After six years of dancing around each other, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have signed up for the biggest fight in boxing.
On May 2, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, two of the best boxers in the world will clash in what will be the richest prize fight in history.
Mayweather made the announcement on social media on Friday evening US time.
“What the world has been waiting for has arrived,” he wrote.
“Mayweather vs. Pacquiao on May 2, 2015, is a done deal. I promised the fans we would get this done, and we did.”
In July 1921 Jack Dempsey met Georges Carpentier in New Jersey for what was boxing’s first $1 million gate.
In April 1987, Sugar Ray Leonard came out of retirement to defeat Marvin Hagler in the sport’s first $100 million fight.
Now Mayweather and Pacquiao will redefine money in boxing – their bout is tipped to generate more than $250 million.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 20, 2015
Mayweather, who likes to go by the sobriquet ‘Money’, already lays claim to the two richest fights in the sport.
The 2013 boxing lesson he delivered to Saul Alvarez pulled in $150 million, and his 2007 win over Oscar de la Hoya drew $136 million.
That he could become boxing’s most bankable star without being a knockout artist and with a counterpunching style built on masterly defence, is testament to his knack for self-promotion.
He’s never been beaten. In 47 fights he’s never really come close.
Jose Luis Castillo gave him a couple of good tussles, De la Hoya made him work and Shane Mosley rattled him with a good right hand.
Other than that, Floyd Mayweather has made a career out of making the best in the business look second rate. He’s on another plain.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, was hell on wheels.
A rugged but limited fighter during the early part of his career (fought exclusively in Asia), Pacquiao hit pay dirt one day in 2001 when he strolled through the door of the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, and shook the hand of trainer Freddie Roach.
Roach moulded Pacquiao into the complete fighter, a destroyer of extraordinary power and speed who got in and out before an opponent could blink.
He rivals Thomas Hearns in possessing perhaps the most upwardly-mobile KO punch in boxing – knocking out or stopping men from flyweight (112lbs, 50.5kg) to welterweight (147lbs, 66.7kg).
The Pacquiao-Roach partnership bore extraordinary fruit, and first vaulted into the public consciousness in 2003 when he knocked future hall-of-famer Marco Antonio Barrera into next week.
From 2006 until 2010 he was untouchable – reeling off big wins against Erik Morales (twice), Barrera again, Juan Manuel Marquez (twice), Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley.
But since he was beaten by Tim Bradley in a controversial 2012 decision, Pacquiao has looked increasingly shopworn – most dramatically illustrated by the shocking knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez in their fourth fight.
He is not the fighter he once was, taking away plenty of lustre from this fight (though, clearly, none of the money).
In a boxing landscape bereft of stars, it’s still the biggest thing out there. And it’s still a fair match up.
A winner? Well, if a skilled counterpuncher like Marquez could give Pacquiao problems (and we’re talking Fields Medal-style problems) then Mayweather – who is bigger, faster, stronger and just plain better than Marquez, should win comfortably.
Pacquiao doesn’t have the buzz-saw levels of speed and aggression he had in his pomp, and Mayweather will pick him off from distance en route to a decision victory.
This fight has some of the hallmarks of Leonard-Hagler – Leonard waited and waited until he saw Hagler was showing signs of slippage, then made his move.
It’s ironic, given Mayweather – who will be 38 years old when the bout takes place – is almost two years older than Pacquiao, but he’s a younger man in terms of ring life. Pacquiao’s had 64 fights to Mayweather’s 47, and has certainly accumulated more damage over the journey.
Mayweather is one of the smartest fighters who ever lived, and he’d be well aware that Pacquiao’s not ageing as gracefully as he is.
The negotiations for this fight have been a pathetic soap opera, a ‘he-said, she-said’ blame game between the two rival camps.
They’ve had disagreements about the purse share, the weight, the glove size, the type of drug testing, the network the bout would be shown on, the promoter and anything else you care to mention.
That it got made at all is a miracle boxing fans – so often sucker-punched by the sport they love – should embrace.
Let’s hope Pacquiao can turn the clock back and make it at least a little interesting, or Mayweather will enjoy the richest cakewalk in boxing history.