Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao: A pay-per-view spectacle at long last

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao pose during their weigh-in on Friday, May 1, 2015 in Las Vegas.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Manny Pacquiao pose during their weigh-in on Friday, May 1, 2015 in Las Vegas. AP

Athletes often express how confidence plays a pivotal role in their performances. Skill might be the obvious overriding factor for success, but the added element of confidence distinguishes the haves from the have-nots, elevating certain athletes to elite status.

No one in contemporary boxing exudes supreme belief of his abilities better than Floyd Mayweather Jr. Ever since he burst onto the professional fight scene in 1996, Mayweather anticipated greatness. Nearly two decades of successful bouts later, Mayweather has adeptly blended skill and confidence to arguably become the best fighter of his generation.

On Saturday night, Mayweather’s ability and faith in victory could encounter the toughest obstacle of his still spotless professional record. Mayweather will face Manny Pacquiao in a highly anticipated welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (9 p.m., pay-per-piew).

“I always want to go out there and be at my best,” Mayweather said. “I’ve broken records before. Are we going to do record-breaking numbers again? Absolutely.” 

Many argue that the fight took five years too long, especially now that both fighters are in their mid- to late-30s and past the prime of their careers. Yet, Mayweather, 38, and Pacquiao, 36, continue to occupy the top pound-for-pound best fighter’s lists. The bout also is expected to shatter pay-per-view records. 

Mayweather and Pacquiao have become boxing’s top the pay-per-view attractions following Oscar De La Hoya’s retirement six years ago. Pacquiao has appeared on 20 pay-per-view telecasts, compared with Mayweather’s 13.

“I’ve been here before; I know what it takes in a fight of this magnitude,” Mayweather said. “If you check my archives, I gave people a lot of exciting fights. I wish I could have been a pay-per-view start earlier in my career, but I wasn’t. It took years and years of hard work.” 

Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) has won world titles in five separate weight classes. However, early in his career, Mayweather’s exceptional boxing skills couldn’t resonate with fight fans lustful for nonstop exchanges and ring aggression. The 1996 U.S. Olympian’s breakout pay-per-view appearance was his 2007 fight with De La Hoya that generated a still-record 2.4 million buys.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) rose from relative obscurity in his native Philippines into a crossover attraction thanks to his penchant for volume punching. Fans also appreciated how Pacquiao, a world champion in eight divisions, accepted challenges from the top fighters of his era.

“I cannot say [Mayweather] is the most dangerous opponent of my career because I have not faced him,” Pacquiao said. “I have faced Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez and other great boxers. My confidence right now is different than any other fight.” 

Common opponents serve as one of the intriguing angles in the pre-fight hype. Although Mayweather struggled early and won a narrow decision against De La Hoya, Pacquiao pummeled De La Hoya into retirement.

But Pacquiao dealt with three perilous distance-lasting bouts against Marquez before Marquez knocked him out in 2012. Mayweather outclassed Marquez in a lopsided decision win six years ago.

“Pacquiao would be a better fighter if he wasn’t so reckless,” Mayweather said. “It’s a gift and curse. He’s won a lot of fights by being reckless. But also being reckless can get you knocked out. Getting knocked out in a harsh way can affect you in the long run.”  

In the buildup to Saturday’s bout, Pacquiao and his trainer, Freddie Roach, indicated that they have devised the strategy that will finally pin a loss on Mayweather’s record.

“Manny took me into his room many times to dissect tape on Mayweather and how he fights against certain people,” Roach said. “This is the first time he has ever asked me to watch film with him. I liked what he showed me on the tape, and I think that we’re perfect for this fight.” 

Mayweather believes that any formula that Pacquiao or Roach might concoct will prove useless.

“One thing everybody plans for is to come forward and throw a lot of punches,” Mayweather said. “They think it works, but it hasn’t worked for 19 years. If that’s his game plan, then we’ll just have to see how everything breaks down. 

“Saturday, before and after the fight, I will still be the best ever.”