TIME Boxing

Manny Pacquiao’s Hometown Fans Dejected But Still Plan Hero’s Welcome

Rishi Iyengar—TIME People watch Manny Pacquiao's fight against Floyd Mayweather at the Lagao Gymnasium in General Santos City, the Philippines, on May 3, 2015.

Pacquiao is expected to return to General Santos City in the southern Philippines on May 8

Like millions of their countrymen, thousands of fans in Pacquiao’s hometown in the southern Philippines were left disheartened and dejected Sunday afternoon, after their hero and champion lost to Floyd Mayweather in the “Fight of the Century” by unanimous decision.

“It’s not fair,” said 36-year-old Judith Lozano of General Santos City as she reached under her glasses with a handkerchief to wipe tears away. “You could see Manny was hitting him more.”

As Michael Jordan, Beyonce, Clint Eastwood, and other A-listers filed into the MGM Grand arena in Las Vegas for the richest fight ever (expected to generate revenues in excess of $300 million), Lozano and over 5,000 other residents of Gen San, as the locals call it, made their way to a public sports facility for a free screening organized by the local government. Tickets for the fight were distributed in all the local barangays (administrative wards) in mid-April on a first come, first serve basis.

As with the rest of the Philippines, General Santos comes to a complete standstill whenever Pacquiao fights, and the biggest fight of his career was no exception. People were pouring off the streets and into the three-tier public gymnasium well before the encounter began.

“We are very proud of Manny Pacquiao because he brings honor not only to our country but also to Gen San,” said Karen Cunanan. The 34-year-old got tickets through a friend and was attending with her son and nephew.

Samuel Malinao was not so lucky, having been at work when the tickets were given out in his locality. But the 40-year-old trailer driver joined hundreds of others outside the arena, watching the fight on televisions set up on rickety wooden tables. “I’m excited,” Malinao said. “I feel very proud of him.”

Both of them anticipated a Pacquiao win, naturally, but the universe had other plans.

The massive crowd inside the gymnasium appeared somewhat subdued in the lead-up to the fight, with only a smattering of applause and disjointed cheers whenever the cameras swiveled onto Pacquiao’s face.

As soon as the fight began, however, it became clear the fans had merely been conserving their energy. Every swing at Mayweather elicited tumultuous roars of approval, and punches that landed had them jumping out of their seats. As the 12-round fight wore on and Pacquiao’s American opponent appeared to be gaining the upper hand, there was a palpable dip in the crowd’s boisterousness — but not its confidence.

“I think Pacquiao is dominating the fight,” said 29-year-old Hermie Cadorna during the tenth round, balancing precariously on a ledge to see above the crowd outside the stadium. “He is throwing more punches.”

It was a view Pacquiao himself would go on to express after the loss, saying, “I thought I won the fight, he didn’t do anything.”

But regardless of the outcome, the Filipino icon will receive the same adoring reception he always does when he returns home on May 8.

“Manny’s still our champion,” said General Santos City mayor Ronnel Rivera, who was traveling this week but came back specially for the fight. “He deserves a hero’s welcome.”

TIME Boxing

Mayweather Wins by Unanimous Decision in Richest Fight Ever

"I thought I won the fight, he didn't do anything," Pacquiao said

(LAS VEGAS) — The pressure of a $180 million payday never got to Floyd Mayweather Jr., even if the richest fight ever wasn’t the best.

Using his reach and his jab Saturday night, Mayweather frustrated Manny Pacquiao, piling up enough points to win a unanimous decision in their welterweight title bout. Mayweather remained unbeaten in 48 fights, cementing his legacy as the best of his generation.

After the fight, it was disclosed that Pacquiao injured his right shoulder in training and that Nevada boxing commissioners denied his request to take an anti-inflammatory shot in his dressing room before the fight.

Pacquiao chased Mayweather around the ring most of the fight. But he was never able to land a sustained volume of punches, as Mayweather worked his defensive wizardry again.

MORE: Manny Pacquiao’s Hometown Fans Dejected But Still Plan Hero’s Welcome

Two ringside judges scored the fight 116-112, while the third had it 118-110. The Associated Press had Mayweather ahead 115-113.

“I take my hat off to Manny Pacquiao. I see now why he is at the pinnacle of boxing,” Mayweather said. “I knew he was going to push me, win some rounds. I wasn’t being hit with a lot of shots until I sit in a pocket and he landed a lot of shots.”

