MACAU -- Now that Manny's mastery in Macau has freed us again to place the proper nouns "Pacquiao" and "Mayweather" in the same sentences, savor a gem of a riff from Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach.
"You know what, it's not a good fight," Roach said of the globally craved Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. "Mayweather's never been in a good fight, not in a long time. He's f------ boring. He says he gives the people what they want. I disagree. I mean, he's a good boxer, yes. He's a very good boxer. But he's boring to watch. He really is.
"I mean, two fights ago," Roach did a promotion where he took five contest winners to a Mayweather fight, "so, we had pretty good seats. And there's four or five Asian guys in front of us, right? They were probably in the sixth or seventh round, right? And all their heads were going the same way, and they're f------ sound asleep, right?
"People were more interested in them guys sleeping than in the fight. People were filming them, taking pictures of them, we were laughing. We weren't even watching the fight anymore. The fight was so f------ boring. I mean, it was a great boxing match for Mayweather, he has all the moves and he's still very good at that style, but he's f------ boring as can be, so if that fight does happen, I don't think it's a trilogy, but that's my own opinion."
This charming tale of slumber at the MGM reminded me while the fight might wind up sagging, can you imagine the run-up? As yet another of Roach's monologues on Mayweather's tedium reminded me, the run-up could prove a sumptuous festival of candor. It could build and burgeon for weeks until it ruled the Earth of run-ups, and it's all possible again because of another reminder that came Sunday midday (Saturday night U.S.):
Boxing has many fighters and boxers; Manny Pacquiao is an athlete.
From the first bell of the 24th, that reality governed Pacquiao's return after 350 days. The ring contained a fighter and an athlete. Brandon Rios' attacks would meet futility because an athlete would duck them. Rios' self-protection would unravel because an athlete would unlock it with speed and angles. Even in the closing round when Pacquiao backed off, the athlete had not tired. "I'm doing that because, you know, boxing is not about killing each other," he said.
All around the aftermath rang with chatter about that dusted-off old subject: the speed with the punches and the legs. Rios had trained for speed, he said, just not that speed. "The speed, that's what got me," he said. "He's faster than I thought he was. That m----------- is fast." The speed forced Rios' chin to make an account of itself, which it did impressively. It enabled viewers to see Rios' penchant for smiling when hit in the face. The speed hadn't returned from hiatus or anything -- it carried on even through Pacquiao's two-match lull of 2012, present but occluded in talk of one shocking decision (against Timothy Bradley) and one shocking punch (against Juan Manuel Marquez) -- but it regained the fore. It might be 2009-level speed. It might be a mite off. It's still compelling.
Said Roach, "Manny Pacquiao, he's back, but I never really had the thought he went anywhere."
Gavin MacMillan, the sports scientist who has worked in a plethora of sports before joining Team Pacquiao as conditioning coach, tabs Pacquiao as the only present-day boxer who has intrigued him. "I always felt like he was the absolute best athlete in boxing," MacMillan said in the Philippines last week, "just seeing the speed that he would move with, and he had figured out how to use his body in space better than other people.
"But when you see it face-to-face and in person," he said, "you can't believe how much power this guy's creating with his size. He proves the point over and over again that speed is the dominant factor in all of sports."
Having proved it again against Rios while rebounding from the MGM Grand floor 11 months prior, Pacquiao could utter some exhilarated passages, one being, "My time is not over," and another being, "This is not my time yet, so my journey will continue and as I said, 'We will rise again.'"
That, in turn, restored the Pacquiao-Mayweather chatter that once tantalized boxing through some years. Fans are free to wish again. Suddenly you had promoter Bob Arum answering, "I know it's a fight that should happen and really, there's a will, there's a way, if all the sides cut out the crap." You had Roach predicting of Mayweather, "I think Manny's speed will overwhelm him." And you had Rios saying, "I tip my hat to Manny Pacquiao. He still has it."
That comes after MacMillan's pre-fight assessment: "These arguments that he's slowed down, he's this, he's that, they're just ridiculous." From his studied perspective, he finds five more years realistic, if desired.
A Macau midday in a faux-Venice resort restored the conversation, which is never better than when coming from Roach. Last week in the Philippines, having foreseen this Rios fight pretty much as it happened, he said of Arum, "Bob, he's a businessman. He's a good one. He's one of the best out there. And you know what? I know he doesn't want the fight to happen until it's the last fight. He wants that to be the last fight, because that's when it's gonna be at its biggest. He doesn't want there to be anything after that, because he said, 'You know what, it doesn't need to go anywhere.' The winner of that fight is the king."
So again we can dream, even if we also might sleep.