retirement and started talking about Pacquiao. It made sense: they were both world champions in multiple weight divisions, and both had claims to be the world's best pound-for-pound boxer.

But they could not agree to a split on the money. Mayweather was not willing to go 50-50 on it, so instead the American faced Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez in September 2009.

Quotable: "He wants a 50-50 split," Mayweather said. "That's never going to happen.

"If Bob Arum wasn't trying to be so greedy, that fight would happen. It still is a business even if it is a sport. Marquez called me out and he deserves a shot. If Manny Pacquiao really wanted a fight with me, all he has to do is say it. We could pay Marquez to step aside, a million dollars, step aside. Let me know."

Drug testing debate

More talks later that year resolved the differences over money and the plan was for them to fight on March 13, 2010. But it never happened. This time due to differences over drug testing.

Mayweather insisted Pacquiao agree to Olympic-style blood-screening 30 days prior to the fight, and the fallout saw Pacquiao claim that he would file a defamation lawsuit against Mayweather for accusing him of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Pacquiao was willing to submit to unlimited urine tests and agreed to blood tests in January and as many as two more, but no later than 30 days before the fight.

Quotable: Mayweather said after a unanimous points win over Shane Mosley in May 2010: "If Manny Pacquiao can take a blood and urine test then we have a fight."

Pacquiao said: "For me, as long as the drug test is not done close to the match, I'll agree because if they'll get blood from me close to the match, it will be a disadvantage for me because I'm smaller and he's big."

Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum said: "He [Mayweather] can dictate all he wants, as far as Pacquiao is concerned, nobody needs him. It's delusional. It's silly."

Pacquiao added: "Enough is enough.

"These people, [Floyd] Mayweather Sr, Jr. and Golden Boy Promotions, think it is a joke and a right to accuse someone wrongly of using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. I have tried to just brush it off as a mere pre-fight ploy but I think they have gone overboard."

Another setback

Mayweather tried again in 2012, and the pair even spoke on the phone in January 2012.

Just as progress looked like it was being made, and the court case was settled, Pacquiao got heavily knocked out in the sixth round by Marquez. It was a devastating blow for those who wanted to see Mayweather-Pacquiao happen, and it was hard to see how the fight could be made after such a knockout blow.

The two sides seemed further apart when Mayweather signed a deal with U.S. TV network Showtime, the rival of HBO that screened Pacquiao's fights. But the pair continued to go back and forth on social media.

They sparred on Twitter in September 2014, and again in January 2015, and interest -- as well as hope -- in the fight happening was alive again.

Making the Fight

Pacquiao rebuilt his career after the devastating loss to Marquez with points with wins over Brandon Rios, Tim Bradley and Chris Algieri for the WBO world welterweight title. After beating Miguel Cotto in May 2012 and Robert Guerrero a year later, Mayweather earned a majority decision over Canelo Alvarez in a big fight in September 2013.

Quotable: Pacquiao said after flooring Chris Algieri six times in an easy points win in November 2014: "I think it's time to make that fight happen.

"The people deserve that fight. The fans deserve that fight. I want that fight. They're always denying the fight. I think the fight has to happen."

Arum said: "Let's get it done and let's get it done the next fight for each fighter, sometime in the first six months of next year."

Pacquiao was not on Mayweather's list of future options before he boxed in May 2014 against Marcos Maidana, but the Pacquiao fight then came back into focus after Mayweather beat Maidana for a second time later that year.

In June 2014, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves met Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum about a Mayweather fight. Moonves went on to play a key role in making the fight a reality.

Both "Pac Man" Pacquiao and "Money" Mayweather, or "TBE" (The Best Ever) as Mayweather called himself, were now pushing for the fight again.

Quotable: Mayweather said after a unanimous decision over Maidana in the rematch: "I don't know who I'm fighting in May [2015] but I expect to fight in May.

"Manny Pacquiao needs to focus on the guy in front of him. If the Pacquiao fight presents itself let's make it happen."

Talks stepped up a level in January 2015 when Arum and Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz met two of Mayweather's closest figures: his adviser Al Haymon and CEO of Mayweather Promotions Leonard Ellerbe.

