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Why Floyd Mayweather Lost His 'Fight of the Century' Title

Boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. arrives at Spike TV's "Guys Choice 2015" at Sony Pictures Studios on June 6, 2015 in Culver City, Calif. - Gregg DeGuire—Getty Images
Boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. arrives at Spike TV's "Guys Choice 2015" at Sony Pictures Studios on June 6, 2015 in Culver City, Calif. Gregg DeGuire—Getty Images

The reason one of boxing's sanctioning bodies stripped the champ of his welterweight title

Sean Gregory is a TIME senior writer who has covered sports extensively over the last decade. He has penned profiles on athletes ranging from LeBron James, Novak Djokovic, Usain Bolt and Eli Manning, and explored issue like football's concussion crisis, and the treatment of young baseball players in the Dominican Republic. Sean has covered the the last four Olympic Games, and filed dispatches from Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the World Series for TIME. A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Sean enjoys firing lots of shots in pickup basketball games.

On Monday the World Boxing Organization (WBO) stripped Floyd Mayweather Jr. of the welterweight title he secured after he defeated Manny Pacquiao in the May 2 “fight of the century” (which was anything but).

According to WBO rules, Mayweather has two weeks to appeal this decision. Here’s everything to know about why Mayweather lost his belt:

Why was Mayweather stripped of his title?

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For bureaucratic infighting, something boxing is very familiar with. By beating Pacquiao, Mayweather was recognized by three of boxing’s alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies — the WBO, the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the World Boxing Council (WBC) — as the welterweight champ.

The WBO rules, however, dictate that “no WBO Champion may hold a non-WBO Championship in a weight class that is different from the weight class of his WBO Championship.”

In other words, the WBO can’t recognize Mayweather as its welterweight champ so long as he keeps on to the super-welterweight division titles he holds from the WBA and WBC. Mayweather refused to vacate his other titles by a July 3 deadline, and pay the WBO a $200,000 sanctioning fee. So the WBO stripped Mayweather of his welterweight title.

Does this impact the outcome of Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?

Not at all. Mayweather is still the WBA and WBC welterweight champ. The fight was still a boring fight.

Does this impact all the crazy money generated by the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?

No. The fight still set all kinds of financial records: most pay-per view subscriptions, close circuit revenue, live gate. So what’s one world title when you’ve made between $220-230 million on a fight, as Mayweather reportedly did for fighting Pacquiao?

What does Mayweather think about it?

The man Forbes recently named the highest-earning celebrity in the world hasn’t publicly weighed in on the WBO’s decision — but his reps are outraged. “It’s a complete disgrace,” Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, told ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael. “Floyd will decide what, or if any, actions he will take. But in the meantime he’s enjoying a couple of hundred million he made from his last outing and this has zero impact on anything he does.”

Will this impact Mayweather’s legacy?

Another no. Most sports fans couldn’t care less whether a boxer holds the WBC or WBO or ABC or WTF titles. Mayweather, 38, is a technically brilliant fighter with a 48-0 record, whose escapist style has frustrated punch-thirsty fans who tune into his megafights. He’s likely to retire after his next bout, in September.

