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Pacquiao, Mayweather finally give fans what they want

Ryan Songalia

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It was the fight cynics said would never happen. Now the talk shifts from who is to blame to who is going to win.

FINALLY. Boxing will produce the one fight the public has wanted since the beginning of the decade.  Photo by Kevork Djansezian & Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – It was what the world had been waiting for.  

Several rounds of discussions over the course of 6 years finally brokered the deal that cynics said could never happen. A single sheet of paper bearing the signatures of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, posted to the Shots social media app by Mayweather, finally put an end to one of the most exhaustive and complicated negotiations in boxing history. 

It took executives at the highest level of their respective cable networks – Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, the parent company of the Showtime network Mayweather fights on; and Richard Plepler, head of the Pacquiao-affiliated HBO – to make a deal. 

The public was in suspense, but even those closest to the negotiations had their doubts that this time would be different. The latest negotiations appeared to sour in mid-January, when closed talks broke down into public shaming. 

Pacquiao, 36, had adopted the phrase, “Sign the contract” as his battle cry, even traveling to England to meet with former sparring partner Amir Khan to discuss a possible “Plan B” fight. Mayweather, 37, appeared none-too-rushed to make the fight, accusing Pacquiao’s side of lying about the progress of talks. 

Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz tells Rappler that he was “hopeful, but not very optimistic” that the two sides could reach an agreement. 

That was until January 28, when both men set aside the executives and entourages and met face-to-face at a Miami Heat game, exchanged numbers, and spoke privately in Pacquiao’s hotel suite

“I really think the turning point in the nature and the mood of the negotiations transpired during that meeting that Floyd, Manny and I had,” said Koncz. “When I first got confirmation was 3 weeks ago when Floyd said ‘Mike, we can make this happen.’ That’s when I really believed.” 

Tale of the tape! The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is on! Follow our coverage at

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The fight promises to be the most lucrative in boxing history, with all prior pay-per-view and gate records expected to topple. The current record for most PPVs sold is currently held by Mayweather’s 2007 fight with Oscar de la Hoya, which sold 2.5 million units, while Mayweather’s 2013 bout with Saul Alvarez generated the most money with $150 million in PPV sales. 

The fight could potentially sell 3-4 million PPVs in America, regardless of whatever price it is set at. Hotel room availability in Las Vegas is quickly disappearing, with reports of the MGM Grand selling out within 3 minutes of the fight’s announcement. 

“Would’ve been a good idea in Nov. Now it’s just an idea,” tweeted Showtime sports executive Stephen Espinoza, when asked by a fan about booking a Vegas hotel room for May 2. 

Today has been a good news day for Pacquiao, who has already been running and shadow-boxing in his hometown of General Santos City, Philippines, in anticipation of what transpired today.

“I talked to [Pacquiao] a couple of times already, he’s very happy. Like we’ve said many times, he’s tired of the fans continually around the world asking when the fight’s going to happen. It’s not frustrating but it’s fatiguing when people ask you that and you’re not in total control of the answer,” said Koncz. 

“I am very happy that Floyd Mayweather and I can give the fans the fight they have wanted for so many years,” Pacquiao tells ESPN. “They have waited long enough and they deserve it. It is an honor to be part of this historic event. I dedicate this fight to all the fans who willed this fight to happen and, as always, to bring glory to the Philippines and my fellow Filipinos around the world.” 

Koncz says a press tour would likely start in the second week of March in Los Angeles. 

Mayweather, speaking with Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, was gracious in his words on Pacquiao, saying that he never discounted Pacquiao after his 2012 knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, which took the fight off the table for the time being. Pacquiao has since rebounded with three straight victories.

“A true champion knows how to take a loss and bounce back and overcome, and that’s what Pacquiao has done,” Mayweather, who turns 38 on Tuesday, said. “I give him full credit for that. He deserves it. He’s come back and gotten some solid victories.  

“He has his supporters, who I’m pretty sure believe he’s going to beat me, and I have my supporters, who I know believe I’m going to beat him. Let’s get in the ring and see who wins, who the better man is. That’s what boxing is all about, and we’re going to give the fans the chance to find out on May 2.” 

“My guy is really going to give Mayweather a lesson in the ring, either stops him or by decision, but win he will,” Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum tells the Los Angeles Times.

Both sides have expressed a sense of relief, but the greater relief comes from the boxing fans who have waited patiently as critics called boxing a dead sport and derided its business-first nature.  

Now the public discourse can turn from which side is to blame for the delay to whom you’re placing your bet on.

Pacquiao-Mayweather is this generation’s Hagler-Leonard or Ali-Frazier; a once-in-an-era meeting between the two most proven fighters of their time, fighting in the same weight class, in a bout that can – hopefully – settle the debate over who is truly the best.


The 5-division champion Mayweather, unbeaten at 47-0 (26 knockouts), has been as dominant as he is controversial, while the rags-to-riches story of Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 knockouts) and title wins in an unprecedented 8 divisions carried him to iconic status in his native country.

Mayweather’s technical brilliance and Pacquiao’s southpaw aggression make both men seemingly perfect foils to the other. Both men will likely rise to the occasion that each has been fighting for since they threw their first punches as children.

Whether the action in the ring meets the hype generated outside outside of it has yet to be determined. That both are finally going to meet at the center of the ring on the biggest stage in sports is all we ever asked for. –

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.

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