The bout wasn’t an artistic triumph for either fighter, with long periods where both men fought cautiously.

Pacquiao threw far fewer punches than he normally does in a fight, with Mayweather actually throwing more.

That was largely because Pacquiao didn’t throw his right hand often. Promoter Bob Arum said Pacquiao injured his shoulder sometime after March 11.

Arum said Pacquiao’s camp thought he would be allowed the anti-inflammatory shot because he had gotten them during training and they had been approved by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. But he said paperwork filed with the commission didn’t check the injury box, and the Nevada commission ruled against the request for a shot.

“The ruling made tonight affected the outcome of the fight,” Arum said.

Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar said Pacquiao’s camp wanted shots that included lidocaine, a drug that numbs the affected area. But he said Pacquiao’s representatives didn’t check the injury box after the weigh-in Friday, and the commission had no way of knowing how serious the injury was or what it could be treated with.

“I have no proof an injury actually exists and I can’t make a ruling based on what they’re telling me,” Aguilar said.

Still, Pacquiao thought he had won the bout, largely on the basis of a few left hands that seemed to shake Mayweather.

“I thought I won the fight. He didn’t do nothing except move outside,” Pacquiao said. “I got him many times.”

There were no knockdowns, and neither fighter seemed terribly hurt at any time. Pacquiao landed probably the biggest punch in the fight in the fourth round — a left hand that sent Mayweather into the ropes — but he wasn’t able to consistently land against the elusive champion.

The fight was a chess match, with Mayweather using his jab to keep Pacquiao away most of the fight. Pacquiao tried to force the action, but Mayweather was often out of his reach by the time he found his way inside.

“He’s a very awkward fighter, so I had to take my time and watch him close,” Mayweather said.

Mayweather fought confidently in the late rounds, winning the last two rounds on all three scorecards. In the final seconds of the fight he raised his right hand in victory and after the bell rang stood on the ropes, pounding his heart with his gloves.

“You’re tough,” he said to Pacquiao, hugging him in the ring.

It was vintage Mayweather, even if it didn’t please the crowd of 16,507. They cheered every time Pacquiao threw a punch, hoping that he would land a big shot and become the first fighter to beat Mayweather.

But a good percentage of what he threw never landed. Mayweather often came back with straight right hands, then moved away before Pacquiao could respond.

“I thought we pulled it out,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “I asked my man to throw more combinations between rounds. I thought he fought flat-footed too many times.”

Ringside punch stats showed Mayweather landing 148 punches of 435, while Pacquiao landed 81 of 429. The volume for Pacquiao was a lot lower than the 700 or more he usually throws.

Five years in the making, the fight unfolded before a glittering crowd of celebrities, high rollers and people who had enough money to pay for ringside seats going for $40,000 and up. Before it did, though, it was delayed about a half hour because cable and satellite systems were having trouble keeping up with the pay-per-view demand.

They paid big money to watch two superstars fight for their legacies — and in Pacquiao’s case his country — in addition to the staggering paydays for both.

Pacquiao had vowed to take the fight to Mayweather and force him into a war. His camp thought Mayweather’s 38-year-old legs weren’t what they once were.

“He is moving around, not easy to throw punches when people moving around,” Pacquiao said. “When he stayed, I threw a lot of punches. That’s a fight.”

But Mayweather moved well. His only real moment of trouble came in the fourth round when Pacquiao landed his left hand and then flurried to Mayweather’s head on the ropes, but he escaped and shook his head at Pacquiao as if to say he wasn’t hurt.

In the corner, Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr. kept yelling at his son to do more. But Mayweather was content to stick with what was working and not take a risk that could cost him the fight.

“I’m a calculated fighter, he is a tough competitor,” Mayweather said. “My dad wanted me to do more but Pacquiao is an awkward fighter.”

Mayweather said that his fight in September against a yet-to-be-determined opponent would be his last.

“I’m almost 40 years old now. I’ve been in the sport 19 years and have been a champion for 18 years. I’m truly blessed.”

Mayweather is also very rich, getting 60 percent of the approximately $300 million purse, depending on pay-per-view sales. The live gate alone was more than $70 million, and the bout was expected to easily smash the pay-per-view record of 2.48 million buys set in 2007 when Mayweather fought Oscar De La Hoya.

But while the frenzy over the fight pushed up tickets to 3-4 times their retail price the week of the fight, prices dropped dramatically as the fight neared and some tickets were being resold for less than face value.

