Titans rise from poverty for record payday

It’s finally here. It might not be the best but it’s certainly the biggest and richest boxing match of all time. For boxing fans, it’s the megafight of our time, while the ordinary sports fans will tune in to see how much punishment a man has to take to earn a nine-figure payday.

In the small hours of tomorrow morning, the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr, will square off against Filipino icon Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao, undoubtedly the two best fighters of their generation in the fight the world has wanted to see since 2009.

It was a better fight then, as both are now well past their prime — Mayweather is 38, while Pacquiao is 36 — but both remain the two biggest names in the sport.

Mayweather will reportedly earn in the region of $200m for his work, while Pacquiao’s payout will likely be at least $80m but could be well over $100m depending on how many people buy the pay-per-view (PPV) event.

One thing is for sure, he will be getting a substantial cheque, says Top Rank chief Bob Arum.

“On Monday morning, I will hand Manny a cheque for $50m as a down payment, guaranteed,” Arum told the New York Times.

Both inside and outside the ring, you couldn’t ask for two more different characters. Mayweather: The brash, arrogant defensive master who is interested in just one thing — money. Pacquiao: The God-fearing Filipino Congressman whose all-action aggressive style has made him a global icon.

But they share rags-to-riches stories. Such is often the way of boxing. Many of its best practitioners entered the sport as their way of escaping poverty.

When the fight was announced in February, Pacquiao acknowledged his roots had brought him to this point: “God can raise someone from nothing into something. That’s me. I came from nothing into something.”

He’s not wrong. Boxing is full of humble beginnings, but few as humble as Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao’s. Born in 1978 into abject poverty in Mindanao, one of the main islands in the Philippines, his family later moved to the Barangay Labangal neighbourhood in General Santos City.

Times were so tough for the family, his father reportedly killed and cooked their dog for food. By the age of 14, Pacquiao moved to Manila and lived on the streets before learning to box. He turned professional at 16, weighing just 98lb and standing at 4’11.

By 2001, he had made his way to the US and walked into the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, run by Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. The trainer, who suffers from Parkinson’s, has said he knew the Filipino was special within minutes of taking him on the mitts.

“We just had a really good connection right away,” said Roach. “It was like I had been doing mitts with him my whole life. He had everything. I was amazed at the speed and power together. I’ve seen guys fast before and I’ve seen guys with power before but never someone who had both. I knew he was special.”

Pacquiao worked through the divisions, beating legends, such as Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Marco Antonio Barerra along the way. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that he became a superstar by going to welterweight to defeat Oscar De La Hoya. Most critics assumed he was too small to seriously challenge De La Hoya at the weight. However, Pacquiao delivered a vicious beating to the six weight world champion, who retired in the eighth round and never fought again.

Following the fight, the buzz began to build that Pacquiao could face the number one in the sport — Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Hailing from the wrong side of the tracks in Grand Rapids in Michigan, Mayweather’s family was steeped in boxing. His father, Floyd Mayweather Sr, was a welterweight contender who fought Sugar Ray Leonard, while his uncles, Jeff and Roger, were also professional fighters, with the latter winning two world titles. Both Roger and Floyd Sr — with whom Floyd Jr has a famously tumultuous relationship — have trained the pound-for-pound king.

With speed and uncanny ring sense, he quickly gained the nickname ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd due to how few punches he took in fights. His defensive technique employing the old-school shoulder roll was honed early in an amateur career which saw him win a bronze medal in the Olympic Games of 1996 — losing a very controversial semi-final decision. It was his last loss.

Turning professional that year, he began a career that has taken him to the top of the sport and making him the highest-earning athlete in the world last year at $105m. He will earn that in a single night tomorrow.

To date, he has earned in the region of half a billion dollars in an unbeaten pro career. What makes this more remarkable is that, unlike most other athletes, he doesn’t have a single endorsement. He has earned every cent with his fists.

He has also earned most of it without using the services of a promoter. In 2006, he turned down $8m to fight Antonio Margarito and paid $750,000 to buy himself out of his Top Rank contract with Arum. Mayweather wanted $20m to fight Oscar De La Hoya, a proposal Arum didn’t countenance.

A year later, Mayweather defeated De La Hoya as a free agent. He made $25m in a fight which holds the record for the number of PPVs sold. The era of Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather was born.

His earnings since then have only grown. He earned $80m for fighting Canelo Alvarez in 2013. He negotiated a deal to move to Showtime from HBO. The six-fight, 30-month deal was called the “richest individual athlete deal in all of sports”.

Mayweather’s importance to the economy of Las Vegas — where he resides — is hard to overstate. For example, a 90-day prison sentence in 2012 for domestic violence was deferred to allow him to fight. Mayweather’s lawyers argued that a cancellation of his bout would cost the local economy $100m.