Quotable: Arum said: "We've agreed to everything, period.

"The people we have talked to on Mayweather's side have agreed to everything. Now we need Mayweather to step up and say, 'Yeah, I'm on board. I agree.'"

A chance meeting

A public meeting on Jan. 28, 2015, at an NBA game in Miami, followed by a private meeting in a hotel suite the same night that lasted more than an hour, fueled speculation that the fight was about to be agreed upon.

Poor weather in Miami played a key part in the fight getting made. Pacquiao was in Miami as a judge in the Miss Universe pageant on Jan. 25, and his flight out was canceled due to the weather.

Instead, Pacquiao went to see the Miami Heat game. It just so happened that Mayweather was also at the game. They met up during halftime and agreed to meet again, afterward, in Pacquiao's hotel room. The rival champions sat next to each other as Mayweather called Stephen Espinoza, at the time the executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, on Facetime to try to make it happen.

Some of the things that needed to be agreed on included revenue split (60-40 in Mayweather's favor), drug testing protocol (Mayweather's preferred random blood and urine testing conducted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency rather than Pacquiao's desire for it to be run by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association), who would walk to the ring last (Mayweather), who would be introduced last (Mayweather), who would be billed first in the promotion (Mayweather-Pacquiao), as well as a complicated TV deal between HBO and Showtime.

Quotable: Espinoza said: "One of the main reasons why this deal got done, as opposed to deals in the past, was because Leslie Moonves was a part of the process.

"He was deeply committed to making this deal and was someone that all parties in this negotiation really respect. He was really the catalyst for seeing this through and refused to take no for an answer from any side."

The Moonves effect

Moonves, who dealt with Arum and Haymon during negotiations, said: "I had the relationship with both sides and have a vested interest because of our deal with Floyd. Bob knew I was a fair broker. I was the one who was able to be a liaison.

Excitement and speculation about Mayweather-Pacquiao was at fever pitch. It was a big story across the world.

Finally, on Feb. 20, 2015, things got serious when the pair confirmed the fight was on via their social media channels.

Quotable: Pacquiao said a day after the fight was confirmed: "I am very happy that Floyd Mayweather and I can give the fans the fight they have wanted for so many years.

"I dedicate this fight to all the fans who willed this fight to happen and, as always, to bring glory to the Philippines.

"I'm very happy this five-year saga has come to an end. The fans all wanted and deserved this fight, and I'm happy we're giving it to them. It's an honor to be part of this historic event."

The hype machine then went into overdrive and we repeatedly heard from Mayweather: "I am the best ever, 'TBE'." It was one of the narratives around the build-up to the fight: Where did Mayweather rank alongside the greats such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard?

The theory was Pacquiao could secure Mayweather's legacy and place him among (or above) the greats.

The Fight

Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs), 38, and Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), 36, were perhaps past their peaks by the time they met, but boxing was just grateful the match-up was a reality at last.

The size of the fight and the money involved ($600 million gross revenue, 4.6 million PPV buys) made Mayweather-Pacquiao the biggest fight since the 1980s at least, perhaps going back to even Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier in 1971. It was on the front and back pages of newspapers in the build-up, hogged sports bulletins on TV and radio, and was trending on social media.

Ringside seats among a crowd of 16,500 went for $180,000 and A-list celebrities, including Prince, Robert De Niro and Clint Eastwood, were among the stars in attendance. Those seats at the lower end of the eye-watering scale -- priced between $1,500 and $7,500 -- were snapped up in a matter of minutes.

Quotable: Arum, who promoted the likes of Muhammad Ali, said: "We had Ali-Frazier, we had Leonard-Duran, we had Leonard-Hagler, and now we have Pacquiao and Mayweather. This is the biggest fight of its era. It's a great event for boxing. Everybody around the world is interested in this fight -- ambassadors, senators, celebrities."

Mayweather said: "I'm in the gym working right now, dedicating myself to the sport, pushing myself to the limit because I never wanted to win a fight so bad in my life."

The anti-climax

Mayweather, a five-division champion, went into the fight as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and, despite being involved in big fights against the likes of Alvarez, Oscar De La Hoya and Cotto, this one was bigger than any other. Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division titleholder, had never wanted victory more.

