LAS VEGAS, United States – It took over 5 years to finalize but on Saturday, May 2 (Sunday, Philippine time), the two top fighters will finally meet in the ring to settle once and for all who the best pound for pound boxer is today.
The 12-round unification bout between the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr (47-0, 26 knockouts) and Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) has been coined the fight of the century – a perfect match-up of fighting styles between the top paid athletes in the world, and the first 8-division world champion in history.
Mayweather, who hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is an orthodox fighter known for his superb defense, precise punches and his incredible speed. Pacquiao is his foil.
The 36-year-old is the only boxer today who is seen to match Mayweather's footwork, an aggressive southpaw who likes to throw punches packed with power.
And because it had taken so long to finally make the fight happen, the anticipation build-up is unmatched, with the fight set to make at least $400 million – the most lucrative in boxing history.
Both boxers have a faithful following, with each man having lived lives worthy of a movie plot.
The 38-year-old Mayweather has not tasted defeat during his 19-year professional career. For many African Americans in the United States, Mayweather represents success, having grown up with a father who served time in prison when Mayweather was a child, and a mother who suffered from drug addiction. Mayweather found solace in boxing, the sport which propelled him to the lavish lifestyle he enjoys today.
Photo by Chris Farina - Top Rank
Pacquiao meanwhile is a god in his home country the Philippines, where millions of Filipinos find in him hope and inspiration – having been born to an extremely poor family in General Santos City and finding a way out of poverty through boxing. The country’s crime rate falls to zero when he fights, with the population glued to their television screens to cheer on their hero.
About 10,000 followers from all over the world came to the event to cheer on their boxers, where Pacquiao weighed in at 145 pounds and Mayweather a pound heavier, for a 147-pound-limit fight.
Pacquiao told fans at the event he is not intimidated by the size advantage of Mayweather, who is 5'8, an inch and a half taller than he is. Mayweather also enjoys a 5-inch reach advantage over Pacquiao's 67 inches.
"I've been fighting bigger guys like Oscar de la Hoya, Antonio Margarito... it doesn't matter to me," said Pacquiao.
Mayweather meanwhile vowed to "go out there tomorrow and be first," as he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the historic bout.
"It’s a very, very huge fight, I never dreamed I would be in the biggest fight in boxing history. It's a blessing.”
Most sports analysts are picking Mayweather to win the fight, citing the accuracy in his punches and his defensive skills.
“I like the defense, he doesn’t waste any punches. I just think he’s a little better in various categories to do enough to win 7 rounds. I don’t think it’s a wipe out, I don’t think it’s a knockout or something like that. I just think that Floyd is good enough,” ESPN’s Dan Rafael told Rappler.
Analysts also point to Pacquiao’s massive knockout loss to his arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez in 2013 as evidence that Pacquiao has become easier to hit in recent years.
But many concede they would not be surprised to see Pacquiao pull off the upset, which he has done several times before in his rise to the top.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, who has been in Pacquiao’s corner since 2001, said Pacquiao has taken the Marquez knockout very well, saying it has not affected his fighter.
He also expressed confidence that he and Pacquiao have found a strategy to deal Mayweather his first loss ever.
"I really think we can win by decision here. And that's what my game plan is. To outscore him. And use fast combinations," Roach said.
"If he wants to run, we will cut the ring off."
Attempts in the past 5 years to make the fight happen have failed due to various issues which included drug testing and purse split. The bout however comes at a perfect time for both boxers, after Paquiao’s camp agreed to most of Mayweather’s demands.
This fight is seen to be one of Mayweather’s last. He had expressed a desire to retire soon, possibly fighting his final bout in September.
Photo by AFP
Pacquiao too, who is also a lawmaker in his native Philippines, has political plans to run for higher office and will likely leave the ring in the next year or so.
To those following the sport, the fight between the two athletes is hoped to be a huge boost to boxing, which has seen a decline in its following especially among the youth – particularly if it lives up to the hype.
“I’m happy that May 2 will be the start to a new golden era for boxing,” World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman told the LA Times.
The bout’s results won’t only dictate the future of a sport, but also the future of the two best boxers in the world today – one of whose name will overtake the other in fighting history books come fight night. – Rappler.com