LAS VEGAS, April 29- Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather amped up the anticipation for their blockbuster bout, feting fans on Tuesday before they get down to the final, serious preparations for Saturday’s welterweight showdown.
Boxing’s latest “Fight of the Century” — between two fighters reckoned the best pound-for-pound of their generation — has been more than five years in the making.
But as fight-week swung into high gear, tensions between the camps were evident as Filipino icon Pacquiao and unbeaten American Mayweather made public bows at separate venues.
“So many different sponsors and networks came together to make this big event happen — I think we both should have been here,” Mayweather said after Pacquiao opted out of the “grand arrival” at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Pacquiao instead greeted fans down the street at Mandalay Bay. The several hundred who attended his rally were far outnumbered by the thousands who turned out for Mayweather at the venue that will host the fight.
Most bookmakers have made 38-year-old Mayweather, 47-0 with 26 knockouts, the favorite for a fight that’s certain to be the most lucrative in boxing history.
But 36-year-old Pacquiao told reporters he is revelling in his underdog status as he spoke excitedly about the prospect of finally stepping into the ring to face Mayweather.
“I have something to prove. I like being the underdog because my killer instinct and my focus is there,” added Pacquiao, describing the bout as “one of the most important fights in my boxing legacy.”
Pacquiao’s arrival on a stage in a Mandalay Bay convention center room was preceded by Filipino singers and folk dancers and a bravura performance from an 11-year-old singing prodigy.
A music video featuring Pacquiao performing his latest composition — interweaved with scenes from his ring career and his efforts in such causes as typhoon relief — was followed by a rousing rendition of the Philippine national anthem before Pacquiao appeared in beige jeans and an “MP” T-shirt.
Mayweather’s entrance at the MGM, in contrast, featured all the swagger that his fans love and critics denounce.
A hip-hop master of ceremonies and a glitzy university marching band kept the crowd entertained until Mayweather’s arrival at the MGM in a glistening black van emblazoned with a white “M” logo.
The crowd cheered as the video of the vehicle gliding to the curb played on a giant screen and Mayweather emerged.
Soon he was walking a short red carpet to the stage, pausing for a handful of hugs and selfies.
The brief appearance was done with all the smoothness expected from the highest paid sportsman in the world.
But in remarks to a select group of media after, Mayweather sounded as if he’s going into Saturday’s fight with a chip on his shoulder.
“I think the bar is always set higher for Floyd Mayweather,” he said. “It’s always set a little bit different than everybody else. If I didn’t show up to the grand arrival it would be front page.”
– Record-breaking numbers –
But Mayweather said he didn’t really get caught up in the theatrics of the event — or in the fantastic figures being thrown around as to what the fight will make in gate receipts, pay-per-view, sponsorship and merchandising.
“I’ve broken records before,” he said. “Are we going to do record-breaking numbers again? I believe so.”
That won’t change his mindset entering the bout.
“It’s just work,” said Mayweather, and he’s confident he’ll get the job done.
After a solid training camp, he doesn’t believe Pacquiao, the winner of world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions who owns a record of 57-5 with two drawn, will be the first to put a blemish on his record.
“I truly believe I’m the smarter fighter,” Mayweather said reiterating his oft-expressed belief that Pacquiao’s “reckless” style could land him in trouble.
Certainly he doesn’t believe that a hard-charging start by Pacquiao could be a path to victory for the underdog.
“I think everybody’s game plan is to come forward and throw a lot of punches,” he said of his opponents. “It hasn’t worked for 19 years — 47 fights it hasn’t worked.”