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The Fight: Richest, biggest

Pacquiao, Mayweather seal May 2 Vegas battle
By: - Editor / @RLuarcaINQ
/ 01:04 AM February 22, 2015
In this combination of file photos, Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, prepares to spar at a gym in east London on May 22, 2009, and Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, weighs in for the junior welterweight boxing match against British boxer Ricky Hatton, May 1, 2009, in Las Vegas. Floyd Mayweather Jr. will meet Manny Pacquiao on May 2, 2015 in a welterweight showdown that will be boxing's richest fight ever.  AP PHOTOS/ALASTAIR GRANT AND RICK BOWMER

In this combination of file photos, Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, prepares to spar at a gym in east London on May 22, 2009, and Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, weighs in for the junior welterweight boxing match against British boxer Ricky Hatton, May 1, 2009, in Las Vegas. Floyd Mayweather Jr. will meet Manny Pacquiao on May 2, 2015 in a welterweight showdown that will be boxing’s richest fight ever. AP PHOTOS/ALASTAIR GRANT AND RICK BOWMER

MANILA, Philippines–Dream no more of Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. After five years, The Fight is finally on.

And whoever wins boxing’s richest fight ever can lay claim to being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all time.

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After keeping the world waiting for months, five-division world champion Mayweather finally announced on Friday that he’d be tangling with the Filipino ring icon and pound-for-pound eight-division world rival at MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2.

“I promised the fans we would get this done and we did,” Mayweather said. “We will make history on May 2nd. Don’t miss it.”

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Living up to his flamboyant style, the unbeaten American champion, the planet’s highest-paid athlete, promised to claim Pacquiao as his victim No. 48 in their battle for the undisputed welterweight crown.

The welterweight world title showdown—Pacquiao owns the World Boxing Organization crown and Mayweather the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles—is sure to be the richest in boxing history, generating massive pay-per-view revenue.

Pacquiao was sleeping in the Philippines when the fight was announced but his camp issued a statement saying the fans deserve the long-awaited fight.

‘It’s an honor’

“It is an honor to be part of this historic event,” Pacquiao tweeted. “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.”

“I am very happy that Floyd Mayweather and I can give the fans the fight they have wanted for so many years,” he said. They have waited long enough and they deserve it.”

“This is the right fight for boxing … I will be representing my country,” Pacquiao said in another tweet.

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Pacquiao’s business manager Eric Pineda said they knew in advance of the match but had left it to Mayweather to make the announcement.

“We just kept it under wraps,” Pineda told Agence France-Presse.

“He has been training [for] two weeks,” Pineda said, adding that Pacquiao would leave for the United States in the first week of March.

“This is the toughest fight,” Pineda said.

Owing to the bigness and importance of the fight, Pacquiao is expected to train fully at trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, discarding his usual practice of doing early training in General Santos City before flying to Los Angeles for the final half of training.

The bout at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, one of the most eagerly anticipated in boxing since the classic 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” between heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, will almost surely break every financial record, and make both boxers richer than ever.

Mayweather could earn $120 million or more, while Pacquiao’s split of the purse will likely be around $80 million.

The fight, which matches boxing’s two biggest attractions of recent years, has been in the making for five years.

It finally came together in recent months with both fighters putting aside past differences over various issues—including drug testing and television rights—to reach agreement.

While the fight rivals the 2002 heavyweight title bout between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson for interest, it comes more than five years after the first real effort to put the fighters together in their prime.

Most boxing observers believe both have lost some of their skills, though Mayweather remains a master defensive fighter and Pacquiao showed in his last fight against Chris Algieri that he still has tremendous quickness in his hands.

Still, Pacquiao, who will take a record of 57-5 with 2 drawn and 38 knockouts into the fight, is 36 and has been through many wars in the ring. And while Mayweather, 47-0 with 26 knockouts, has been largely untouched in his career, he turns 38 on Tuesday.

‘He’ll be No. 48’

“I am the best ever, TBE, and this fight will be another opportunity to showcase my skills and do what I do best, which is win,” Mayweather said in his announcement. “Manny is going to try to do what 47 before him failed to do, but he won’t be successful. He will be No. 48.”

Of course, Roach won’t take Mayweather’s early diatribe in silence. He predicted a big win for his fighter.

“Floyd should enjoy being the A-Side while he can because on May 2 Manny is going to put him on his backside,” Roach said.

Mayweather is favorite

Oddsmakers believe Mayweather will beat Pacquiao, making him a 2 1/2-1 favorite in the scheduled 12-round bout.

The fight is expected to do record business in Nevada’s legal sports books, with tens of millions wagered on the outcome.

