Pacquiao sparring with Erislandy Lara

Manny Pacquiao finally broke the news that he’s been using World Boxing Association junior middleweight champion Erislandy Lara as one of his sparring partners to get ready for his May 2nd fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

It’s unclear if the Cuban Lara is the so-called secret weapon sparring partners that Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach has been bragging about or not. If so, then that would explain Roach being so hush-hush about it. That also might explain why Pacquiao might not be doing so well in his sparring sessions.

Lara has the identical movement of Mayweather, so it’s not hard to predict that Pacquiao would find himself having a lot of problems against Lara. We’re talking about a 5’10” fighter with blazing fast hand speed, a southpaw stance, pinpoint accuracy and excellent power.

Pacquiao is used to fighting stationary fighters that stand in one place and don’t have much hand speed. Lara might be giving Pacquiao all he can handle in the ring.

Lance Pugmire of the LA Times said “Trainer Freddie Roach is not entirely satisfied with how Pacquiao has looked in sparring, specifically in how Pacquiao is not cutting off the ring as sharply as he did in November when he scored a career best six knockdowns of then unbeaten Chris Algieri.”

Mayweather would likely be a lot more aggressive than Lara is, and that’s something that Pacquiao might have to adjust to when he gets inside the ring with Mayweather on May 2nd.

If he’s assuming that he’s going to run around the ring like Lara, then Pacquiao might not be ready for what he’s going to be facing on May 2nd. But I can definitely see how Pacquiao could struggle against someone like Lara during a sparring session because there wouldn’t be a catch-weight handicap to weaken Lara like we saw when Pacquiao fought Margarito at a catch-weight at 150 for the vacant WBC light middleweight title in 2010.

Pacquiao’s sparring with Lara would be with Lara weighing whatever he is right now. We could be talking about a 170+ pound Lara. The Cuban fighter is in between fights right now, so it’s not as if his weight would be low.

Pacquiao has reportedly been focusing on throwing a lot of flurries, according to Pugmire. Obviously fighting like that against a guy like Mayweather is going to cause Pacquiao to get lit up like a Christmas tree. He can’t be throwing combinations against Mayweather because he’ll get hit way too much.

Throwing combinations works for Pacquiao against the guys that his promoter Bob Arum has been scratching up for him. Pacquiao used to try the combination punching against Juan Manuel Marquez, and it generally led to Pacquiao getting countered like mad. If he tries that with Mayweather it’s likely going to be far, far worse.
“I’m coming to the ring to win the fight and bring honor to my country,” Pacquiao said via the

Pacquiao was suffering leg problems recently in the form of cramps, but supposedly the cramps have disappeared. Whether they’ll stay away in the head of the battle on May 2nd is anyone’s guess. With the movement that Mayweather will be using in this fight, I would not be surprised at all if Pacquiao starts cramping again.

Rich get richer: Mayweather and Pacquiao purses soar

The first ticket has yet to be sold, but the richest fight in boxing history is getting richer by the day.

New estimates show Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s payoff for fighting Manny Pacquiao could easily be $180 million, up substantially from earlier predictions of $120 million. Pacquiao gets the short end of the purse, but even that is expected to be well over $100 million by the time everything is tallied up.

The money is staggering, though not exactly unexpected. Five years of waiting seem to have only piqued the public's demand for the one fight even casual fans of the sport want to see.

"For whatever it's worth, the buildup over these years has certainly enhanced the fight," promoter Bob Arum. "Everybody knows about it now, even people who don't follow boxing. Plus we have a good economy, unlike in 2009 when people were out of work and didn't have the money to spend."

Fans will certainly have to pay a price to see the May 2 welterweight title bout, especially those lucky enough to score a ticket inside the MGM Grand arena itself. Ticket prices there range from $1,500 in the upper deck to $7,500 at ringside — and only a small percentage of the tickets will actually be put on public sale.

Arum said Tuesday the gate at the MGM alone will be more than $72 million, obliterating the previous live gate record of $20 million in Nevada set by Mayweather's 2013 fight with Canelo Alvarez. Though the MGM will provide some tickets for its biggest gamblers, Arum said even the celebrities who can normally get free tickets to sit ringside will have to pay full fare for the fight — if they can get their hands on tickets at all.

