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MAYWEATHER-PACQUIAO PRESS CONFERENCE

March 11, 2015, Queens, NY  They were all there on the dais: Leonard Ellerbe, Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s manager; Bob Arum, Manny Pacquiao’s promoter; Richard Sturm, President of Entertainment & Sports MGM Resorts International; Ken Hershman, President of HBO Sports; Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager of Showtime Sports; Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer since 2001; Floyd Mayweather Sr., the trainer of his namesake; oh yeah, and the fighter’s themselves, Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.  The power-packed panel echoes the old adage that “It takes a village to raise a child.”  In this case, it took a number of key players to “make a fight.”

The press conference was held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and seemed more like a movie premier (having a red carpet) than boxing press conference.  Both fighters were attired in suits, spoke respectfully of one another, and appeared to be in game-face mode.  Mayweather was uncharacteristically anxious looking like he would rather be in the gym.  His mindset seemed to reflect the sentiment, “the time for talking is over.”  In fact, this was the only scheduled press conference.  The fighters would rather train than talk and travel.

Arum, former Mayweather promoter turned Mayweather nemesis, put on a happy face and made it appear Mayweather and he were on friendly, almost familial terms.  This appeared to catch Mayweather by surprise, but to his credit, he rolled with the punches.  The most bravado was demonstrated by Hall-of-Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach who exclaimed, “We’re going to kick his (Mayweather’s) ass.”

Pacquiao showed his usual humility by thanking God first and foremost.  Pacquiao acknowledged the enormity of the fight and spoke respectfully, but not deferentially, about Mayweather.  Mayweather, to his credit, was mature and classy.

Talk of the fight—in earnest—began in 2009 and gained serious momentum in 2010.  The negotiations were stalled by disagreements over the purse split, testing for performance enhancement drugs, promotional rights, headlining, etc., and a year ago, seemed unlikely.  Both fighters are unquestionably beyond their primes with Pacquiao losing more luster due to a loss to Timothy Bradley (albeit controversial) and by shocking knockout at the fists of rival Juan Manuel Marquez.  Mayweather hasn’t actually been unblemished; he was knocked silly, twice in the same round but did not go down, by Sugar Shane Mosely and was almost outlanded by Marcos Maidana (230-221 according to CompuBox statistics) in their first fight.

There are still a few skeptics out there who won’t believe the fight will happen until Mayweather and Pacquiao enter the ring on the evening of May 2.  Even if their pessimism is somewhat justified, today’s press conference went a long way in refuting that notion.  Let the hype begin.

Professor Clifford Benton can be reached at cliffb@puresportsny.com

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