Boxers’ mutual respect

LAS VEGAS. — It was perhaps fitting the final Press conference ahead of the long-awaited fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao took place in the Kà theater, home to Cirque du Soleil’s longtime MGM Grand residency, considering the three-ring quality of the build-up to what’s certain to be the richest fight in the history of boxing.

Yet Wednesday’s polite exchange of remarks between the fighters belied the promotion’s circus-like atmosphere and proved typical of what’s by and large the least interesting of fight week’s well-worn rituals, the stations of the cross that mark time until the fighters climb through the ropes on Saturday night – save for one memorable moment when long-time Pacquiao promoter and legendary shade-thrower Bob Arum steered the proceedings into a proxy dick-measuring contest for network superiority.

Pacquiao was Pacquiao, humble and genial and God-fearing as ever. Mayweather was the Mayweather that’s become familiar throughout the promotion – let’s call it Floyd 3.0 – a self-assured all-time great who’s all but sworn off his trademark slander in an apparent effort to exit the sport gracefully. Anyone hoping for fireworks or even the slightest trace of ill will from Saturday’s main players was bound to be disappointed.

The event was closed to the public – leaving several hundred writers and photographers to fill out the lower bowl of the 1 950-seat theatre – though several Mayweather congregants inevitably negotiated their way into the proceedings and made themselves heard.

Pacquiao’s five-minute remarks were longer than he normally speaks at these types of things. He thanked the sponsors, the media, the fans.

“It’s going to be a good fight,” said the Filipino congressman, dressed in a conservative navy blue suit jacket with no tie. “There’s a lot of questions in your minds that only God can answer for us on Saturday. I just want to mention though that everything that I have accomplished, it is God who gave me the strength. I just want to be an example and an inspiration to everybody how my life, before I became a boxer, I used to sleep in the street, starving, hungry, and now I can’t imagine the Lord raised me into this position with blessings I could never imagine. That the boy who doesn’t have food and is sleeping in the street can be raised to this level of life.”

He continued.

“Nothing personal. He’s going to do his best, I’m going to do my best on Saturday to put our name in boxing history. But the most important thing, I’m hoping that after the fight, we can have a conversation with Floyd about sharing my faith in God. We can inspire more people, especially those children who are looking to us and supporting us.”

Mayweather, dressed in head to toe in red, white and black The Money Team apparel (topped by leather baseball hat that retails for $88 in the MGM lobby), spoke for half as long and said maybe a quarter as much. He thanked the sponsors, the media, the fans. The muted, measured tones that have become his calling card over the past 10 weeks bore little resemblance to the insufferable trash talker who incinerated hundred-dollar bills in nightclubs, tweeted photos of his six-figure betting slips and collected Maybachs like they were Silly Bandz.

Notably, he thanked longtime adversaries Arum and Freddie Roach – a chief instigator throughout the promotion who’s repeatedly invoked Mayweather’s domestic-violence record – underscoring the love-thy-enemies underpinnings of his latest iteration.

“It’s time to fight now,” Mayweather said. “You guys came out here to see excitement, you guys came out here to see a great event, and I think that’s what both competitors bring to the table: excitement.

“The biggest fight in boxing history.” — The Guardian.