According to ESPN.com, Mayweather has been installed by various bookmakers as -235 to -275 favorite, that is, a bettor will have to shell out $235 to $275 for Mayweather to win $100.

Being a +220 underdog, on the other hand, means that a $100 bet on Pacquiao could earn $220.

It will also do record business at the box office—with the MGM expected to be scaled far higher than the $20 million live gate for Mayweather’s 2013 fight with Canelo Alvarez.

The pay-per-view revenue also is expected to be a record, though television executives said on Friday they had yet to actually fix a price for people to buy the fight at home.

If the PPV buys, even at a projected low side of $89.95, surpass the record 2.4 million buys Mayweather’s fight against Oscar de la Hoya generated, both fighters stand to enrich themselves further.

Also expected to be shattered is the record $20 million Mayweather’s duel with Canelo Alvarez posted at the tills as ringside tickets are tipped to cost $5,000 each.

The fight will be televised as a joint venture between competing networks Showtime and HBO, which will share announcers with Jim Lampley and Al Bernstein reportedly handling the task at ringside.

Showtime vs HBO

The fact that Pacquiao is contracted to HBO and Mayweather to Showtime has been one of the thorny issues, but this time the rival firms are collaborating on the pay-per-view telecast.

“This is the biggest boxing event of all time, we’re confident of that,” Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports said. “We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it and help craft it.”

“This deal is the product of a lot of hard work,” said Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports.

HBO and Showtime have worked together before, teaming up in 2002 for the fight between Lewis, who was with HBO, and Tyson, who was with Showtime.

Hershman said the Tyson-Lewis bout was a “great road map” for Pacquiao-Mayweather.

“It showed that this can be done successfully,” he said.

Previous bids to put together a fight between the two, most notably in late 2009, had run aground over various issues, including division of the purse and a drug-testing protocol.

Animosity between Mayweather’s camp and Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has also been a stumbling block.

After the fight failed to materialize in 2010, some of the gloss came off the potential showdown when Pacquiao suffered two straight defeats in 2012, a dubious split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley and a 6th-round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in his fourth bout against the Mexican.

Since then, however, the Filipino southpaw has won three fights in a row. He began pushing hard for the fight after beating Algieri in November in Macau.

Negotiations picked up last month when the two fighters met by chance at a Miami Heat basketball game and later talked with each other in Pacquiao’s hotel room about making it happen.

“It’s one of those fortuitous circumstances we couldn’t have planned,” Espinoza said. “But we were lucky that it happened.”

Concessions

As part of the agreement, Mayweather insisted on having the right to announce the bout. He also won concessions from the Pacquiao camp on who enters the ring first, what type of gloves are used, and a number of other issues, including a reported 60-40 split of the purse.

Pacquiao agreed to Olympic-style drug-testing protocol and a clause imposing a $5-million penalty should any of the fighters test positive.

As another concession, Mayweather reportedly stands to get a rematch if he loses.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, got a one-shot deal.

Arum expressed his elation in making the fight.

Arum, who has promoted some of the biggest fights in history, said this one would be bigger than them all.

“This boxing match will have the interest in the US of a Super Bowl,” Arum told The Associated Press. “I think it will set all kinds of pay-per-view records and gate records. It will be the biggest boxing event of all time.”

Reputations at stake

Both fighters will bring 66-kg titles into the ring, but the fight is about far more than belts.

Mayweather, who is unbeaten in 47 fights, wants to stake his claim as one of the greatest fighters ever, and remove any doubts about his legacy by fighting the boxer who is thought to be the greatest challenge of his career.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, will try to show that a knockout loss to Marquez and a disputed decision loss to Bradley should not define a remarkable career that began 20 years ago in the Philippines.

Don’t tune in looking for a big knockout, either. The last time Pacquiao stopped anyone was in 2009 when he finished off Miguel Cotto in the 12th round, while Mayweather has stopped only one fighter (Victor Ortiz) in the last eight years.

But fight fans are rejoicing and social media have exploded at the news that the long-awaited clash between Pacquiao and Mayweather will at last take place.

“Can’t wait to see,” tweeted former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard, who won titles in five weight divisions.

Former English footballer Gary Lineker, wrote on Twitter: “Now that is a fight!”

Ring Magazine, the so-called bible of boxing, said: “Mayweather-Pacquiao is here, kiss the record book goodbye,” and film actress and fight fan Rosie Perez tweeted: “Finally! God Bless America, two times!”

MGM Grand room rates have spiked as much as 70 to 80 percent in a just a few minutes after the fight was announced.–With reports from Francis T.J. Ochoa, Inquirer Research, and wires

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