Boxing fans called for the fight to be made five years ago, when both men were in their undisputed prime. But squabbles over promoters, drug testing and a variety of other issues sidelined it until Pacquiao beat Chris Algieri in November and immediately launched a campaign to get the fight made.

When they finally got it, it wasn’t the fight it might have been five years ago. But it was enough to settle the question that boxing fans had asked for years — who would win the big welterweight matchup of the best fighters of their time.

TIME Sports

The Little-Known Creation Myth of Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao as a Teen - 1996 Historical Images
Gerhard Joren—LightRocket / Getty Images A teenage Manny Pacquiao, in Manila in 1996

Not everything you think you know about the star boxer is actually true

When TIME profiled Manny Pacquiao in 2009, the boxer—who will take on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a much-hyped Saturday night bout—was already an international star. His face was all over American media, and his name was known among boxing fans everywhere. But nowhere was he more loved than in his homeland, the Philippines.

In the Philippines, TIME’s

Pacquiao has a myth of origin equal to that of any Greek or Roman hero. Abandoned by his father and brought up by a tough-as-nails mother, the poor boy who loves to box is rejected by a local squad but then journeys many islands away, to the country’s metropolis, Manila, to make it big. Then he leaves the Philippines to make it even bigger, conquering the world again and again to bring back riches to share with his family and friends. Now, in his hometown of General Santos City on the island of Mindanao, he and his family own commercial buildings, a convenience store, cafés and a souvenir shop that sells everything from DVDs of his fights to T-shirts to bobblehead dolls. In Manila, his children attend one of the most exclusive and expensive private schools. He is generous to a fault, spending thousands of dollars a day feeding and entertaining guests. For his last fight, he distributed $800,000 in tickets to friends.

…A movie has been made of his life. But Pacquiao says the full details of that life couldn’t possibly fit into just one film. There are things to clear up. For one, he did not leave ramshackle General Santos City, a camp of tin and thatch, to pursue boxing, even though he did love the sport. He left home at 14 because his mother Dionisia, who did odd jobs and factory work and hawked vegetables by roadsides, wasn’t really making enough to feed her six children. He had to go off and earn money elsewhere, doing anything to relieve the burden on his mother–even if she wanted him by her side. As it was, he was often absent from school because the family needed him to help sell snacks and trinkets on the potholed lanes where nearly naked children with matted hair still chase rusting bicycle wheels for fun. Pacquiao liked school, correcting and grading his classmates’ homework. He “never cheated during a quiz–he wouldn’t try to look sideways, this way or that,” says one of his schoolteachers from the Saavedra Saway Elementary School. A decent education, however, requires several years and a lot of money. The Pacquiaos had trouble accumulating even a little.

That trouble, of course, was no more.

By 2009, as the story made clear, the Pacquiao family was well-established—and they could get even more so very soon: both of Saturday’s competitors stand to earn more than $100 million from the fight.

Read the full story, here in the TIME archives: The Meaning the Mythos of Manny Pacquiao

Read an earlier profile of Manny Pacquiao, from 2004, here in the TIME archives: From Zero to Hero

TIME Boxing

The Philippines Is at Fever Pitch as Manny Pacquiao Prepares to Fight Floyd Mayweather

JOHN GURZINSKI—AFP/Getty Images WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao listens during a news conference at the KA Theatre at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on April 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A nation of a 100 million will come to a standstill to support its hero in the "fight of the century"

Shay Malcampo puts on a pair of bright red boxing gloves and gets into the ring at General Santos City’s Pacman Wild Card Gym. Others around the room are hitting punching bags, small sprung “speed bags,” or they’re skipping, or doing sit-ups. All of them are just recreational boxers trying to stay fit, but about twelve thousand miles away the facility’s owner, Manny Pacquiao, is training at the gym he named it after — the fabled Wild Card Boxing Gym in Los Angeles — for the biggest fight of his life.

“I think Manny will win, not only because of his power and speed but because of his personality and confidence,” says Malcampo, a 27-year-old medical representative. She’s planning to watch fight — which takes place on Saturday night in Las Vegas but on Sunday morning Philippines time — at home on pay-per-view. “It doesn’t matter how much it costs, I’m excited to watch it.”

The rest of the gym is filled with dozens of people on treadmills and at weight racks, sweating it out for “Manny Pacquiao’s Biggest Loser Challenge” — a contest he started in September 2014 and conducts every time he fights. The top four winners (or losers) get between $1,000 and $1o,000, and anyone who loses more than 15% of their bodyweight gets the equivalent of $560. These are sums worth sweating for in a country where the average monthly wage is less than $1,000.

