By Kieran Mulvaney
Two days of open workouts taught us approximately as much about the respective strategies of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as we might reasonably have expected: essentially, nothing. And who really can blame either man for not wanting to display any hint of the training underway or the tactics being developed for their May 2 clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? There is simply too much at stake to risk giving away anything that could dull any possible edge or dilute any putative surprise.
So Mayweather, who performed on Tuesday for approximately 300 credentialed onlookers at his eponymous boxing club in a Vegas strip mall populated primarily by Chinese restaurants, did enough to work up a sweat – hitting a heavy bag, transferring to a speed bag, going through the motions of some pad work with his uncle Roger, and counting out some ab crunches – and not much more. Pacquiao, who the following day welcomed a similar crowd into the confines of Hollywood’s Wild Card gym, did even less: some slow motion pad work with trainer Freddie Roach, some bouncing around the ring, and shadowboxing. Then, suddenly, there was a declaration that the show was over, before he descended the stairs to the parking lot outside and was gone.
So be it. The principal purpose of both events was for the two fighters to talk with the assembled media, and in that respect they each discharged their responsibilities to maximum effect. Thirty years after Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns developed such antipathy during a 23-city media tour that promoter Bob Arum at one stage had to physically intervene to prevent the fight from taking place in a St. Louis restaurant rather than a Caesars Palace ring, Mayweather and Pacquiao are undergoing a PR blitz of a more modern nature, one that takes advantage of the reach of satellite networks and social media. So instead of 23 assignments, each man has so far had just two: their joint appearance at the kick-off press conference in downtown Los Angeles, and their respective hosting duties this week.
And not only did the two principals speak to the media, their camps, supporters, and friends did too. Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, predicted confidently that his man would knock Pacquiao out; Roach similarly anticipated a decisive victory for his charge. Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz reflected with deep hurt on the emotions stirred by seeing his friend knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez; less expectedly, Lil’ Kim was on hand to support her friend Floyd and share her excitement at the fact she will be in the crowd on May 2.
But if both sides were reluctant to reveal too much, there was much that could be inferred – and two seemingly contradictory things in particular.
One was the genuine confidence that each camp feels, a confidence that is almost jarring given the quality of opposition but is likely a result of the fact that each man has been studying the other in depth now for over five years and as a consequence feels he knows the other inside-out.
The other is that, for all that assurance, all involved are genuinely aware of the difficulty of the task ahead. Mayweather and Pacquiao have fought and defeated – in many cases annihilated – a string of opponents, including existing or certain future Hall-of-Famers such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya – but this is the fight by which each man will be defined. And for all their achievements and the quality of their opposition, neither man has ever before experienced an event of quite this magnitude, or faced a foe of quite this nature.
That is why the real work began long before the cameras were turned on, and resumed only once they were turned off. The results of that work will become apparent in 16 days.