With all that money on the line, it’s hard to fathom why it has taken so long for this fight to come about.

Accusations about performance-enhancing drugs, collapsed negotiations, and personal insults have ensured it took six years for the two greatest fighters of their generation to ink their names on a contract for the richest fight in history.

Tickets are ranging from about $6,000 to over $300,000 for a ringside view.

Pacquiao is rumoured to have paid $3m-$4m to buy 900 seats for friends and family.

At 4am Irish time tomorrow, these two prizefighters will step through the ropes and — no matter what the result — into history.

Hard to bet against bad boy Floyd

Floyd Mayweather Jr’s extraordinary technical skill and ring intelligence have brought him millions of dollars and boxing’s mythical status as pound-for-pound king.

Undoubtedly the bad boy of the sport — something he relishes — he is as opposite to Manny Pacquiao as it is possible to be.

Loud, brash and arrogant, he is a defensive genius whose early career moniker was ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd, so difficult was he to hit with a clean punch.

Unbeaten in a 20-year, 47- fight career, Mayweather was born into pretty humble beginnings in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

However, his was a family steeped in fighting pedigree. His father was a welterweight contender who fought Sugar Ray Leonard, while his uncles Jeff and Roger were also professional boxers — with the latter a two-time world champion.

‘Little Floyd’ as his father and uncle often called him, spent most of his youth in the gym, honing his signature defensive style and old-school shoulder roll technique that has made him an unbeaten professional boxer.

Floyd’s relationship with his father has shaped his life.

His mother was a drug addict, while his father has spent time in prison and as a former small-time drug dealer, who used ‘Little Floyd’ as a human shield when facing a man with a shotgun when his son was barely two years old.

The pair have enjoyed a fractious relationship ever since, but it has borne them huge wealth, thanks to Floyd’s gifts with his fists.

Since winning bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (he lost a controversial semi-final), Mayweather has won all of his 47 professional fights since then.

He has reigned in multiple weight divisions, beating a host of world champions such as Arturo Gatti, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton, and Saul Alvarez.

Love him or hate him, few are betting against him.

Total fights: 47

Wins 47

Wins by KO 26

Losses 0

Draws 0

From Manila slum to Vegas limelight

Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquiao was born into abject poverty in Kibawe, Bukidnon, in the Philippines.

One of six siblings, his father left the family home when he was young and by the age of 14, Manny had moved to Manila, living on the streets.

It was there that he began to box, turning professional at 16 in 1995, standing at 4’11 and weighing just 98lbs.

Some 20 years later, he is one of the world’s most iconic sportsmen, and one of the finest fighters of his generation.

Tonight he will face off against the other premier fighter of his time — the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr — and will likely earn in excess of $100m (€89m) for a maximum 36 minutes’ work.

The southpaw, under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Freddie Roach, has been named fighter of the decade for the noughties — defeating the likes of Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Miguel Cotto.

There were losses on that journey too, however. Unbeaten from 2005 to 2011, Tim Bradley caused a huge upset by taking a controversial split decision against Pacquiao in 2011.

Bigger shocks were in store in his very next fight after four-time foe Marquez put Pacquiao to sleep with a stunning one-punch knockout in the sixth round.

Many felt it was the end of the road for Pacquiao. However, under Roach, he has come back on a three-fight winning streak — avenging his loss to Bradley along the way.

Pacquiao has also found time to be elected a congressman in the province of Sarangani in his own country, own a basketball team, and launch a pop career of sorts. He is also devoutly religious, an evangelical Protestant who regularly leads prayer services.

Boxing record:

Total fights: 64

Wins: 57

Wins by KO: 38

Losses: 5

Draws: 2

Other megafights

Joe Louis KO 1 Max Schmeling, June 22, 1938, New York City.

Joe Frazier W 15 Muhammad Ali, March 8, 1971, New York — The Fight of the Century.

Muhammad Ali KO 8 George Foreman, October 30, 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire — The Rumble in the Jungle.

Muhammad Ali W KO 14 Joe Frazier, October 1, 1975, Quezon City, Phillipines — The Thrilla in Manilla.

Roberto Duran W 15 Sugar Ray Leonard I, June 20, 1980, Montreal, Canada — The Brawl in Montreal.

Sugar Ray Leonard KO 14 Thomas Hearns, September 16, 1981, Las Vegas — The Showdown.

Marvellous Marvin Hagler KO 3 Thomas Hearns, 15 April 1985, Las Vegas — The Fight/The War.

Evander Holyfield KO 3 Mike Tyson II, June 28, 1997, Las Vegas — The Bite Fight.

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