The Pacman Wild Card Gym can doubtless afford it. Signs of Pacquiao’s immense wealth and success are everywhere in General Santos, the southernmost city of the Philippines’ and a place where Pacquiao spent his formative years. Besides the gym, he owns a local stadium, a gas station, a printing press, a bottled water company called “PacMan H20” and two large mansions.

As he prepares to take on an undefeated Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on Saturday night, in what is being hyped as one of boxing’s biggest ever fights, the excitement in the hometown he left at age 13 in search of a better future can be felt everywhere.

“Time practically stops here whenever he fights,” says city administrator Arnel Zapatos, adding that General Santos City’s — already a little sleepy, admittedly — become completely deserted. “Everything stops.”

That isn’t the case only in Gen San, to call the city as the locals do. Whenever the eight-division world champion fights, the whole of the Philippines comes to a near-complete standstill. Even the crime rates plummet — and opposing rebel groups in the nation’s war-torn south suspend their hostilities.

“The bad guys are too busy watching,” Dennis Principe says with a chuckle.

Principe, a journalist and broadcaster who has covered Pacquaio’s career ever since he was fighting his way through the local leagues in Manila, isn’t exaggerating. A survey by Social Weather Stations shows that 69 percent of Filipinos are closely following the long-awaited bout between Pacquiao and Mayweather — a level of engagement surpassed this year only by a clash between two of the Southern rebel groups and Pope Francis’ visit to Manila, both in January.

For the Philippines and its people, there’s very little Manny Pacquiao cannot do (or hasn’t already done). He’s an elected congressman, singer, actor, he’s the player-coach of one professional basketball team and owns another. He may stand for election to the senate soon, and is expected to run for President once he retires from boxing. But above all he’s their fighter, hero and champion, and he exemplifies their spirit and aspirations.

“Most of us Filipinos, we struggle in our daily lives and when we see someone fighting it’s a matter of life and death for them,” Principe says. “Coming from such a poor country, most of the time it’s life and death for most of our countrymen as well.”

Seeing one of their own make it this big on the world stage is meaningful in itself. If Pacquiao does lose to Floyd Mayweather, well, so be it. To many Filipinos, Pacquiao is already a winner.

It feels like a dream for Filipinos to “see someone like Manny getting pictures with Hollywood celebrities,” Principe says. “And it’s actually the celebrities that are asking for his picture.”

Manila’s Own Thrilla

The Araneta Coliseum isn’t really well known outside of the Philippine capital Manila, but its most famous fight — the “Thrilla in Manila,” at which Muhammad Ali dealt Joe Frazier a resounding defeat in their third and final bout bout — is instantly recognizable.

This Sunday’s fight doesn’t have as catchy a sobriquet, but given the national pride at stake this is no time for glib rhymes. “Battle for Greatness” read the posters plastered around the venue and across the city gravely. “Fight of the Century.” Come Sunday, the Coliseum will be packed with over 10,000 Filipinos screaming their lungs out, not at a boxing ring but at a cube of 32-foot screens in its center. Some 70% of the 14,319 seats in the stadium had been sold as of Friday evening, according to Araneta’s VP of Marketing Cecile Marvilla, who anticipates a surge in sales the day before the fight.

“It’s a holiday, and the hype will be at its fullest,” Marvilla said, “This is the most exciting fight being viewed at the Araneta Coliseum since the Thrilla in Manila.”

About 8 kilometers away, the MP Tower in the city’s Sampaloc neighborhood rises above its surroundings. It’s only 7 stories high and rather unremarkable to look at, but amid narrow streets barely wide enough for a car to drive through, and one-room houses, it might as well be the Empire State Building.

In a gym on the second floor, young boxers spar in a ring and throw punches at bags twice their size. Pacquiao was just like them when he practiced here, when it was called the LM Gym and a small, one-story structure just like the houses around it. In 2008, the champion boxer bought those premises, tore them down and built the tower that now bears his name.

Aspiring boxers like Ali Laurel can now train at the second-floor gym free of charge (or, if they can afford it, work with one of the trainers for about $2). The building also has three floors of dormitories for the boxers to stay in — cheap if they can pay, free if they can’t.

