LAS VEGAS — More than 11,000 people paid 10 bucks apiece to watch two men step on a scale Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. They were determined to get their money’s worth.
The crowd erupted when Manny Pacquaio entered the arena. They craned their necks for a glimpse, and tried to capture the Filipino superstar on their cellphones.
Then Floyd Mayweather arrived, and many booed. Their reaction didn’t appear to bother Mayweather, whose eyes were locked on the stage.
The two boxers weighed — first Pacquaio, who came in at 145 pounds, then Mayweather, who tipped the scales at 146 — a formality in their final public appearance before their hotly anticipated welterweight bout Saturday night. The crowd buzzed as the two were brought face to face. During the faceoff, Pacquiao said “thank you” to Mayweather.
Mayweather, seemingly the only quiet person in the building Friday, said nothing in response.
Mayweather’s relative silence has been a defining theme of this bout’s 72-day promotion, and it popped up again at Friday’s weigh-in. The calm, introspective Mayweather of the past two months differs greatly from the bombast he has shown over the past two decades.
“After trash-talking for 17, 18 years, and constantly saying, look what I’ve done . . . I’m at a point where you just say, you know what? It is what it is. I know what I can do. I know what I bring to the table.” Mayweather said.
But how many more times will he bring it to the table? Several times this week, and on a number of other occasions during the run-up to his showdown with Pacquiao, Mayweather has stated that the match will be the second to last of his career. The 38-year-old claims he’ll fight just once more, in September, then hang up the gloves for good.
Mayweather enters Saturday night’s fight with a perfect record of 47-0, including 26 knockouts. So if he sticks to his word and walks away later this year, how will he be viewed in boxing history? And how dramatically will that perception be altered based on the result against Pacquiao.
Ask the man himself, and his answer is very clear.
“Right now, I’m TBE,” Mayweather said. The best ever. “And Saturday, before the fight and after the fight, I’ll still be TBE.”
That would, of course, put him ahead of “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali. Bernard Hopkins, the longtime former middleweight champion, invoked Ali when discussing Mayweather.
“Ali had the same type of following,” Hopkins said. “Your legacy, I believe, is based on what you do in your era.”
Asked specifically about Ali, Mayweather said he believes he measures up.
“I feel like I’ve done just as much in this sport as Ali did,” Mayweather said. “There’s no disrespect to him. I just feel like, when you look at it, Ali was great in one weight class, which is heavyweight.”
Many in boxing circles disagree. In an interview with USA Today, Mike Tyson criticized Mayweather for placing himself in such lofty company.
“The guy is going around saying he is better than Ali,” Tyson said “I don’t want to hear that.”
Mayweather has won world championships in five weight classes, ranging from super featherweight (130 pounds) to light middleweight (154), an accomplishment that Hopkins agrees has gone overlooked.
“Everybody that’s in the weight class he represented, he dominated and became the best in the division.” Hopkins said. “And then he went up, and dominated other divisions.”
In boxing circles, a perfect record is not always regarded with great acclaim. Legendary trainer Whitey Bimstein once famously said, “Show me an undefeated fighter, and I’ll show you a guy that’s never fought anybody.”
Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, believes Mayweather has feasted on carefully selected opposition.
“He’s handpicked his own opponents the whole time,” Roach said.
During his 19-year career, Mayweather has beaten the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto, all of whom are recognizable to even casual fans of the sport. More recently, Mayweather defeated Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of Mexico, a young fighter thought to be entering his prime who was unbeaten before facing Mayweather. Other notable Mayweather conquests include Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton and Zab Judah.
But his résumé is still missing one very significant name: Pacquiao, who is widely thought to be the second-greatest fighter of his generation. A win Saturday would further bolster Mayweather’s historical standing.
“He’s closing in on the romantic 49-0, which is the number that Rocky Marciano established a long time ago,” veteran HBO commentator Jim Lampley said of the former heavyweight champ. “Which still holds a lot of magic and mystique for boxing fans and the general public.”
It’s unclear how important the opinions of fans and pundits are to Mayweather. The boxer claims he doesn’t read his press clippings, but that he plans to do so after he retires.
“Once my career is over, that’s when I’m going to read everything,” Mayweather said. “All the articles that people have written.”
Still, he makes it clear that whatever stock he might place in his legacy, the money matters more.
“At the end of the day, my daughter can’t eat no zero,” Mayweather said. “She can’t spend the boxing records.”
Rick Maese contributed to this report.
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