Senator's choice.

Photographer: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

John McCain Roots for Pacquiao Over Mayweather

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Manny Pacquiao fights Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday night in Las Vegas in the most anticipated boxing match since Muhammad  Ali fought Joe Frazier more than 40 years ago. In politics, there is no bigger boxing aficionado than Senator John McCain of Arizona. As a kid he watched fights on television -- a staple in the 1950s -- and boxed for three years at the U.S. Naval Academy. He has the same passion for boxing that he brings to the political arena. What follows is a lightly edited exchange of e-mails with McCain on this weekend's fight -- featuring the richest purse in boxing history -- and on the "sweet science" in general:

Hunt: Could Mayweather-Pacquiao shape up to be one of the classic fights or is all this hype just to build up the gate?

McCain: If history is any judge, it’s very rare that a fight of this nature lives up to the hype. But we hope so!

Hunt: You're a big Pacquiao fan. Is it his boxing style or do you identify with him as a fellow politician?

McCain: I like him as a boxer and admire his modesty, strong religious faith and service in the Filipino legislature.

Hunt: You dislike Mayweather?

McCain: No -- I admire his truly remarkable boxing skills.

Hunt: Boxing, like elections, comes down to match-ups. What are the contrasting styles, strengths, weaknesses of these two fighters?

McCain: Match-ups are important. Roosevelt-Landon was a walkover. So was LBJ-Goldwater. I got beat like Jake LaMotta did by Sugar Ray Robinson. This match-up? Pacquiao: Guts, commitment, national pride and faith. Mayweather: Speed, age, overall strength and an incredible ability to make his opponent miss.

Hunt: You once said that your boxing background helped you to survive five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi: How?

McCain: Being pounded around and experiencing some level of physical pain certainly helped in prison.

Hunt: Some -- certainly not me, Senator -- say you're a very combative politician. Does any of that flow from your boxing days?

McCain: I’ve always believed in the old Irish saying, “A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed.” My combative attitude pre-dated my boxing days and stayed with me throughout my political career.

Hunt: How would you describe yourself as a boxer?

McCain: Mediocre.

Hunt: You grew up when the gold standard was heavyweight, from Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano to Ali. All the focus now is on welterweights and middleweights. What happened to the big guys?

McCain: One reason is there’s no big American name. A couple of guys named Klitschko have dominated the heavyweight scene.

Hunt: You said the best fighter -- "pound for pound," as they say -- was Sugar Ray Robinson. What do you remember about Sugar?

McCain: Most of all, his fight with Joey Maxim where he passed out from the heat at Yankee Stadium while winning overwhelmingly in a bout for the light heavyweight championship of the world.

Hunt: Saturday is the richest match ever but the popularity of boxing has plummeted. Why? And can it ever come back?

McCain: Pay-per-view has restricted the number of viewers -- just think what would happen if the NFL were only available on pay-per-view. I remember when there were televised fights every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night. It can only come back if it reaches a much larger audience.

Hunt: If we worry about professional football being too violent, isn't boxing worse?

McCain: Whenever I see Muhammad Ali, it’s a matter of concern.

Hunt: Citing the controversial decision in the Pacquiao v. Bradley fight, you've proposed a national boxing commission. Why is that needed and why is it so hard to get enacted?

McCain: Grantland Rice called boxing the "sweet science." Damon Runyon called it "the red-light district of sports." Many times it’s both. I’ve argued for years for a federal boxing commission and a single title instead of the alphabet soup that we have today. It’s so hard to accomplish mainly because of greedy promoters who all want their fighter to be called “champion.”

Hunt: An even bigger mystery: Why won't you be at ringside?

McCain: I can’t afford a $10,000 ticket. I hate to pay $99 just to watch it on TV, but I will!

Hunt: Enough chit-chat: Whose hand will be raised late Saturday night?

McCain: I hope Pacquiao, but Mayweather is the quickest fighter I’ve ever seen.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R. Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net