“I want to make a name in the world of boxing, I want to be a champion like Manny Pacquiao,” says Laurel, a lanky 23-year-old also from General Santos. “Maybe I won’t be as famous as him,” he adds quickly, “But I want to be a champion.”

Like everyone in the country, he firmly believes that Pacquiao can hand Mayweather his first defeat on Sunday. “But if he loses this time, I don’t think anything will happen.” he adds.

“Of course we would feel bad, just like anyone who suffers a defeat,” says Principe, “but the respect will always be there after what he has done.”

And if he wins? “It will be euphoric. It’ll be like each and every Filipino won the sweepstakes.”

TIME Boxing

Robert Lipsyte: Forget Mayweather-Pacquiao – Boycott Boxing For Good

Boxers Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines and Floyd Mayweather from the US pose during a press conference on March 11, 2015 in Los Angeles.
Frederic J. Brown—AFP/Getty Images Boxers Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines and Floyd Mayweather from the US pose during a press conference on March 11, 2015 in Los Angeles.

Robert Lipsyte, a long-time columnist of the New York Times, served mostly recently as the ombudsman for ESPN and is the author of a recent memoir, An Accidental Sportswriter.

The legendary sports writer, who began covering Muhammed Ali in 1964, says you shouldn't watch Saturday's big fight: Boxing, born out of the slave plantation, is just two people disabling each other for money to give fans a thrill

A neighbor invited me to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight and I said, “I’d rather spend the time shooting birds or teaching my Cocker Spaniel to kill Yorkies.” That was almost true even though Saturday night’s bout has been hyped as the biggest since the one that changed my life.

In 1964, when Cassius Clay challenged Sonny Liston for his world heavyweight title, the New York Times boxing writer didn’t think the fight was worthy enough – or would last long enough – to justify his presence. Clay was a blood sacrifice to the box office. Liston was a 7-1 favorite. Why not send that kid on night rewrite?

Clay won and became Muhammad Ali. I became the boxing writer and began to dislike boxing. I couldn’t figure out what this so-called sport was about, this romanticized “sweet science,” beyond slaking the blood lust of slumming gentry and offering poor boys the chance for paydays before their brains crumbled. I liked the boxers – I loved Ali, which was easy – because they were mostly brave and big-hearted and unlike the thuggish baseball players I also covered, they weren’t hostile to questions. Before big fights, I’d spend days in training camp with both opponents. By the opening bell I didn’t want either of them to get hurt. They often did and sometimes died.

Ali made us think this wasn’t about beating on people for money, it was history or comparative religion or performance art. But to see him stumble through his later fights or just try to walk now, it’s clear that it has always been about hitting and getting hit to arouse a paying crowd. What’s wrong with us? Not enough brain trauma from football and improvised explosive devices?

Keith Olbermann at ESPN has called for a boycott of the fight because of Floyd “Money” Mayweather’s record of five convictions for violence against four different women. This seems appropriate but narrow. What about violence period? What justification is there for beating on anyone? Even for money. Mugging is a survival activity, too.

Howard Cosell, after years as a premier boxing broadcaster, abandoned the sport in 1982. Entranced by the fighters, as was I, he was finally disgusted by a mismatch which could have led to another serious injury. He was reviled as a hypocrite by sportswriters still feeding at the sordid trough.

The cradle of American boxing was the slave plantation, where black men fought for their owners, who bet on them, as they did on their horses and dogs. Sometimes, a slave earned his freedom from the ring; some went to England and taught pugilism in gentlemen’s clubs. The descendants of those who stayed sometimes got to fight in “battle royals,” groups of blind-folded black youths pummeling each other at “smokers” for white men.

The history of boxing never got much better. It flourished even when illegal, in underground clubs and on river barges. It has been the least regulated of sports, no federal oversight, unions or benefits. Most boxing commissions are appointed by politicians and under pressure from local businesses. I’ve always found the promotors among the most unsavory figures in sports; lazy writers found them “raffish.” The drama of impending tragedy made boxing the easiest of sports to write about; it also served me well in three novels.

And here we are again, about to see fortunes made on the anticipation of blood and damage. There is a narrative to make it seem as though more is going on, this ex-con woman beater against a mellow politician, evil versus good if you want to make that leap. That’s so much lipstick on a pig’s snout. It’s all about two people trying to disable each other for money because it gives you a thrill. I’m staying home and you should, too.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sports

Pacquiao, Mayweather, and the Physics of Getting Punched in the Head

Enjoy it now, guys: Mayweather (left) and Pacquiao are heading for a brain pounding
JOHN GURZINSKI; AFP/Getty Images Enjoy it now, guys: Mayweather (left) and Pacquiao are heading for a pounding

A prize fight might be thrilling but it's murder on the brain

In a perfect world, a highly trained, heavily muscled man would not punch you in the head.

