Mayweather-Pacquiao early picks

After nearly six full years of waiting and debating, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and fellow welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao will finally square off in the ring.

The pair of welterweight titlists has agreed to meet May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Here's an early look at how our experts see the fight the world has been waiting for playing out.

Dan Rafael - Mayweather by decision: From the moment this fight appeared on all of our radar screens in late 2009, I always thought the same thing would happen: That it was a fantastic style match and that Mayweather would beat Pacquiao by decision. They are both great fighters and, of course, Pacquiao's southpaw style and sheer aggression probably would give Mayweather trouble since Pacquiao's punches come from all angles and he is strong with both hands. But even if it would be a very tough fight for Mayweather, his defense, ring smarts and precise punching would be enough to get the job done.

Through all of the ups and down that have taken place in the more than five years that it took to get this fight done my view has never wavered. I thought Pacquiao had a great chance to win then and I think he still does now, but even though Mayweather has lost a step, so has Pacquiao. To me, it's still going to be Mayweather by decision. I just hope however it goes, it lives up to the massive hype, or even comes remotely close.

Brian Campbell - Pacquiao by split decision: Throughout the five-plus years of this soap opera, I would have predicted a Mayweather victory each time. Through 2013, his speed, defense and ability to counter remained unparalleled in the sport. Meanwhile, Pacquiao suffered a pair of 2012 defeats that removed the shine of any invincibility he carried with him in previous years by daringly moving up in weight.

But things have shifted in the past 12 months. At 36, Pacquiao has inexplicably kept his top-shelf speed. And despite retaining his pound-for-pound stranglehold on the sport, Mayweather showed in two 2014 fights with Marcos Maidana that he has slowed just enough entering his 38th birthday. The key question for me is this: When was the last time you saw Mayweather face anyone with Pacquiao's speed or his combination of movement and power? And while Floyd is the master at shutting down traditional offense, Pacquiao still disguises his punches well by throwing from awkward angles. In a fight that I believe is destined to be close on the scorecards, look for the judges to favor Pacquiao's aggressiveness late.

Rafe Bartholomew - Pacquiao by decision: It's fair to accuse me of going sentimental with this pick. I lived in the Philippines for three years and recently watched Pacquiao score his first career point in the professional basketball league there. But I have this feeling that Pacquiao can overcome the style disadvantages he'll face against Mayweather and win this megafight. In 2014, I was surprised by how much success Marcos Maidana had pressuring Mayweather in their two fights. Pacquiao, of course, isn't a pressure fighter and he won't have the weight and strength advantages Maidana used to trouble Mayweather and rough him up. But Pacquiao is such a dynamic and creative offensive fighter that when he decides to throw everything in his arsenal at Mayweather, something will work.

Pacquiao will get the knockdown or two that he needs to edge Mayweather on the cards. Maybe, just maybe, he'll get a stoppage. Then we'll get the rematch.

Nigel Collins - Pacquiao by decision: I've never bought into the opinion that Mayweather would easily outbox Pacquiao. I thought it was a 50-50 fight when the match was first talked about years ago and I still think it's a 50-50 fight today. Whether they have declined with age or adjusted their styles in order to continue to compete successfully against younger men really doesn't matter. It's still a toss-up. If, however, Pacquiao is as aggressive as Marcos Maidana was in his first fight with Mayweather, I can see Manny prevailing in a competitive contest. He's much faster than Maidana and significantly more accurate with his punches, which would allow him to outwork Floyd and win a close decision.

Bernardo Pilatti - Pacquiao by decision: It will be a tense, highly technical and caution-filled fight in the early rounds. Pacquiao will begin to loosen up from the fifth round, will show great explosiveness and aggressiveness, apply the best shots and dominate the battle for a clear unanimous decision.

Salvador Rodriguez - Mayweather by decision: It's definitely a fight that has come a little late but is still interesting enough to paralyze the boxing world. Anyone who thinks that Pacquiao has lost his power is making a dangerous mistake.

Although we have not seen the knockout power that characterized him, Pacquiao has the speed and strength to surprise Mayweather, but still, I think Floyd's intelligence, defense and discipline in the ring will be enough to earn a victory by way of points.

Eric Raskin - Mayweather by decision: I do not subscribe to the school of thought that Mayweather will dominate Pacquiao and shut him out over the 12-round distance; I see this as a competitive fight in which Pacquiao's speed and unorthodox attacks create a host of problems for Floyd. But in the end, Mayweather is the most masterful technical boxer the sport has seen since Pernell Whitaker, he doesn't get flustered, he is brilliant at making adjustments, and he'll make enough of them to win a clear, close decision -- just as he would have if the fight had taken place five years earlier.

One additional note, though: Both fighters represent the very best opponent the other has ever faced. So there is no result I'm ruling out. Pacquiao could potentially hurt Mayweather like Shane Mosley did and finish the job. Mayweather, if he isn't being overly cautious, could certainly knock Pacquiao out. Even if it won't be a Gatti-Ward-style brawl -- and make no mistake, it won't be -- I expect tension at nearly every moment of the fight.

Ray Flores - Mayweather by KO: They say styles make fights, and Mayweather-Pacquiao is the ultimate game of pugilistic chess. Manny is going to want to start early, while Floyd tries to figure out his timing and counter. Mayweather has been a slow starter of late, which is no surprise since he's in his late 30s. Both fighters will do what got them to the summit of the sport. Pure aggression and pinpoint accuracy out of the Filipino sensation, while Mayweather will stay on the outside and command the center of the ring.

Mayweather will win the first two rounds, but then will start to dissect the open defense of Pacquiao. Manny has bad habits; at times he drops his right hand and rushes in. You cannot use this approach against a marksman like Mayweather. Expect Floyd to start to take some steam out of Pacquiao, by jabbing him to the body in the first few rounds, and begin to land power shots in the middle portion of the fight. Pacquiao in an effort to swing the fight back in his favor will try to overwhelm Floyd with pressure and in the process leave himself open to a counter right hand by Mayweather. It's a shot Manny won't see coming and Mayweather will finally get the career-defining victory he has always coveted. Mayweather by 11th-round KO over Pacquiao.

Carlos Narvaez - Pacquiao by decision: We are facing the most difficult fight in the career of Mayweather. Pacquiao is presented as the toughest test for the pound-for-pound king because of his speed, counterattack and stamina. "PacMan" also has punching power and can be as slippery and elusive as Mayweather himself, whose energy we have already seen begin to wane in late rounds when pressed.

Although Mayweather is taller and also a difficult adversary able to give anyone a bad night, I think this time Pacquiao will earn a close decision and force another millionaire rematch.