Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao will meet unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on May 2 in a fight fans have long craved between the finest boxers of their generation.
Unbeaten American Mayweather made the long-awaited announcement on Friday via the social media website Shots.com, ending weeks of increasingly intense speculation that the showdown had been set.
“What the world has been waiting for has arrived. Mayweather vs. Pacquiao on May 2, 2015, is a done deal,” Mayweather wrote.
“I promised the fans we would get this done, and we did,” he added, posting a picture of a signed contract.
Pacquiao, the only fighter to win world titles in eight weight divisions, dedicated the fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to fans who “willed” it into being.
– Fans ‘deserve it’ –
“I am very happy that Floyd Mayweather and I can give the fans the fight they have wanted for so many years,” said Pacquiao, who also posted a picture of the contract on Twitter.
“They have waited long enough and they deserve it.”
In Manila, Pacquiao’s business manager Eric Pineda said they knew in advance of the match but had left it to Mayweather to make the announcement.
“We just kept it under wraps,” he told AFP.
“He has been training (for) two weeks,” Pineda said, adding that Pacquiao would leave for the United States in the first week of March.
“This is his toughest fight,” Pineda said.
The welterweight world title showdown — Mayweather owns the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles and Pacquiao the World Boxing Organization crown — is sure to be the richest in boxing history, generating massive pay-per-view revenue.
“This is the biggest boxing event of all time, we’re confident of that,” Ken Hershman, president of HBOSports said. “We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it and help craft it.”
Certainly the bout, more than five years in the making, is expected to break records — for gate receipts as well as pay-per-view audience and revenue.
US media reported that Mayweather will receive 60 percent of the purse and stands to make some $120 million, Pacquiao taking $80 million.
More importantly for fans, it will finally pit the two boxers long considered the best “pound-for-pound” fighters of their generation against each other.
Previous bids to put together a fight between the two — most notably in late 2009 — had run aground over various issues, including division of the purse and a drug testing protocol.
Animosity between Mayweather’s camp and Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has also been a stumbling block.
After the fight failed to materialize in 2010, some of the gloss came off the potential showdown when Pacquiao suffered two straight defeats in 2012, a dubious split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley and a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in his fourth bout against the Mexican.
Since then, however, the Filipino southpaw has won three fights in a row and will take a record of 57-5 with two drawn and 38 knockouts into the May 2 fight.
“Pac-Man,” who is 36, won an impressive unanimous decision over Chris Algieri in Macao last November.
Mayweather, 47-0 with 26 knockouts, turns 38 on Tuesday and has two more fights in the Showtime deal that has made him the highest-paid athlete in the world.
He is homing in on the iconic 49-0 record of 1950s legend Rocky Marciano, who retired as an undefeated heavyweight champion.
The fact that Pacquiao is contracted to HBO and Mayweather to Showtime was another thorny issue, and the rival firms are collaborating on the pay-per-view telecast.
“This deal is the product of a lot of hard work,” said Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager at Showtime Sports.
– Tyson-Lewis roadmap –
HBO and Showtime have worked together before, teaming up in 2002 for the fight between then-heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who was with HBO, and former champion Mike Tyson, who was with Showtime.
Hershman said the Tyson-Lewis bout was a “great roadmap” for Pacquiao-Mayweather.
“It showed that this can be done successfully,” he said.
Both fighters said after their most recent victories that their showdown should happen.
In January, the two met unexpectedly at a Miami Heat NBA game and arranged a meeting at which discussions apparently got serious.
Pacquiao said last week he had agreed to the drug-testing procedures Mayweather wanted as well as other demands, and he believed an announcement of the fight was imminent.
A British newspaper reported last Sunday that Mayweather could announce the bout at the NBA All-Star Game in New York.
In a brief courtside interview, however, Mayweather denied the deal was done, leaving fans to wonder if talks had stalled again.
But no, boxing’s latest “fight of the century” is on.
“Floyd should enjoy being the A-side while he can,” Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said. “Because on May 2, Manny is going to put him on his backside.”
The brash “Money” Mayweather was having none of it.
“Manny is going to try to do what 47 before him failed to do, but he won’t be successful,” Mayweather said. “He will be number 48.” – Agence France-Presse