Chris Farina / Top Rank
Thursday, March 12, 2015 | 2 a.m.
A red carpet rolled as far as the length of the basketball court across the street at Staples Center welcomed Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to their only pre-fight press conference Wednesday morning.
Media members crammed almost every inch of the sidewalk in front of the temporary grand entrance to the Nokia Theater. Boxing linchpins like promoter Bob Arum and trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. marveled at the scene.
They’ve spent a lifetime around big fights but nothing in the past could quite reach the mania surrounding the May 2 meeting between Mayweather vs. Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“Everything is about timing,” Mayweather said, “and I think we couldn’t have chosen a better time.”
When the two best fighters in the world announced the bout last month after more than five years worth of failed discussions, a natural reaction was to wonder whether it was too late. Although guaranteed to break several boxing records anyway, many questioned if the sport had missed out by not putting together the fight until after the primes of the 38-year-old Mayweather and 36-year-old Pacquiao.
Those points of view now quell by the day. Neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao, both of whom blamed the other’s party for failures in the past, believes they lost anything by not fighting in 2010 or 2011. And anyone who doubted it in attendance Wednesday probably came around, too.
The one-off media day ran in defiance of boxing’s tried approach of launching a full press tour ahead of a major event.
“We don’t have to sell this fight,” Mayweather explained. “This fight is going to sell itself.”
More than 700 credentialed media from all over the world showed up with just more than a week’s notice. Fans engulfed the L.A. Live complex for hours despite the knowledge that no portion of the proceedings was open to the public.
“This fight is very important in the history of boxing because the fans are really eager to see this fight,” Pacquiao said. “I was here for five years with fans asking the same questions of when this will come, and it finally happened.”
Pacquiao, who once brought a defamation lawsuit against Mayweather that was settled out of court, had nothing negative to say about his history with the upcoming opponent. In fact, he referenced a well-publicized chance encounter with Mayweather at a Miami Heat game in late January as a turning point for negotiations.
Pacquiao welcomed his archrival to his hotel suite after the Milwaukee Bucks knocked off the Heat. Pacquiao remembered Mayweather explaining his insistence of being the “A-side” of the fight and getting a 60/40 percent split of the purse.
Pacquiao readily agreed to the terms of Mayweather, who also emphasized the importance of the get-together.
“I think it was me and Pacquiao being at the Miami Heat basketball game, us sitting down one-on-one in his hotel room, communicating and talking why we should make that happen,” Mayweather reflected. “I think that’s the reason this fight happened.”
Any lingering grudge comes from those surrounding the two fighters. Arum couldn’t help himself from quipping, “everyone has their own opinions,” when Showtime Sports Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza recounted Mayweather longing to face Pacquiao for years.
As the CEO of Top Rank, Arum has promoted Pacquiao for nearly 15 years while Mayweather left him in 2006.
“Everything they were saying about the fight, I know one thing: Floyd wasn’t the one who was scared,” Mayweather Sr. countered. “Now we’re fixing to find out who’s scared. Pacman is scared whether you know it or not.”
Pacquiao expressed relief that the speculation over getting in the ring has ceased and made way for anticipation of the action.
It’s the biggest fight in the history of boxing, after all, a fight that increasingly few people think is too delayed.
“I remember when I was young, I always go back to when (Marvin) Hagler and (Sugar Ray) Leonard fought one another in a super fight,” Mayweather Jr. said. “I thought there would never be a bigger fight, but I kept my fingers crossed and kept working.”