Thursday, March 12, 2015 9:19 am
Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather came face to face Wednesday for the first time since their May 2 mega-fight was announced, as Hollywood rolled out the red carpet for the richest bout in history.
“It’s been a long road but we’re here now,” said the unbeaten Mayweather, as the countdown began to an eagerly awaited welterweight world title showdown in Las Vegas that has been a long — and at times fraught — five years in the making.
Filipino ring icon Pacquiao countered: “The fight is on and we’re very excited. Both of us will undergo hard training, and we will do our best on May 2 to make you happy.”
The celebrated duo seemed relaxed as they posed and chatted for a phalanx of about 600 media representatives who were recording their every move.
The deal for the fight wasn’t sealed until February 20, leaving little time for the usual pre-bout media blitz, making Wednesday’s event the only joint news conference they will conduct before fight week.
“On May 2 I have a tough test,” Mayweather said. “Manny Pacquiao is a good fighter. I can’t see how it will play out, I am not a psychic. But you best believe I will be in top shape and the best I can be.”
The American, smartly clad in a dove gray suit and pale striped shirt with diamond cufflinks winking, showed only rare glimpses of his “Money” Mayweather swagger — he did predict he would emerge with his unblemished record intact.
“I believe in my skill. I believe in myself,” said Mayweather, who puts a record of 47-0 with 26 knockouts on the line.
– Quiet confidence –
Pacquiao, 57-5 with two drawn and 38 knockouts, wore a darker suit and tie, and displayed his usual quiet confidence in a cavernous auditorium normally reserved for pop concerts and Hollywood A-listers.
“I believe I will win on May 2,” said the down-to-earth 36-year-old southpaw, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.
Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach couldn’t resist a few jabs at Mayweather, who turned 38 in February.
“His legs are little bit shot,” Roach said. “He is going to have to exchange more. He has to exchange more because his legs won’t take him out of the way … if he has to exchange with Manny Pacquiao he is in trouble.”
Mayweather made little impact with his own somewhat half-hearted attempt to get into Pacquiao’s head with a reference to the defeats on his resume.
“When you lose, it’s in the mind,” said Mayweather, widely considered boxing’s pound-for-pound king. “From day one, I was taught to be a winner.”
But Mayweather admitted the stakes are higher — and not just because by the time the pay-per-view revenues are counted the fight is certain to be the most lucrative of all time.
“I’ve never wanted to win a fight so bad in my life,” said Mayweather, projected to make an eye-watering $120 million. Pacquiao will pocket $80 million.
Previous bids to put together a fight between the two — most notably in late 2009 — had run aground over various issues, including division of the purse, drug testing protocol and animosity between Mayweather and Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum.
No lingering ill-feeling was in evidence on Wednesday.
“We’re family. We’re all part of this boxing family,” said Arum, who promoted Mayweather until an acrimonious split in 2006.
Another complication was the fact that Mayweather has a deal with US telecaster Showtime and Pacquiao with fierce rival HBO.
– ‘Monumental’ –
The two networks are working together on the bout, with HBO Sports president Ken Hershman saying Wednesday the event “transcends boxing for sure and will probably transcend sport.”
Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza called it a “monumental event” that is sure to be the “biggest and most lucrative combat sport event the world has ever seen.”
The fighters entered the theater separately, walking to the stage in a parade reminiscent of a walk to the ring.
They faced front from the stage — to throaty cheers from their camps and various hangers-on — then strode toward each other for a classic pre-fight staredown.
“May 2, the fight of the century,” Mayweather declared, sweeping aside suggestions that the bout comes with each fighter past his brilliant best.
“This is a fight that the world can’t miss.”