Fortunately for most of us, the world is indeed perfect in that one small way. But most of us aren’t boxers. For those who are–say, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, who square off this weekend in a matchup dubbed “the fight of the century“—getting punched in the head by highly trained men is an occupational hazard. The payday can be huge, but the price—in terms of traumatic brain injury—can be very high.

Plenty of sports are hard on the brain. Organized football, from Pop Warner up through the pros, has been rightly pilloried for the devastating toll it takes on players, who suffer from repeated concussions that may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative condition that has claimed so many NFL veterans.

But while football might be the most concussive team sport, it’s followed closely by ice hockey, and then by soccer, lacrosse, basketball, field hockey, gymnastics and baseball, generally in that order, depending on age, gender and the level of professionalism of the players.

Even in football, however, blows to the head are incidental if unavoidable parts of the contest. In boxing, they are the contest—and that means trouble.

“[Boxing] is not really tracked the way school sports are tracked,” says Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Boston University school of medicine. “Concussions in boxing are a poorly reported sample, but at B.U. we’ve had a 100% incidence of CTE in the boxers we’ve studied.”

With good reason. Various studies have put the force delivered by a blow from a trained boxer at anywhere from 450 lbs. (204 kg) to over 1,400 lbs. (635 kg), enough to accelerate the head to 53 g’s. Those forces hit in one of two ways—linear and rotational—and neither of them is good.

“Acceleration from a straight-on punch is linear, while a roundhouse is more rotational,” says Dr. Christopher Giza, professor of pediatric neurology and neurosurgery at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital, and a former commissioner of the California State Athletic Association. “We think rotational forces are more important in getting knocked out, but most punches have components of both.”

Within the brain, it’s the white matter—or the fatty sheathing on nerve cells that serves as insulation and connective tissue—that suffers the most. “The brain has the consistency of firm Jell-O,” says Giza. “If you shake or twist it you put strain on the connections, leading to stretching or tearing.” That causes both immediate and long-term harm, with the damaged connective tissue leaking what are known as tau proteins, which build up over time to form the signature deposits that signal CTE.

The brain’s slightly loose fit in the skull causes other problems. A thin layer of fluid surrounding the brain is supposed to provides shock absorption in the case of minor blows, but when you get hit hard enough, that little bit of wiggle room allows the brain to rattle around, with soft tissue colliding with unyielding bone. That can cause shock, bruising and even bleeding and death.

In boxing, it’s often easy to see when either kind of damage has caused trauma. The knockout, or the dazed and disoriented condition known as a technical knockout, is practically the very definition of a severe concussion. But most concussive injuries produce subtler symptoms, and while sports like football and hockey are increasingly taking the time to examine players during games and sit them out if there are signs of trouble, that’s not an option in boxing.

“From the ringside, trainers have to examine players very briefly between rounds to determine if they should stop the fight,” says Giza. “They need a very specific set of skills to diagnose a problem so quickly.” With other things going on at the same time—cuts treated, strategy planned—that diagnosis becomes even harder. And since the sport hardly rewards a boxer whose trainer pulls him preemptively, there is a competitive and financial incentive in simply slugging on.

None of this means that all boxers will sustain traumatic brain injury. The 100% figure Cantu cites is derived, he readily acknowledges, from a self-selected population of fighters who come to his clinic seeking help for neurological symptoms. At least some of the larger population of boxers who don’t show up may be fine. What’s more, smart boxers—at least at the championship level—are increasingly taking steps to protect themselves, sparring less, engaging in safe aerobic training more and fighting perhaps only two bouts a year.

But limiting things to two well-compensated fights is a luxury not every boxer can afford. For too many of them—as well as too many athletes in other sports—the payday comes first and health comes second. It’s a way of doing business that growing numbers of athletes live to regret.

TIME Boxing

Why Models Are Addicted to This Fitness Trend

Adriana Lima spotted at the gym today in NYC boxing with her trainer.
Lenny/Max—Splash News/Corbis Adriana Lima spotted at the gym today in NYC boxing with her trainer.

