MayPac: Five years in the making and almost here

David Mayo 28/04/2015
Manny Pacquiao Floyd Mayweather

Esther Lin

If you don’t have Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fatigue yet, just wait.

Media outlets around the world are converging upon this desert boxing capital in numbers unseen for a fight, though there is no indication how many actually will be admitted to MGM Grand Garden Arena to cover Saturday’s long-awaited welterweight clash.

Owners of a Kentucky Derby horse named Itsaknockout sold a sponsorship to the fight and is wearing a Mayweather-Pacquiao blanket at Churchill Downs.

Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, gang units from Los Angeles and Oakland, and Las Vegas Metro Police — the latter of which will have a temporary substation inside the casino — are among the authorities coordinating on a massive security plan.

Just more than 16,000 fans actually will witness the fight live, with ticket prices from $1,500 to $7,500 for the general public (not including a handful of $10,000 VIP set-asides), and only about 500 actually made available for a public sale that lasted seconds on Thursday.

Forget tickets to the actual fight, though.

Weigh-in tickets, at $10 a pop with the money going to charity, sold out almost immediately. So did the approximately 50,000 tickets at $150 each to watch the fight at closed-circuit venues in Las Vegas, presented exclusively at MGM Resorts properties across the city, with home pay-per-view blacked out here.

For the rest of the nation, it’s a record $100 to watch at home in high-definition, and the enormous prices for the richest fight in history are projected to earn nine-figure gross windfalls for both fighters, with Mayweather getting the 60-40 favorable split on most profits after the various business interests are satisfied.

The least-expensive hotel rooms at MGM Grand are $1,600 per night next weekend.

And seemingly every element of the two fighters’ histories, major and innocuous alike, has been explored in the deafening media noise, from the positive and quirky (favored snack foods, the dentists who make their mouthpieces, Mayweather’s largesse, Pacquiao’s devoutness) to the deeply dark (Mayweather’s history of domestic violence, Pacquiao’s alleged out-of-wedlock child and affairs).

With all of that, a fight more than five years in the making doesn’t need much promotion, and the two fighters have acted accordingly, remaining relatively understated by saying little at all.

Mayweather, 38, the 47-0 Grand Rapids native, when asked if a fight which can’t possibly match its hype could do so, replied, “Hopefully.”

“The only thing the fighters can do is go out there and perform, and do what we do best,” he added.

Pacquiao, 36, the 57-5-2 superstar from General Santos City, Philippines, and the only eight-division champion in boxing history, made some headlines by commenting on Mayweather’s domestic cases and saying he hopes to read the Bible with his opponent after the fight, but that’s about as contentious as the word volleys between the fighters has gotten.

“This fight is very important to me, and in boxing history. We don’t want to leave a question mark in the mind of boxing fans,” Pacquiao said. “Boxing fans have been eager to see this fight for five years. They have been asking me the same question and it is finally happening.”

The handling of Pacquiao’s media obligations has harkened some question as to whether his team is trying to protect him from the magnitude of the event.

Pacquiao was scheduled to conduct an international teleconference last week, but his promoter Bob Arum short-circuited it when a blogger with a long history as a newspaper boxing reporter asked the first question. Arum, 83, doesn’t abide bloggers.

Arum also has decided that Pacquiao won’t participate in Tuesday’s “Grand Arrival” ceremony, a dog-and-pony show in which both fighters walk a red carpet into the MGM Grand lobby, then go into a private room where each does a half-hour interview with early-arriving media. Pacquiao will do the interview portion but not the red-carpet walk, Arum said.

Mayweather and Pacquiao are expected to be in the same place at the same time at the final press conference, typically conducted on Wednesday, and Friday’s weigh-in.

After that, all that remains is a 12-round welterweight fight.

Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, has told his man not to be so aggressive that he could “fall into the traps” set by the master boxer Mayweather.

“Manny gets a little anxious at times,” Roach said. “I can count on him here at the gym so far, but I can’t count on it in the fight yet, because being in the gym and being in the fight are worlds apart. If my fighter follows instructions like he’s supposed to, he’ll be in good shape. If he doesn’t, we won’t be. He does like to entertain people, he does like to exchange, he does like to fight.”

One general consensus is that the heavier-handed Pacquiao needs to perform well in the first three or four rounds to have his best chance at a decision victory over the technically superior Mayweather.

