By Michael Angelo S. Murillo

‘Run-up to megafight equally exciting’

Posted on February 23, 2015

WHEN NEWS that the much-awaited megafight between undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Filipino superstar fighter Manny Pacquiao will finally push through on May 2 (US time) came out, buzz was immediately created. From all directions and platforms, an air of excitement and anticipation for the designated date of reckoning permeated.

Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquaio trains at a gym in General Santos City in southern island of Mindanao on Feb. 21. -- AFP
But for one boxing analyst, people should not only look forward to fight day itself as the lead-up to what many dub as “the fight to end all fights” is going to be interesting and exciting as well just as he expressed delight over the two fighters’ decision to give what fight fans have been clamoring and waiting for the longest time.

“It’s the fight that has to happen,” Mike Ochosa, longtime ringside analysts and himself a boxer, told BusinessWorld when asked for his thoughts on the announcement of the long-awaited fight.

On Saturday (Manila time) Mr. Mayweather himself announced the megafight by posting a picture of the signed contract on social media.

The fight is a unification of both fighters’ welterweight titles and set to be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the 2nd of May.

Reports have it that it is going to be the richest fight in boxing history with American Mayweather set to get some $120 million of the purse while Mr. Pacquiao $80 million in a 60-40 money split.

The announcement was a culmination of five years of much negotiation which became very thorny at times.

For Mr. Ochosa, however, as much as fight day itself is going to be cardiac, the run-up to it is equally “juicy,” considering how the battle lines have been drawn between the two camps all this time.

“The fight will surely begin before May 2. The fight itself will only be the icing,” Mr. Ochosa said.

And sure enough, the battle of words started at the onset with “Money” coming out firing.

“I am the best ever, TBE, and this fight will be another opportunity to showcase my skills and do what I do best, which is win,” Mr. Mayweather was quoted as saying as he made the announcement.

“Manny is going to try to do what 47 before him failed to do, but he won’t be successful. He will be No. 48,” Mr. Mayweather said.

Not to be outdone, the camp of Pacman did not mince words as well.

“My guy is really going to give Mayweather a lesson in the ring, either by stopping him or by decision,” Bob Arum, Mr. Pacquiao’s promoter reportedly told the LA Times.

“Win, he will,” Mr. Arum further said.

“Floyd should enjoy being the A-Side while he can because on May 2 Manny is going to put him on his backside,” Mr. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, meanwhile, was quoted as saying by ESPN.

Mr. Mayweather, 38, comes into the fight with a 47-0 record (26 knockouts) while Mr. Pacquiao, 36, has a 57-5-2 card (38 KOs).

Meanwhile, Manny Pacquiao may be a hero in the Philippines but even his fans and associates admit he will be the underdog in his bout against undefeated Floyd Mayweather in the “fight of the century”.

Betting odds in Las Vegas, where the fight will be held on May 2, favor the 38-year-old American, who has never lost in 47 fights. By contrast, the 36-year-old Pacquiao has 57 victories and five defeats -- including two suffered as recently as 2012.

The fight, which was years in the making, will finally answer the question as to which of the two is the best “pound-for-pound” fighter of their generation.

But Mr. Pacquiao, who has several other duties outside the ring, has plenty of baggage to shed.

“Manny likes to be in the underdog position,” said sports writer Winchell Campos, who is working on a biography of the fighter.

“He thrives on that kind of pressure. It gives extra motivation for him.”

Mr. Pacquiao has made a fortune as a commercial pitchman, dabbled in television, movies and music, and leveraged his boxing fame to get elected to Congress in 2010.

Last year, he even made his debut as player-coach of a newly-created professional basketball team.

All of that, however, will have to be put aside for the Mayweather fight.

“Mayweather will be the favored one (in Las Vegas),” said Mr. Pacquiao’s business manager Eric Pineda, who has labelled the bout the Philippine boxer’s “toughest fight”.

“But he (Pacquiao) has a big chance. Every time he fights, everything takes a back seat to training,” he said, noting that Mr. Pacquiao will leave in March to train in the United States, away from the distractions in the Philippines.

Philippine Olympic Committee spokesman Joey Romasanta, an avowed fan of the sport, meanwhile warned that “the fighting style of Mayweather is such that it would be very difficult for any fighter to hit him where it would matter”.

“Pacquiao has to be very patient with Mayweather. If he gets too aggressive, there could be problems,” he told AFP.

Mr. Romasanta said Mr. Pacquiao’s widespread popularity in the Philippines would, however, survive a defeat at Mr. Mayweather’s hands.

“It will be a letdown for the country if Pacquiao will lose miserably but I don’t think that will happen,” he said.

Others are more upbeat about Mr. Pacquiao’s chances.

Veteran sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielsz, who has covered Mr. Pacquiao closely, said the fight would have been much more explosive had it happened four years ago, when both men were younger, but said the passage of time favored the Philippine boxer.

“It is all going to depend on what kind of condition Mayweather comes in. He is older than Manny. He may age overnight in the ring,” Mr. Nathanielsz added.

The American has lost some of his power, the sportscaster said, adding that he believed Mr. Pacquiao still retained much of his strength and footspeed, giving him an advantage.

Regardless of perceptions of his chances, the announcement of the long-awaited fight has grabbed the headlines in the Philippines.

“Everyone is ecstatic,” Mr. Campos, the sportswriter, said.

“Everyone is looking forward to seeing this fight.” -- with reports from AFP