Mayweather and Pacquiao ready to rumble in €400m title fight

Prime seats going for $350,000 with Mayweather expected to earn $200m

Las Vegas

In Baltimore this week – where a 25-year-old African American, Freddie Gray, had died from injuries suffered during arrest – they staged a baseball match between the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox behind closed doors , as much for security reasons as any sense of propriety. It was the game that nobody saw.

The notion that such a precaution would be taken for the world title fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is ludicrous. There is a limit to irony in boxing.

It would also be heart-attack material for some of the aged suits among the rival promoters, managers and television executives who had to bite down on their dentures and finally call a truce after bickering for nearly six years on how to divide the pie.

To surrender the vast shoals of revenue gathered in first and secondary marketing on nearly 17,000 seats in the MGM Grand Garden Arena would not only be logistically impossible, it would be regarded as wholly not in keeping with the traditions of the business or the history of the host city.

Barely believable

The upper stratosphere of that price band allows the owner of the seat to witness the spectacle from as close as 20ft, a proximity that elevates the thrill of being within touching and smelling distance of sporting history. No single event in sport has ever made numbers click as furiously as this one.

The fight will generate an estimated $400 million to be split variously between the casino, HBO, Showtime, Top Rank Promotions and Mayweather Promotions, as well as possibly $1bn for Las Vegas through the expansion of collateral business, from brazenly price-hiked hotel rooms to barefaced profiteering on the streets.

A man selling programmes at the MGM Grand this week said he normally receives 1,500 copies for a Mayweather fight. This time, they gave him 9,000, and he was selling them at $30 each. “By the end of the week,” he said, “I wouldn’t know what they’ll go for. Guys are buying them in blocks.”

As for the men responsible for the Babylonian experience, Mayweather expects to be $200 million richer when all the sums are done; Pacquiao is settling for maybe $120 million.

Pay-per-view, the engine that drives modern elite sport, will easily break the record of 2.4 million buying viewers set by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya when they fought here in 2007. Mayweather won that night, and at 38 remains unbeaten after 47 bouts, 24 of them for one belt or another in garnering world titles at five weights. Pacquiao, who is 36, lays claim to world championships across eight weight divisions.

Such numbers dictated they could not remain apart in the little time they have left in a sport where participants can age visibly in a single, crunching blow to the head. Mayweather says he will reach the record of 49 unbeaten performances set by the heavyweight Rocky Marciano in the 50s, although few believe he will be able to resist reaching for the half century. Pacquiao, who is a congressman in the Philippines with presidential ambitions, might walk away from the sport, win or lose. He said this week that he and Mayweather had “nowhere else to go” – other than a rematch in September.

As to who will win tomorrow night, opinion among the fight writers leans slightly towards Mayweather, whose defensive skills are peerless in modern boxing. Pacquiao, a smaller, more compact fighter, is a ferocious puncher, although he has not had a knockout victory since levelling Britain’s Ricky Hatton in 2009, 11 fights ago. He was also knocked out cold himself, by his long-time rival Juan Manuel Márquez, in 2012.

But he claims to be revitalised, inspired to reclaim his greatness by his religion. Pacquiao, born a Catholic, is a born-again Christian who says he has actually seen Jesus Christ. As improbable as that might be, it is clear that he believes it.

Mayweather, meanwhile, brings an aesthetically pleasing mix of art and craft, difficult for opponents to hit cleanly as he retreats to the safety of the ropes, where he raises his left shoulder like a muscled shield, with his gloves cupped around his chin, poised to strike back when he sees an opening.

Cheap seats

Since the sport’s inception, fighters have been the disposable meat of their trade, abandoned like stripped carcasses when their drawing power fades. Mayweather, uniquely for an active boxer, is the single most powerful figure in his sport, more so than any promoter, manager or TV executive. He fights who he wants, when he wants, where he wants – which for his last 10 fights has been in the ring he will share with Pacquiao. He could not be more at home.

So, as another curfew struck at 10pm in Baltimore, as the National Guard and riot police cranked up sirens to clear the streets there and in other urban trouble spots across America, sportswriters from around the world composed their pre-fight stories in the desert.

If the fight is over quickly, there will be a lot of seriously angry people wandering the shiny corridors of the MGM Grand on tonight. They want some drama and excitement for their investment, and nervous security operatives will encourage them to leave peacefully, because this place has form.

In 1997, shortly after Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in the ring, fans rankled by gridlock while leaving the property spread panic through the gambling tables and shops and forced the casino to shut down.

Embarrassment is not a currency that has ever attended a prizefight. Guardian Service

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