In the middle of the utter chaos of every Las Vegas fight week, there is always an hour or so of excruciating boredom. This hour is so tedious it is almost comical.
It comes two or three days before the two men meet in the ring in what is ominously labelled The Final Press Conference.
However, this is not a press conference as we know it; there are no questions and no stories come of it. Indeed, the press might as well not be there.
In a big room somewhere on the Las Vegas strip, various men in suits take turns to speak at a dais and alternately thank each other for various things. Once they’ve done that, the two boxers also thank everyone in attendance, then God, before sitting down again. It is like a perverse oasis of dull in the Las Vegas desert madness.
Nobody quite knows the reason why this set-piece goes on so long, indeed the hundreds of news crews who dare not miss it only ever select a 20-second soundbite from each boxer for their television channel. The extensive thanking of sponsors is always lost in the ether. Sometimes you wonder why they even bother.
But a curious thing happened on Wednesday at the Ka Theatre when the majority of the 1,000 accredited media in town for Floyd Mayweather’s fight with Manny Pacquiao took their seats for the final time before the richest fight in boxing’s long history tomorrow.
Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, which is carrying the pay-per-view fight along with their arch rivals HBO, cut through all the guff and laid bare exactly what this generation-defining occasion is all about.
“A funny thing often happens with events this big,” he began. “With all the hoopla, the crowds, the big business, the promotion, sometimes we forget why we are all here.
“Sometimes we forget what this is all about. For all the talk about networks and shows and documentaries and dramas and series, this isn’t about networks. This isn’t about a bunch of guys in suits in New York City. This isn’t about promoters.
“This is about two world-class athletes. Floyd Mayweather and Manny
Pacquiao who have been working for weeks and weeks, all of their lives really, to get to this precise moment.
“These two guys are the ones who have literally worked their entire lives, ran thousands of miles to get to this point. Thrown hundreds of thousands of punches, all to get to this very moment.
“Nobody did that for them. No network, no promoter, no manager, no executive. No-one else can take credit for them.”
It was a heartfelt message from a man who has been one of the main players in a fractured promotion which might never have happened. He is one of those guys in a suit in New York city.
But the admission was in keeping with an ongoing theme of this chaotic fight week. There is no need for bravado, trash-talking or animosity this time. This clash between the unbeaten Mayweather, the world’s pound-for-pound No.1, and his nearest rival really needs no promotion.
Although the Strip has been more manic than ever, the two men at the heart of it have remained low-key, almost uninterested. Indeed Mike Tyson, one of this place’s former deities, says the pair seem so friendly that he feels like he is in church and not Sin City.
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said: “I don’t know why Floyd’s been so quiet. I’m wondering if he’s going to show up. I really do.
“At the first press conference I said we were going to kick his ass, but there was no response. His speech was very low-key and subdued. I’m not sure he is going to show up.”
Mayweather is a man who has won as many detractors as he has fans during a career full of brash outbursts. Not now.
Mayweather, now 38, explained: “It’s like chess, I make calculated moves, in and out of the ring. I talked trash in the past but this fight sells itself, so I don’t have to.”
The obvious narrative has been a clash between a money-orientated, wife-beating narcissist (Mayweather served 87 days for domestic abuse in 2012) and the God-fearing man of the people Pacquiao.
But the unbeaten WBA and WBC champion added: “This fight is not good versus evil, it’s one fighter versus another fighter.
“I come out and speak loud and do flamboyant things, talking about money. But that doesn’t mean that I hate anyone.”
There is a sense of irony that a man who has worked so hard for so many years to build his shamelessly unlikeable persona is a changed man as he reaches the zenith of his career.
“I was immature back then,” he says.
“I’ve grown up now, my son will be 18 before I know it.”
Maybe, it is just that he knows this fight needs no chat whatsoever. There was no five-city tour, no incendiary remarks, no live chicken in a cage like the one he produced at a pre-fight presser before he took on Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.
WBO welterweight champion Pacquiao, the 36-year-old Filipino congressman, said: “If it’s all business for him, for me it’s about giving the fans who are paying all this money a great fight. They deserve that.”
This is the first genuine superfight of the Twitter generation and it shows. The incessant chatter has been taken care of by everyone else, on every available platform.Now, as Espinoza says, it is just about the two men in the ring.
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