Mayweather’s troubling domestic violence history will carry much, much more weight on people’s judgments of him than any bureaucratic snafu. This whole mess just captures the trouble with boxing: there’s no unified leadership, no organizational structure to push the sport into the future, and attract new passionate fans.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Oct. 1, 1975 As close to death as he'd ever been. And that's how the winner described it. Little wonder that the "Thrilla in Manila" (aka Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III), tops TIME's list of greatest ever fights. The pair entered the decisive third heavyweight fight at 1-1 and the searing Philippine heat made conditions as close to hell as was possible. From the start there was nothing humane about the way the pair went at each other. You feel that had it not been for the 15-round limit and, ultimately, Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch throwing in the towel at the end of the 14th, they would still be boxing today. "I want him, boss," screamed Frazier. Futch simply replied, "It's all over. No one will forget what you did here today." As for Ali, in typically modest fashion, he described his opponent as, "the greatest fighter of all time, next to me." Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images
Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Angel Firpo, Sept. 14, 1923 Short and sweet. That's how you'd have to describe heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey's defense of his title against Luis Angel Firpo, the "Wild Bull" of the Pampas, before 80,000 people at the Polo Grounds in New York. Dempsey floored Firpo seven times, with Firpo knocking Dempsey clean out of the ring — and that was just the first round (there was no three knockdown rules back then. Indeed, Dempsey was allowed to stand over the fallen fighter and immediately knock Firpo down again, as there wasn't a rule about going to a neutral corner either). Conspiracy theorists believe that Firpo was denied a valid victory in the first round as Dempsey was helped back into the ring by the writers at ringside and the referee was accused of counting incredibly slowly. Nevertheless, after 11 total knockdowns between the pair, Dempsey won by KO in the second. The fight was also important from a historical perspective because it was the first time that a Latin American boxer would fight for the world heavyweight title. AP
Sugar Ray Leonard, Sept. 16, 1981 This early 80s showdown at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas — billed as "The Showdown" — between WBC welterweight champ "Sugar" Ray Leonard and the hitherto undefeated Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, owner of the WBA crown, was a fight of beauty, full of an ebb and flow throughout. They were fighting to unify the World Welterweight Championship and the stakes couldn't have been higher. First Hearns, then Leonard and then Hearns again held the lead. Between rounds 12 and 13, Leonard's trainer, the legendary Angelo Dundee, exclaimed "You're blowing it, son! You're blowing it!" Leonard simply exploded in the 13th, knocking Hearns through the ropes. He didn't relent and finished him off in the 14th with a furious flurry of punches that forced referee Davey Pearl to call a halt to proceedings. Even worse for Hearns was that he was actually leading on all the judges' scorecards up to that point. Dirck Halstead—Getty Images
Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti, May 18, 2002 This pair put fans through the ringer three times, but their first fight will be seen as their fiercest. Both withstood almost non-stop punishment through 10 rounds of grueling action. Ward, who dropped Gatti in the ninth round with a savage left hook to the body, won the fight by majority decision. That ninth round was called "The Round of the Century" by Emanuel Steward, who co-hosted the fight on HBO. Ring Magazine named the fight the best of the year with boxing fans and writers going one (hyperbolic) step further, hailing it as the fight of the century. Wherever you stood on this, you undeniably wanted more. And fans got it, with Gatti winning two subsequent rematches. Ward announced his retirement before their third fight and will be portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the film 'The Fighter'. Gatti tragically died in 2009. Steve Miller—AP
Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn, June 18, 1941 Legendary heavyweight champion Louis took on the Pittsburgh Kid Conn at the Polo Grounds. Giving away at least 25 pounds, Conn was the heavy (or should that be light?) underdog but proceeded to outbox Louis. Boxing historian Bert Sugar wrote that, "Conn could block punches with his arms, elbows and gloves, and further nullify his opponents' punches by 'rolling' with them." By the eighth round, dehydration had set in on Louis and by the 12th he was completely exhausted with Conn ahead on two of the scorecards (Louis later admitted in his autobiography that he rested up toward the end of his training schedule because "I didn't want them to say in the papers that I beat up on some little guy"). Conn got cocky in the 13th and tried to finish Louis off; but by going for the KO, he exposed his impressive defense, was caught by his opponent and was counted out with two seconds left in the round. Let that serve as a lesson to underdogs everywhere. Joseph Costa—New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images
Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo, May 7, 2005 They may not have been household names but with the WBC lightweight title at stake, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo wowed every house which watched this classic. The pace was simply unrelenting with both fighters landing and receiving repeated blows over nine nasty rounds. The fight ended in memorable fashion in the 10th when Corrales, after being floored twice, rose and landed a devastating series of shots that left Castillo draped helpless on the ropes. But this devastating denouement would not be without controversy: upon getting up for the second time, Corrales spat out his gumshield, thus benefitting from an unofficial 30 second timeout, whereby he literally regained his senses. The pair fought against each other again with Castillo easily gaining revenge. But the decisive final fight, inevitably dubbed "The War to Settle the Score", was canceled due to Castillo weighing too much. Eric Jamison—AP
Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns, April 15, 1985 Arguably the greatest opening round in boxing history, the savage pace set by "Marvellous" Marvin and the "Hitman" at Caesars Palace is still discussed to this day. At the time, sportscaster Barry Tompkins, calling the fight for HBO, yelled out "This is still only the first round!" Of course they couldn't keep it up and the aptly named "War" came to a swift end after, in the words of Ring Magazine, the "most electrifying eight minutes ever" as Hagler scored a third-round KO. The enduring image of a blood soaked Hagler being carried around the ring in victory with Hearns being taken back to his corner in a state of semi-consciousness serves to remind us what a brutal sport this can be. AP
Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera I, Feb. 19, 2000 Mexicans beam with pride when recalling their countrymen's epic effort back at the turn of the century. Ring Magazine's fight of 2000 was fully justified as the slender boxers belied their small stature to deliver a heavyweight performance which didn't relent (the fifth round has to be seen to be believed) and resulted in Morales winning by a split decision. But considering that Barrera had the only knockdown of the fight, many complained at the outcome which — quelle surprise — led to a rematch (won by Barrera via a unanimous outcome). Cue the third fight (this time at Super Featherweight) where Barrera was declared the winner by a majority decision. Jed Jacobsohn—Getty Images
Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor, March 17, 1990 Endings don't get much more dramatic than this. Expectations were high for the bout nicknamed "Thunder Meets Lightning", referring to Chavez's punching power and Taylor's speed. And while the fight definitely delivered, it enters folklore for the nature of the sudden, dramatic, and controversial ending that continues to be debated to this day. Taylor steadily built a commanding lead on points thanks to easily evading his opponent and outpunching him by a margin of 5-1. But when Chavez did manage to connect, his punches did considerable damage as a result of being the heavier man. Going into the 12th, Taylor was ahead on all three scorecards (and by a big margin on two of them) but for some reason, Taylor's trainer Lou Duva told his man that he needed to win the final round. Bad move: Taylor was so tired that he fell to the canvas just by failing to land a wild left hand. The final minute was all Chavez and he dropped Taylor with seconds remaining. Taylor got to his feet and was asked by referee Richard Steel if he was able to continue. By not answering (though some say Taylor gave a slight nod), Steele concluded he was unfit to carry on and stopped the fight, scoring a TKO victory for Chavez with only two seconds to go. No wonder his 2009 autobiography was called Two Seconds From Glory. Ken Levine—Getty Images
Chris Eubank vs. Nigel Benn I, Nov. 18, 1990 These two British boxers reached the peak of their careers around the same time. Naturally, fight fans demanded a match-up. The drama kicked in before a single punch had even been thrown: As Eubank walked out to the sound of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best", the song suddenly stopped. It's alleged that Benn's entourage sabotaged the music (to his credit, Eubank was nonplussed and still managed to perform his trademark cocky vault into the ring). Benn, ominously known as the Dark Destroyer, looked furious. As for the fight itself, it went back and forth as both men gave their all (commentator Jim McDonald screamed at one point, "Jesus, look at that right hand!"). But it was Eubank who took the World Middleweight title when the fight was stopped in the ninth after Benn was subjected to a barrage of blows in the corner despite the fact that he'd floored Eubank earlier that same round. The two fought out a draw a few years later. Despite the build-up, that match couldn't live up to their first meeting which was, indeed, simply the best. Chris Smith—Popperfoto/Getty Images
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