Still, it is a fight in which the boxer can punch some, and the puncher can box some, and the harder-punching Pacquiao is the only one legitimately knocked down — much less knocked out — in a professional fight.

So those early rounds indeed are critical for both.

“In them three or four rounds, that might be it, because first of all, he ain’t never going to forget the way he got knocked out,” said Floyd Mayweather Sr., who trains his son. “Manny will never forget that. The way (Juan Manuel) Marquez hit him, Manny will never forget that. He will never forget it. When he gets hit again, he’s going to do the same thing.”

The elder Mayweather referred to Pacquiao’s 2012 crushing one-punch knockout loss to Marquez on a short counter right in the sixth round.

Roach acknowledged that fight showed signs of vulnerability in Pacquiao, though not necessarily because of that punch. A knockdown three rounds earlier on a looping right to which Pacquiao never reacted was of greater long-term concern, Roach said, calling it “a big, overhand sucker punch.”

“That’s what I’m thinking people are looking at that really know boxing, because the people that just watch the knockout, they’re looking at the wrong thing,” Roach said. “They should go back and look a couple rounds earlier, and look at that, because that’s more telling than anything to me.”

Mayweather Sr. also acknowledged his son had a slow start to training camp, and assistant trainer Nate Jones said the unbeaten pound-for-pound king finally rounded into form late in camp, which recently has included 2 a.m. full gym workouts to avoid scrutiny.

Both sides say they are ready for what is expected to be the richest fight in boxing history.

Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 holds the record for U.S. domestic pay-per-view sales at 2.45 million. Mayweather-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013 holds the domestic pay-per-view revenue record at $150 million, and the all-time live ticket receipts record of $20,000,003.

All those numbers will be shattered by Mayweather-Pacquiao, with ticket revenue exceeding $70 million, and domestic pay-per-view expected to exceed 3 million and perhaps even 4 million buys despite the hefty price.

Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and formerly promoted Mayweather, was involved in the great 1980s fights involving Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran.
The only fight since Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I in 1971 that rivals Mayweather-Pacquiao for anticipation and impact was Hagler-Leonard in 1987, promoted by Arum.

“Hagler and Leonard, huge, huge fight,” Arum said. “Bigger than this? Who knows? We didn’t have any pay-per-view to speak of. Leonard and Duran, same thing.”

Even in a pay-per-view industry that typically attracts more than 95 percent of buyers on the day of event, promoters can gauge buy rates two days beforehand, then one day beforehand, and compare them to other fights of similar nature, and the tracking almost always follows the same pattern.

Problem with Mayweather-Pacquiao, there are no comparables. Promoters are using Mayweather-Alvarez as a guide, but “we’ve never done numbers of this magnitude,” Arum said.

Pay-per-view tracking usually provides “amazing” accuracy, Arum added, but that not may not be the case with Mayweather-Pacquiao “because this fight appeals to such a big general audience that has never bought boxing before.”

That’s why the biggest fight in years, and the richest of all time, could prove such a risk for the sport as a whole.

Boxing needs a good fight. It needs action to satisfy all those rare pay-per-view purchasers.

The fight should have some action. But portraying it as a knockout artist against a boxer runs contrary to some pretty stark numbers.

Mayweather, the boxer, has fought all or part of 130 of his last 144 scheduled rounds over his last 12 fights. That’s 90.3 percent of his scheduled rounds in those bouts.

Pacquiao, the KO artist, has fought part or all of 114 out of 120 scheduled rounds over his last 10 fights, and the other six rounds didn’t happen because he got knocked out. That’s 95 percent of his scheduled rounds in those bouts, which included the most impressive knockout victory of his career (a 12th-round win over Miguel Cotto) as well as his most impressive knockout loss (Marquez).

“I don’t get discouraged anymore with a loss in boxing,” Pacquiao said. “It is a part of the game and I have taken the losses and have made myself a better fighter. It’s about building yourself up and turning yourself into a better fighter.”

While Pacquiao fights for his country, Mayweather, who hasn’t lost since the featherweight semifinals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is playing out a family boxing legacy spanning back more than four decades.

“It all started with my father,” he said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. My Uncle Roger played a major key, my Uncle Jeff played a major key, and just when you put all the pieces to the puzzle, I feel like I’m the center piece. The legacy, we will go down in history as some of the best fighters, the fighting Mayweathers.”

Courtesy of David Mayo of mlive.com. Follow David on Twitter @David_Mayo

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