Just like a can of pop that has been left open for a while, the fight lacked any fizz when it came to the moment of enjoying it. For many, it left a bad taste of anti-climax. Some even felt cheated.

It lacked intensity and drama. Pacquiao usually relied on volume and pressure to overwhelm opponents, but there was none of that on show at the MGM. The southpaw landed just 18 jabs to Mayweather's 67, and Pacquiao threw six fewer punches than Mayweather.

Pacquiao got through with a straight left that sent Mayweather onto the ropes in the fourth round, but generally, Mayweather controlled the distance and limited Pacquiao's attacks. Mayweather blocked Pacquiao's punches, countered with jabs, and the Filipino was unable to catch the slippery American as much as he usually does opponents. There was none of Pacquiao's fast flurries of punches, and Mayweather was never discomforted.

The American adopted defensive tactics rather than seeking a knockout as he contained Pacquiao, and he used his reach and skills to pile up the points.

There were no knockdowns, neither was badly hurt, and Mayweather grew more confident as the fight went on.

Mayweather retained his WBC and WBA world welterweight titles, and took Pacquiao's WBO belt, with the 118-110, 116-112, 116-112 unanimous decision. It sealed his status as the best fighter of his era, but left serious questions as to his own claim that he was the best ever. He already has some claim to the title: in his previous seven fights going to decision, Mayweather had won 60 of 84 judges' scorecards in the final four rounds (71%).

The Aftermath

Many were left unimpressed and feeling shortchanged by the fight. Twitter exploded with some outraged at a lack of action, demanding their money back from PPV.

But Mayweather, who earned roughly $250 million from the fight, did not seem too bothered by the criticism as he posted pictures of his mass earnings.

Quotable: Mayweather said: "He's a hell of a fighter. I take my hat off to Manny Pacquiao. Now I see why he's one of the guys at the pinnacle.

"He had some moments, but I kept him on the outside. I didn't get hit with a lot of shots unless I stood in the pocket. I'm a calculating fighter."

Pacquiao said: "I thought I won the fight. He [Mayweather] didn't do nothing."

Mike Tyson tweeted: "We waited 5 years for that.. #underwhelmed"

Fans were further incensed when Pacquiao disclosed he went into the fight with a right shoulder injury. Punters who had placed a bet on Pacquiao wanted their money back after the Filipino said that he had been injured in training camp and the shoulder was re-aggravated in the third round. Those who had forked out for the PPV were also upset.

There were reports that Pacquiao could face disciplinary action from Nevada boxing officials for failing to disclose a shoulder injury, which required surgery on May 7.

There was no rematch, but it was not quite the end of the story.

The lawsuit

A lawsuit brought by fans unhappy with Pacquiao fighting with a shoulder injury was dismissed in 2017, and the appeals court refused to reinstate it in a 3-0 vote in November 2019.

Pacquiao's remarkable career is still going at the age of 41 as he combines boxing with a political career back home in the Philippines.

Pac Man won back the WBO crown with a points win over Bradley nearly a year after losing to Mayweather, but the Filipino's career looked over when he was outpointed by Australia's Jeff Horn in a big shock in July 2017. But as he has done before, Pacquiao responded by stopping Lucas Matthysse in July 2018 and then outpointed Adrien Broner last year.

Later in 2019, Pacquiao handed Keith Thurman, a man 10 years his junior, his first-ever defeat by split points decision and is now a WBA titleholder. Pacquiao (62-7-2) floored Thurman in the first round in one of his best displays in recent years.

Moving on

Mayweather outpointed Andre Berto four months after conquering Pacquiao, retired again, then came out of retirement for a fight against UFC star Conor McGregor in August 2017. It got a lot of criticism from purists, but there was enough interest to generate the second-biggest money event in the history of boxing, with 4.3 million PPV buys and total revenue of $550 million.

It also meant Mayweather closed his career on 50-0, with a predictable 10th-round TKO.

There have even been recent reports of a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch, but that is unlikely to happen and would be a sad sequel to one of boxing's biggest-ever nights.