LAS VEGAS -- Fight fans surely will be hoping for more sparks when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally meet in the ring than they produced at the final, subdued news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
After more than five years of debate, discussion and multiple excruciating negotiations, Mayweather and Pacquiao, at long last, will square off in a welterweight unification bout -- the biggest fight in years -- on Saturday night (Showtime PPV/HBO PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs), 38, of Las Vegas, and Filipino icon Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), 36, the top fighters in boxing, came face to face on Wednesday for only the second time since the fight was signed, following an equally low-key news conference in Los Angeles on March 11. They will see each other once again at Friday’s weigh-in and then at center ring on fight night.
“On [Saturday], Floyd Mayweather faces a great challenge in Manny Pacquiao,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “This is the fight the world has been waiting to see.”
Said Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, “Two great fighters. It is wonderful for the sport of boxing and, indeed, I hope that this [fight] will help elevate the rest of boxing. I think based on the interest in this fight there has been an increased interest in boxing as a whole and that’s great.”
If there was any trash talk at all it came from Arum and HBO Sports President Ken Hershman, who lauded HBO’s programming, particularly it’s strong 2015 boxing slate -- a clear shot at Mayweather’s network, Showtime. The networks, each of whom has one of the boxers under contract, came together to make a deal for a joint pay-per-view. It has been a difficult partnership.
When Ellerbe returned to the mic after Hershman’s remarks, he leaned over to him and reminded him, “Showtime has the best fighter and the biggest star in the sport.”
When it was time for Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza to speak, he took the high road.
“Sometimes we forget why we are here,” he said. “For all the talk of networks, this isn’t about networks or about a bunch of guys in suits in New York City or promoters. It’s about two world-class athletes in Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who have been working for weeks and weeks, all of their lives, really, to get to this moment.
“Thousands of hours to get to this point, run thousands of miles, thrown thousands of punches to get here. Nobody did that for them -- no manager, no promoter, no network executive. Floyd and Manny both have great teams, but no one goes out and runs eight miles in the middle of the night for Floyd. He does that. When the bell rings, nobody is going to fight for Floyd. Floyd will do that alone. What makes this event so special, so historic is we have two once-in-a-generation athletes who will meet in the ring in about 72 hours. We’ve been given the opportunity to be a part of such an anticipated event to share with television viewers around the world.”
Mayweather was brief with his remarks.
“It’s time to fight now,” he said when he spoke from the podium to several hundred media. “You came here to see excitement, you came here to see a great event. That’s what both competitors bring to the table. This is the biggest fight in boxing history.”
It isn’t the biggest fight in terms of significance but it will be in terms of economics. The fight will likely shatter every revenue record there is. It has already set gate, sponsorship and international television revenue records. Most expect it to crush the all-time domestic pay-per-view buy record (2.48 million buys for Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya) and the all-time pay-per-view revenue record ($153 million for Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez). All told, the fight is expected to generate more than $400 million.
Like Mayweather, Pacquiao predicted a memorable fight.
“Good fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao. It’s going to be a good fight,” Pacquiao said. “There’s a lot of questions in your minds that only God can answer on Saturday.”
Rather than trash talk -- not Pacquiao’s style, never has been -- he talked about his road to this gargantuan fight and everything he has been through.
“I just want to let you know that everything I have accomplished, it is God who gave me the strength. I want to be an inspiration to everybody,” he said. “I used to sleep in the street, starving, hungry. The Lord raised me and blessed me. I cannot imagine that boy who didn’t have food and was sleeping in the street -- that God gave me this life. I want to share that with everyone.
“Our goal on Saturday is to give the fans satisfaction and make them happy. Floyd and I both are working hard to entertain you on Saturday. That’s the most important thing, nothing personal. Just doing our job. He will do his best on Saturday and I will do my best on Saturday and we will put our names in boxing history.”
However the fight turns out, Pacquiao said, he had one wish for after the fight.
“I am hoping after the fight we can have a conversation and I can share my faith with [Mayweather] and we can inspire more people. I hope this fight gives an inspiration to people around the world that God can raise somebody from nothing into something.”