In what was rightly coined as "The Superbowl of Boxing" by several media commentators, as well as a promoter or two, the sole media event for the long awaited Floyd Mayweather Jr. (47-0, 26KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38KOs) battle set for May 2, at the MGM Grand was a huge media spectacle - likely the biggest to date for the sport. As the nominal golden ticket media event unfurled this week on March 11th at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, over 600 credentialed media from around the world were amongst the lucky few to be granted physical entry into the mother of all press conferences to end press conferences. Replete with an Academy Award worthy red carpet, sturdy reinforced gate and all of the Hollywood VIP fixings, the tete a tete was littered with boxing biggest and brightest as journalists and fans converged like a siege of preying locusts under a purplish white Los Angeles sky - unusually unforgiving Los Angeles weather for a fittingly members only media event.
Though the weather was overcast and threatening rain, nothing could tamp down or diminish the electrified atmosphere as boxing notables as well as other stars outside of the sport, such as Ron Artest and Justin Bieber rubbed shoulders in order to see the official announcement of what promoters and fans alike have termed the most highly anticipated "fight of the century" with nosebleed seats going for $1500 a pop with a stated cap of $7500. Clearly, this fight is the antithesis of your backyard brawl.
In interesting proceedings that told a not unexpected tale of CBS Showtime promotional dominance, once things started the event was smooth but suffered telling omissions in the vein of keeping things above a certain conservative yet weighted line. For example, while Floyd Mayweather jr. had a beautiful extended high gloss high production value feel good video promo preceding his walk up to the podium, his opponent Manny Pacquiao was not afforded quite the same length of video pomp – as seen live by millions on the Showtime Sports streaming feed. However, this intentional or unintentional slight was evened out later by the rather off-putting if not tell tale decision to deny Mayweather's father and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr. speaking time on the dais. In stark contrast, Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach all but received a standing ovation from the Los Angeles largely pro Pacquiao home crowd when Top Rank CEO Bob Arum indicated that Mr. Roach's time to approach the podium was nigh. In any case, these things didn't matter much to the grandeur of the proceedings as a whole - other than being a clue to the more informed watcher that even though Arum, Showtime Sports Executive Vice President Stephen Espinosa, and HBO Sports President Ken Hershman were all quick to tell the story of everyone being a recently united happy boxing family, the divides still run deep under the surface. But honestly, who really wants those divides gone? While they hindered the inking of the fight for five years - an eternity in any sport - they are also precisely the subterranean rocket fuel that will serve as an excellent catalyst for a great explosion of a battle come May 2nd.
While the stuff of legend has been made out of the vicious differences both sides have been known to harbor against with one another, this press day, to a man everyone kept it clean - even when given ample opportunity to be less than kind. On the red carpet, when promoter Bob Arum was at one point peppered with questions about Floyd Mayweather jr.'s less than exemplary history with regards to domestic violence, Arum was respectfully noncommittal if not mum. As such, it is likely that an unstated but clear directive to take the high road governed the glaring choice to effectively render the often caustic Floyd Mayweather senior officially mute. Indeed, Arum almost couldn't keep himself on task early on in his remarks at the podium. "Everybody has been cooperative except for senior over there who has been staring at me," said Arum, in discussing the cooperative nature of all involved in making the May 2nd date. However, Arum was fast to telegraph to any who might not get the "joke" that everything was hunky dory between he and Floyd Sr., quickly adding "He's my friend. He's been my friend forever. Right Floyd?" to which Floyd Sr. dutifully nodded in ascent. Arum then continued, " we're all family and we're all part of this boxing family and we're all so proud to be able to present this event." But just to be safe, Top Rank Promotions quickly tweeted officially that Mr. Arum was just kidding around.
Indeed, even Freddie Roach, boxing’s poster boy for speaking without a filter, seemed to have a bit of a muzzle on it when he took to the podium, apologizing even as he told the younger Mayweather and the world, "we're fighting the best fighter in the world and we're gonna kick his ass. I'm sorry but good luck Floyd." True politesse for the normally rough-hewn confrontational manner of Roach.
However, like most family patch jobs, the truth eventually came out as things got more relaxed once the tenuous Thanksgiving styled familial grace of the podium was over and folks were ready to go home after all the stress of putting on a good face for the wife and kids. Floyd Mayweather jr., who had been measured to the point of being almost lethargic in his delivery of his thoughts on stage became less guarded and much less politically correct - specifically with regards to his role in the often discussed and highly speculated origins of the successful makings of the fight of the century. "Everyone wants to keep talking about how this fight happened," said Mayweather testily. "This fight happened because of me. This fight didn't happen because of Manny Pacquiao," stated Mayweather defiantly, almost visibly loosening the noose of the metaphorical tie that had been cramping his usual style while sharing the podium with Pacquiao.
As for Pacquiao himself, he alone of everyone involved seemed to suffer the least from any self-imposed or promotionally imposed censure. Not seduced by any need to take credit for the fight, and seemingly indifferent to thinly veiled jibes from Mayweather on the dais that, " when you lose, it's in your mind," steeliness only emerged when he was asked directly about difficulties Mayweather's defense might pose for him in the ring, with regard to his game plan of two years ago versus now "It's the same it's the same," Pacquiao responded in affirming that he saw no need to amend what he and coach Freddie Roach had had as a fight plan had things gone off without a hitch previously. "He has a good defense but I'm not worried about that. I can easily break that defense."
Certainly the strength of the bones of that legendary defense will be the measure of all things once May 2nd is upon us all.
Superbowl of Boxing
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photo by Kylie Krabbe
March 14th 2015