LAS VEGAS: Floyd Mayweather Jr. insisted on Wednesday that his blockbuster fight against Manny Pacquiao is about boxing and business, not angels and demons, as the rivals went eyeball-to-eyeball at their final pre-fight news conference.
Pacquiao goes into Saturday’s bout (Sunday morning in the Philippines) that has the boxing world buzzing trailing a mantle of humanitarian deeds.
The two-term congressman tipped as a future President of the Philippines has left womanizing and gambling ways behind him and while he stands to make some $100 million for his night’s work on Saturday, the devout Christian says he hopes the intense focus on the fight will be a stage for the glorification of God.
“I want to inspire,” Pacquiao said.
But Mayweather won’t be playing the devil, despite a history that includes two months in jail in 2012 for an assault on an ex-girlfriend in front of two of their children.
“I am a realist,” said Mayweather, the 38-year-old American who has parlayed a perfect 47-0 ring record into a reign as the highest paid sportsman on the planet.
“This fight is not good versus evil. It is one fighter who is at the top and another.”
It was Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach who first billed the fight as good against evil, citing Mayweather’s record of domestic violence.
“For the first time in my life with Manny Pacquiao, this is the first fighter he hasn’t liked. I can tell,” Roach said earlier this month.
Mayweather, an energetic trash-talker in his younger days, has often courted controversy—comparing h imself favorably to Muhammad Ali and flaunting the perks his wealth has brought: houses, cars, even an airplane.
But the American, who said this week he expects a payday of $200 million for this fight alone, says none of that will matter when he steps in the ring.
“I believe in my skills. I believe I will be victorious,” said Mayweather, who puts his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association welterweight belts on the line against Pacquiao, the World Boxing Organization champ who boasts a record of 57-5-2.
For more than five years, contractual hurdles and animosity between the camps kept the top pound-for-pound fighters of their generation from meeting in the ring.
Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum, whose Top Rank Promotions is partnering with Mayweather Promotions to produce the event just as television rivals HBO and Showtime have come together in a rare partnership, said the experience had been “hellish.”
The long-awaited bout, however, has captured the imaginations of fight fans and casual observers around the world.
“I don’t take nothing away from Pacquiao, he is going to be an intriguing match-up on Saturday,” Mayweather said. “He didn’t get to where he got by not beating tough opponents.”
It’s that kind of measured respect that has Roach doubting that Mayweather’s heart is in the fight.
“I wonder if he’s going to show up,” Roach said shortly before the fighters took the stage at the MGM Grand’s 1,950-seat Ka Theater—usually the home of Cirque du Soleil.
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson strolled in—only one of the boxing legends, A-list celebrities and casino high-rollers drawn to the event.
“I think he was forced into this fight,” Roach said. “I don’t think he wants to fight this fight. He didn’t get to pick his opponent.”