Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
It was not Mike Tyson biting Lennox Lewis on the leg. Nor was it Fernando Vargas lunging after Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera slugging it out with Erik Morales, or Riddick Bowe cracking Larry Donald with a right hand.
Instead, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather showed each other plenty of respect at Wednesday’s final pre-fight press conference. And this is not a bad thing. There are arguably more pairs of eyes worldwide trained on this fight than have been trained on any fight in history, and given that boxing generally tests only slightly higher than Ebola in public polls, the last thing this event needed was an outburst of shenanigans that would reinforce the sport’s negative image.
The fighters know that all too well, of course. So Mayweather called Pacquiao “a solid fighter, a solid competitor,” and predicted it “will be an intriguing matchup come Saturday.” He had, he said, “worked extremely hard to win this fight and I’m sure Manny Pacquiao did too.” Pacquiao in turn offered his hope that “both Floyd and I do our best on Saturday and to put our name in boxing history,” although his suggestion that, when the dust had settled and the fight was over, he would like to “talk with Floyd about being an inspiration to people all around the world” was somewhat unexpected.
(Not everyone was on script. Speaking to media after the press conference, Mayweather’s father and trainer, Floyd Sr., insisted that, “Whatever happens on Saturday, it’s going to be one-sided. Pacquiao is going to sleep. I’m a trainer, I know what’s going on with fighters. Pacquiao doesn’t have it. Everybody can say what they want to say. I’ve said it before, Pacquiao can’t punch.”)
Of the combatants’ state of minds prior to the biggest contest of their careers: the best boxers are also poker players, not revealing the finer workings of their psyche. Mayweather, smiling when he needed to and seeming to mean it, nonetheless continued to display the same laid-back mien that has been characteristic of him during this promotion. Depending on your perspective, that is either because he is weary of its build-up or because, for all its magnitude, this genuinely is to him another day at the office.
Pacquiao, in contrast, has been expansive and relaxed and seemingly loving every minute of the experience. Whether that is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion and conjecture, but at the dais on Wednesday he took time to reflect on the improbability of his rise to great wealth and superstardom.
“Before I became a boxer, I used to sleep on the street,” he marveled. “I can’t believe that I am in this position. The boy who didn’t have food and slept on the street can have this life.”
And in an interview immediately afterward, the famously religious Pacquiao was able to fold his love of God into what became the closest approximation of smack talk from either boxer all day.
Asked why he was apparently so confident that he would be the first person to defeat Mayweather, he smiled knowingly.
“Because the Lord will deliver him to me on Saturday night.”