Experts agree that boxing benefits the body and mind

Nine out of 10 people who learn that boxing is part of my fitness regimen find it strange. Why would someone my size—I’m 5 feet—put on sweaty Everlast gloves and throw punches at a bag? Boxing, despite the stereotypes, isn’t just a man’s game, and as the world buzzes about boxing’s big night in Vegas this weekend, as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally face each other in the ring, many women who like to box will be watching.

Some will even be in attendance. The model Adriana Lima, for one, fell in love with boxing 13 years ago after hating most other exercise, and she will be at the match with her trainer Dino Spencer. “It’s very empowering because you learn how powerful and strong you can be,” Lima says. “It’s the best exercise that exists because you can get really ripped, but not too big.”

Models like Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Chanel Iman and Joan Smalls have all been seen throwing jabs and crosses with trainers, and Gisele Bundchen joined Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign with a fierce video of her training with a punching bag.

And all for good reason. Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine doctor at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, says one boxing class could burn around a thousand calories. “Boxing builds full-body strength, which is super helpful for both genders, but especially for women who want to do other sports,” he says. For instance: “The risk of a woman tearing her ACL is six times more than a man doing the same sport because the angle between the hip and knee is wider in a woman. Boxing can help counter balance that by building strength to protect the knee.”

Another benefit is building up bone mass, as women have a bigger risk of osteoporosis and bone density issues than men. Sports with repetitive pounding can build bone mass, Metzl says.

Jonathan Fader, a sports psychologist who works with professional athletes, says this: “It’s super helpful for women in this sport to overcome whatever adversity they’re facing,” he says. “There’s even a benefit when you’re defeated—if you have the resilience to overcome that defeat because so much of life in anything we pursue is about how we come back.”

Women may bring some innate advantages to the sport, too. Daniel Glazer, founder of New York’s boutique boxing gym Shadowbox—which has been called the SoulCycle of boxing—says he’s noticed women are much more loyal and dedicated to fitness as a part of their daily lives. “Women have so much passion when it comes to the way they exercise, and boxing is a very passionate sport,” he says.

The model Smalls tells TIME that what sold her on it is the fact that it’s fun, too. “It’s fun to feel your own strength,” says celebrity trainer Lacey Stone, who thinks Hilary Swank’s role as boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby jumpstarted the craze for women.

“I’ve had two children and I’m almost 34 years old, and I believe that thanks to boxing, I’m still a model,” Lima says. She mentions her trainer’s 70-year-old mother, who hits the gym every single day doing the same exercises as Lima. “Boxing, it’s just perfect.”

MONEY Tourism

Las Vegas Room Rates Drop by 50% for Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight

MGM Grand Las Vegas
Shannon Keene—501 Studios MGM Grand Las Vegas

Las Vegas may be hosting the big Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match, but it will be impossible for most people in the city to actually see the fight. That's caused thousands of hotel room cancellations—and plummeting room rates.

Months ago, when it was announced that Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao “Fight of the Century” would take place on May 2 in Las Vegas, hotels in the city were flooded with reservations and room rates soared. For a while at the MGM Grand, where the fight is taking place, the cheapest rooms were going for $1,600 minimum, and many properties were commanding rates three and four times as high as normal weekends.

More recently, though, reality set in for fight fans. Only a few hundred tickets went up for sale directly to the public, and they sold out in less than one minute. Tickets on the secondary market have been incredibly expensive (averaging over $4,000), and even watching the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on TV in Las Vegas is expensive, difficult, or simply not an option. Unlike the rest of the country, which can watch with pay-per-view, Vegas is only screening the fight via closed-circuit TV in MGM-owned properties—and admission is often sold out. The result is that many fans have been left wondering: Why go to Vegas during fight weekend if you can’t even see the fight?

So this week, as the fight approached and the deadline by which hotel guests had to cancel reservations or pay a penalty neared, tons of people seem to have cancelled their bookings. As of Friday, rooms were available this weekend at the MGM Grand starting at $499, less than one-third what it was once. Other MGM-owned properties, such as The Mirage, Luxor, and Circus Circus are priced under $200 per night for Friday and Saturday. The cheapest room at the latter is $129; not long ago the property’s “best rate” for this weekend was $284.

Vanessa Doleshal, the business development manager for the tourism booking site Vegas.com, explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Bloomberg that average May 1-2 room rates for the 100+ Sin City-area hotels it works with have dropped from $558 to $338 per night at the last minute.

