Pacquiao-Mayweather press conference: a historic face-off

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao: Ready to rumble. TFLA Photos by Tet Valdez

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao: Ready to rumble. TFLA Photos by Tet Valdez

By Dante D. Ochoa

There they stood, face to face — Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather — for darn near too long it seems, for almost a minute, on stage at the Nokia Theater at the L.A. Live around 2 p.m., Wednesday, March 11. But then, the fans, the whole world waited for five long years so why not let them milk the moment, savor the flavor and quench that deepest of thirst for one of the greatest boxing matchups in the history of the world. To many minds in the audience, for sure, lurked that thought: Is this effing real? Wake me up please.

Red carpet-credentialed journalists, photographers and news camera personnel, from hundreds of news outfits from across the globe trooped into the theater for the “by-invitation only” formal kickoff of the much-longed for square off between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather scheduled to happen at MGM Hotel in Las Vegas on May 2, date etched into every boxing fan’s psyche by now.

While not mentioned much, the matchup will determine who rightfully owns the welterweight titles now held by either fighters under championship rules of the World Boxing Association (WBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO). Since they will meet under the 147-weight limit, Mayweather’s WBA 154-pound super welterweight title he wrested from Saul Canelo recently, could also be on the line.

The kickoff was preceded by a red carpet welcome normally reserved for Hollywood celebrities and luminaries and where the media held a field day asking all the possible questions or non-questions they can come up with. Just like the Oscars, the Emmy’s, the Golden Globe’s. And this was obvious to Manny Pacquiao who commented to the media questioners: “I thought I was not in a boxing event. I thought I was going to a Grammy award.”

Guillermo, Jimmy Kimmel’s portly sidekick provided TV flavor. After handing a pair of screaming red boxing gloves to Mayweather, Guillermo downed a shot of tequila from a bottle bearing the label Guillermo’s Tequila, after Mayweather refused politely. “Hey give him a gum,” said Mayweather, feigning hands-off disgust with Guillermo’s then alcohol-laden breath.

Yes, even Mayweather brought out his charming side, smiling at the media and patiently answering questions and offering a likable benign image quite a departure from a sour public face but he was successful at it by all measures. We suspect what brought out that red carpet effort: “We want everyone to buy pay-per-view. . . this is the biggest fight in history. . . the fight of the century . . . so every one has to buy pay-per-view,” said Mayweather to the media. Pay-per-view revenues are clearly on top of his mind, being the PPV king of boxingdom.

But the fans simply want to witness the fight, for Mayweather to prove to one and all his claim to be TBE (The Best Ever), to stop running away from the only fighter who has a real chance to beat him.

It was Pacquiao’s PR offensive early this year which touched off the long simmering anxiety among the fans into the surface once more, and ultimately powered into fruition by the irresistible allure of up to 500 million dollar payout to all involved in the biggest financial deal in boxing, not including boosted revenues of Las Vegas’s flagging entertainment industry.

The press conference panel was no less a demonstration of the full cooperation of the movers and the shakers of the boxing industry led by HBO and Showtime, who will partner in the broadcast of the event (only the second time after the Lennox-Lewis heavyweight title fight in 2002).

Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports noted in his appreciation of how big the much-awaited matchup, that between Mayweather and Pacquiao, there were 26 appearances on HBO PPV, 9 for Mayweather and 17 for Manny, which brought in at least one billion dollars in revenue.

Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza also noted that the entertainment network, aside from the very lucrative 6-fight contract with Mayweather, boasts of the record-breaking PPV revenues for the Mayweather-Alvarez super welterweight match which topped then record of 2.4 viewers for the Dela Hoya-Mayweather dream fight. An optimistic 3 million ppv, at least, is predicted for the upcoming fight.

The exchange of conciliatory, appreciative words flowed, among the panel, amusingly, whose animosity each other is well-known, from Bob Arum, promoter of Pacquiao fights to Mayweather, Jr. himself, to Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer and Floyd Mayweather, Sr. trainer for his son, Mayweather junior. Roach seemingly conceded Floyd Mayweather, Jr. as “the best fighter in the world today” but promptly took it back: “On May 2, we will kick your ass. Good luck Floyd.”

Bob Arum in turn, before calling on Manny, talked up the Philippines, Pacquiao’s homeland, describing the country, as a “gracious and kind people which under then President Quezon, welcomed thousands of Jewish people fleeing Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, at a time when most other countries didn’t, including this country. . . It is a country which fought alongside America in the battlefields of Bataan and Corregidor during World War II.”

Manny Pacquiao started thanking God for his blessings, reassured his fans that “There is a God, who can create something from nothing and that nothing is me. I am nothing and God made me into something.” To the delight of presumably the
God-fearing among fight fans present. He then thanked Team Pacquiao and extolled their loyalty to each other from Bob Arum, to Freddie Roach and every supporter. Finally, he expressed his confidence to face the “biggest fight of his life” and promised his fans to do well. Pacquiao had earlier said in the red carpet: “I will be more aggressive and punch more.” It might well be that simple.

Floyd Mayweather was equally sincerely-worded, thanking his father for training him to what he is today, his advisers Al Haymon and manager Leonard Ellerbe, even Team Pacquiao for helping bring about the fight through successful negotiations. But he reminded everyone, and alluding to Manny Pacquiao, perhaps, that fighters who have lost before will always have that loss in his mind. ‘If you lose by knockout it will be on your mind, “lectures Mayweather, “while I have not had any loss and will only think of winning.”

With all that said and done, no one seemed in a hurry to beat thousand others to the exit, but could be savoring a mental picture of ring announcer Michael Buffer with that all familiar call echoing from the future: “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”

From left, Showtime's Stephen Espinoza; Justin Bieber; Mayweather; Leonard Ellerbe, personal adviser of Mayweather; Pacquiao; Bob Arum; Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports; and coach Freddie Roach.

From left, Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza; Justin Bieber; Mayweather; Leonard Ellerbe, personal adviser of Mayweather; Pacquiao; Bob Arum; Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports; and coach Freddie Roach.

Pacquiao at podium answers questions from journalists

Pacquiao at podium answers questions from journalists

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