Mayweather, Pacquiao show class in presser face-off

Ryan Songalia

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Mayweather, Pacquiao show class in presser face-off
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are cordial in their only press conference meet-up before fight week despite years of animosity and accusations

MANILA, Philippines – Words weren’t needed to enhance the moment when Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao finally stood across from each other atop the stage at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 11. 

The moment, which lasted less than a minute, spoke louder than any of the participants would at the podium. It was what fans and reporters alike had wanted to see for over 5 years and what cynics had said could never happen. It was confirmation that the reports of this fight happening on May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas were not conjured up by imagination but as real and palpable as a left hook to the chin.

There were no punches thrown or displays of disrespect between the two most decorated boxers of this era to detract from the moment. And after the red carpet press conference attended by over 700 credentialed reporters concluded, the two camps posed for a group photo that underlined the magnitude of this event, showing the maturity that finally brought the two sides together after years of on-and-off negotiations. 

On the Mayweather side, Showtime executive vice president Stephen Espinoza, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe and pop star Justin Bieber; to Pacquiao’s side, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum HBO Sports president Ken Hershman and Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach. 

The Mayweather and Pacquiao sides pose on stage. Photo by Chris Farina - Top Rank

“May 2, the fight of the century. It’s all about the best fighting the best,” said Mayweather (47-0, 26 knockouts) of Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Pacquiao is one of the best fighters of this era. Everything is about timing. I think we couldn’t choose a better time.”

Arum, who promoted Mayweather from his pro debut in 1996 until 2006, joked to the Mayweather side on several occasions, drawing laughter from the left side of the table by posing rhetorically: “You missed me, right Floyd?”

“Everybody said with the animosity with the camps you’ll never get this done. But that’s not true. It’s been seamless, everybody’s been cooperative except for Senior over there who’s staring at me,” Arum said, before letting on that he was joking. “He’s my friend, he’s been my friend forever. We’re all family, we’re all part of this boxing family.” 

(AS IT HAPPENS: Pacquiao vs Mayweather press conference)

Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), who has won 3 straight fights since back-to-back losses to Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, thanked the trainer who took him under his wing when he first arrived in Los Angeles from his native Philippines in 2001. Pacquiao also thanked the promoter and network that turned a fighter who made $2 for his first fight into one of the more bankable stars of the last decade. 

“The most important thing is…that the name of the Lord will be glorified,” said the 8-division champion Pacquiao, 36, of General Santos City. “I want to let the people know that there is God who can raise someone from nothing into something. And that’s me. I came from nothing into something and I owe everything to God. He gave me this blessing. It’s all credit to the Lord.”

The two most successful boxing events of all-time, Mayweather’s 2007 bout with Oscar de la Hoya that set the record for most pay-per-view buys at 2.4 million, and Mayweather’s 2013 bout with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez which generated $150 million in pay-per-view revenue, are both expected to be doubled by this event. 

Neither divulged how much they were making for the fight, but Mayweather said he would be making 9 figures, or at least $100 million for the fight, while Pacquiao said he had agreed to a 60/40 purse split to make the fight happen. 

(READ: Mayweather: I have nothing to prove vs Pacquiao)

In Mayweather’s corner will be his father/trainer Floyd Sr, who sat on the dais but never addressed the media. Pacquiao’s trainer Roach did however, giving credit to Mayweather as being the best fighter today but warning that would change on May 3. 

“We are in the toughest fight of our life, we’re fighting the best fighter in the world…and we’re gonna kick his ass. I’m sorry, but good luck Floyd,” said Roach. 

But the most ominous message came from Mayweather, who seemed to be sowing seeds of doubt in Pacquiao, reminding Pacquiao that it has been a lot longer since he himself had lost than for Pacquiao. 

“One thing I do know about any sport. When you lose, it’s in your mind. If you lost once, it’s in your mind. If you lost twice, it’s in your mind. From day one, I was always taught to be a winner, no matter what,” said Mayweather, aged 38. 

Both fighters had said in the weeks since the fight was signed off on that it was “just another fight” for them, but neither could avoid acknowledging that something truly special was upon them.

“I’m in the gym working right now, dedicating myself to the sport, pushing myself to the limit because I never wanted to win a fight so bad in my life,” said Mayweather, who has won world championships in 5 divisions. “And I’m pretty sure he’s gonna push himself to the limit because he wants to win just the same way I want to win.”

The two camps had quarreled over disagreements stemming from random performance-enhancing drug testing and purse splits, with Mayweather’s side claiming sabotage by Arum and Pacquiao accusing Mayweather of ducking the fight.

But it wasn’t until both fighters set aside their representatives and met face-to-face at a Miami Heat game earlier this year and came to a firm understanding of one another later that night at a hotel conversation that the fight came to fruition.

“Everyone who wants to keep talking about how this fight happened. This fight happened because of me,” said Mayweather. “This fight didn’t happen because of Manny Pacquiao because I asked for the fight myself. We had to choose an opponent for May, and I said what better opponent to choose? So we chose Pacquiao.”

Tickets are being priced between $1500 and $7500, said Ellerbe, who said an on-sale date will be announced at a date to be announced. A pay-per-view price tag wasn’t announced but is rumored to exceed $100.

But tickets are expected to be the hottest in recent boxing history, as the demand far exceeds the supply for the much-delayed contest to decide with certainty who is truly the best boxer of this generation. –

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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