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Mayweather-Pacquiao: The Fight on today

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS – The fight the world has been waiting for, the fight many thought would never materialize, the fight five years in the making, the fight pitting the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers, the fight expected to be the highest-grossing of all time, well, it’s finally here. The Fight is on.

Manny Pacquiao will meet Floyd Mayweather Jr. over 12 rounds for the world welterweight championship this morning (10 a.m., Manila time), and people around the world are expected to follow the progress of the fight.

When it’s over, it will be the most watched and talked about single sports event in memory.

The interest about this encounter is such that since it was formally announced three months ago, the sports world has not stopped talking about it. It has never stopped analyzing it. It has never stopped betting on it.

It is a fight that is pitting two athletes who are on top of their game. That’s the consensus although many believe their prime was five years ago when The Fight was first discussed.

Now Pacquiao, 36, and Mayweather, 38, have met all the requirements to settle the lingering question of who is the better man on what has been billed “The Fight of the Century.”

They will fight over 12 rounds, at 147 pounds, and the welterweight titles, all of them, are at stake. Mayweather has two belts (WBA and WBC), Pacquiao one (WBO), and the winner goes home with three.

At the weigh in Friday morning though, Pacquiao came in at 145 pounds, Mayweather at 146 pounds.

But more than the title, the underlying stakes are far bigger. They will also fight for legacy and pride, honor and prestige, and the bragging rights that will cement the winner as perhaps the century’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter.

Both boxers will be rewarded handsomely for their night’s work. Each boxer will bring home the biggest pay checks of their lives.

Mayweather has been guaranteed $120 million and Pacquiao $80 million. But they are expected to earn more than that as each fighter will also get a substantial share in the pay-per-view sales, the TV rights, the merchandize proceeds and the gate receipts. Adding all these up, experts said the fight will gross at least $400 million, an amount more than the GDP of 29 countries.

Fans all over the world could not get enough of the fight. The long wait built up interest and promoters and businessmen have cashed in.

Officially, the cheapest ticket is $1,500, the most expensive, $7,500. Both are records. But prices soared dramatically in the secondary market. One report said a person had paid close to $40,000 for a ringside ticket. When 500 tickets were released to the public, it was gone in 60 seconds.

Indeed, this will be one of the most anticipated fights in the history of boxing. Maybe surpassing the Ali-Frazier, Ali-Forman, Hagler-Hearns, Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard, Leonard-Duran fights all of which have earned their places in boxing lore as some of the greatest.

Whether the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight will join that list will be known today when the two fighters rumble at the MGM Grand hotel, a casino and entertainment complex with an expected capacity crowd of 16,000 watching.

Each fighter will bring on the table their own unique fighting styles. Pacquiao normally is an aggressor, never backing down, always attacking, unleashing volumes of left and right punches and leaving his opponents bothered and bewildered.

His record is 57-5-2 in a career that spans more than a decade.

He is up against Mayweather who has won all 47 fights, 26 by knockout. The record is 49-0 long held by heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano.

While Pacquiao shoots Hail Mary punches, which many believe caused his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez two years ago, Mayweather is boxing’s poster boy for endurance and patience, a strategic and scientific boxer who can make adjustments in the middle of the fight.

Fans want no less than a knockout win by either boxer, a result that would indeed live up to all the hype. But neither boxer has scored a stoppage, technical or otherwise, in recent years.

Pacquiao’s last knockout win was in 2009 against Miguel Cotto, while Mayweather last stopped an opponent September 2011 against Victor Ortiz.

The general consensus, however, is that the fight will go the distance and Mayweather will win on points.

Odds for a Mayweather win have been pegged at 2-1. But in an online survey during the weigh in, fans were asked to pick the winner and 59 percent picked Pacquiao, 41 percent chose Mayweather.

But at the casinos, Mayweather is the overwhelming favorite. That is just fine with Pacquiao who was an underdog only a few times since taking the boxing world by a storm with a sensational knockout of then world champion Lehlo Ledwaba in Texas when he was tapped as a replacement boxer when the challenger got sick.

“I love being the underdog,” he said. “This motivates me to really fight hard.”

Since beating Ledwaba, it was one victory after another, one world championship following another. By the time Pacquiao slowed down, he had won eight titles in different divisions, the first and only boxer to post that distinction and something many say will never be equalled or surpassed.

There was talk that the fight would never happen. Several initiatives were taken but for one reason or another, the fight everyone wants, never got off the ground.

But now The Fight is finally here. The line has been drawn, the purses settled, the media blitz is over, the fans have come, the pay-per-view completed and it is time to rumble.