“People are realizing that they’re not going to be able to get ahold of a viewing party ticket and they’re not going to be able to get a ticket to the fight, so why go to Vegas?” Doleshal said in one interview.

And if you are going to Vegas this weekend and you made your reservation weeks ago when prices were peaking, call up the property right away and demand the current rate. Depending on the fine print of your booking, most hotels will honor such a request—but they’re not going to adjust the rate unless you take the initiative and ask.

TIME Boxing

Manny Pacquiao Spent $3 to 4 Million on Tickets for the Fight

John Gurzinski—AFP/Getty Images WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao listens during a news conference at the KA Theatre at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on April 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He'll pack a large entourage into the stands

Manny Pacquiao dropped between $3 and 4 million dollars to make sure 900 of his closest friends could come see his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday.

Tickets for the highly anticipated match-up had an exorbitant sticker price — $10,000 for ringside seats, though they’re now going for much higher in online auctions. Only 500 tickets were made available to the public, and they were bought up in a matter of seconds, the AP reports.

It’s unclear how large Mayweather’s entourage will be, but 900 voices cheering support will likely feel very good for Pacquiao in the ring.


TIME Boxing

Mayweather-Pacquiao Is a $300 Million Bout Not Worth Much for Boxing

JOHN GURZINSKI—AFP/Getty Images Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) and Manny Pacquiao pose during a news conference at the KA Theatre at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on April 29, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

One bout, especially between fading fighters—including a convicted abuser of women—won't revive a sport's relevance

Boxing’s “Fight of the Century,” between undefeated Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, takes place in Las Vegas on Saturday night, and one thing is clear: there’s plenty to loathe about the whole event. First off, the bout should have happened six years ago, when Mayweather, now 38, and Pacquiao, 36, were in their primes. But greed, ego and obstinance got in the way. The promoters are selling payoff: this is the fight you’ve been waiting years for! Finally, the moment has arrived! Buckle up! But really, they’re pushing waste. This should be the third or fourth Fight of the Century; a series of Mayweather-Pacquiao clashes could have re-energized the sport.

Plus, Mayweather’s a pretty unctuous fellow. He’s a convicted abuser of women. He’s been found guilty or pleaded guilty to battery five times in the past 14 years. And when questioned about these incidents, Mayweather dodges, changing the subject to the bout. The message: stop nagging about domestic violence, it’s a distraction on the road to more riches.

It’s detestable. If you’d rather not fork over $100 to support Mayweather, that’s an eminently rational move. You may also not want to line the pockets of Pacquiao, and his brand of politics: as a congressman in his native Philippines, Pacquiao is against gay marriage and has called condoms “sinful.”

But millions of people will watch the fight anyway, because Americans have a history of suspending moral judgement in the name of entertainment: we may hate Mayweather, but we love uppercuts (Mike Tyson, don’t forget, still drew a crowd after being released from prison for rape). And Mayweather-Pacquiao could very well live up to the hype. They’re singular talents, the premier fighters of this generation. Come Sunday morning, we all might be breathless. It was worth the wait.

But then what? Where does boxing, a sport that makes a few fighters ludicrously rich while barely entering the cultural conversation for the rest of the year, go from here?

Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated reports that according to people close to Mayweather, the champ will fight one more time after facing Pacquiao. After that, he’ll call it quits. Pacquiao is also nearing the end. Boxing is firmly invested in the mega-fight model—drive demand to a handful of boxers, keep their bouts behind the pay-per-view wall, let these fighters and their cronies hoard the profits. Boxing is finally back on network television, as NBC and CBS are broadcasting fights from the Premier Boxing Champions promotion: NBC’s most recent telecast, the night of April 11 —a Saturday—drew 2.9 million viewers. By comparison, a Florida State-Notre Dame regular season college football game that aired on ABC on a Saturday night in October drew 13.25 million viewers.

Boxing’s jump back onto the network TV probably came too little, too late. Viewers forgot about the sweet science—and are satisfied with all of the other entertainment options that have emerged over the last two decades, including mixed martial arts. There’s no urgency to watch two unfamiliar fighters on a Saturday night.

Mayweather-Pacquiao will set all kinds of financial records; it’s projected to produce $72 million in ticket revenue, more than tripling the previous high for a prize fight. Mayweather, already the highest-paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes, will take some $180 million of the projected $300 million purse, with Pacquiao earning the rest. But these riches can’t buy any love—neither for Mayweather, nor his sport.

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