Promoters announced a deal Tuesday with Sky Sports to televise the fight on pay-per-view in England and parts of Europe, part of another $35 million expected to come in from foreign rights. Add in another $10 million in sponsorships — Tecate beer will be the main sponsor — and the fight will gross more than $100 million before a single home in North America buys the pay-per-view.

Less certain is how many people will spend what is expected to be $100 or so for the pay-per-view in the U.S., but that could easily break records, too. Mayweather's 2007 fight with Oscar De La Hoya currently tops the charts with 2.44 million buys, but many think Mayweather-Pacquiao could do more than 3 million homes despite softness in the pay-per-view market in the last few years.

"That's the one element that's a mystery," Arum told The Associated Press. "It seems like it will break the record, but who really knows? Anyone who predicts the total pay-per-view is whistling in the dark."

Cable networks HBO and Showtime have yet to announce the pay-per-view price, saying they are still in negotiations with cable systems and satellite providers. Those negotiations are mostly about how the money will be divided between the broadcasters and the fight promoters, who historically have split revenues fairly equally.

With promoters holding the upper hand for this fight, though, that split could end up 65-35 in favor of the promotion. And if 3 million homes buy the fight at $100, that would mean about $200 million in revenue to Mayweather Promotions and Arum's Top Rank from pay-per-view alone.

Add in the other money and the two camps will have more than $300 million to divvy up. With Mayweather getting a 60-40 split, that would mean a purse of $180 million or more to Mayweather and $120 million or more to Pacquiao.

Both purses would dwarf the biggest ever in boxing, including the 2007 fight with Mayweather in which De La Hoya made a reported $52 million. Mayweather's biggest payday was against Alvarez, when he was guaranteed $41.5 million and may have made another $20 million off the pay-per-view sales.

"You get to this level where you're making nine figures in 36 minutes," Mayweather said at the fight press conference this month in Los Angeles, "and you have to be a winner."

Judging from the money on the table in this bout, it's hard to find a loser.

Mayweather-Pacquiao fight won’t halt sport’s decline

The super fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is expected to be the highest grossing bout in history but will do nothing to resuscitate a sport that has been in perpetual decline for years, according to experts.

Boxing will enjoy more exposure than it has seen in decades during the buildup to the May 2 fight but will quickly reclaim a back seat to other sports after the last crushing blow is landed at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“It’s going to be massive, but it’s also going to be a massive one-off,” Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, told Reuters.

“It would’ve had more impact overall on the boxing world if it happened five years ago when it could’ve been the beginning of an ongoing series of fights between these guys that would’ve maybe built in momentum.”

Mayweather and Pacquiao will be 38 and 36, respectively, on fight night and their failure to agree to meet earlier in their illustrious careers robbed the boxing world of what could have been one of the sport’s all-time great rivalries.

But for one day, at least, boxing will likely be at the center of the sporting universe given the intrigue of watching Filipino left-hander Pacquiao, who has held world titles in eight different weight divisions, take on an undefeated Mayweather.

“This may be the last hurrah of boxing,” said Robert Boland, sports business professor at New York University. “It’s an interesting moment and maybe a moment that boxing will come together and figure out where it goes for the future.”

Tickets for the fight between two of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters have not gone on sale to the public yet but are expected to start at $1,000 with ringside seats fetching a face value of $5,000, according to Forbes.

Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum said on ESPN Radio last week that ringside seats for the fight will be made available only to customers who have a $250,000 line of credit with the casino.

A news conference in Los Angeles on March 11 featuring both fighters is expected to draw such a massive contingent of media that those wishing to attend must apply for credentials to gain admission, which is unusual.

For Kathy Duva, chief executive of New Jersey-based boxing promotion company Main Events, the long focus on getting boxing’s two biggest names in the ring has only served to hold back other up-and-comers who could help the sport.

“This fight has taken so long that talking about it, waiting for it, has so consumed the fans and the media that I am just happy that they are getting it over with,” Duva told Reuters.

“There are a lot of good younger fighters out there who are ready to step up and become the stars and it’s hard to do that when you got two people who are still there, lingering and not willing to pass the torch.”

A lack of star power, the rise of other genres like mixed martial arts and splintering sanctioning bodies that left casual fans wondering who the true champion is have all contributed to boxing’s decline.

It is now a far cry from a nearly 80-year period during the 20th century when boxers were among the biggest names in sports, including Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Mike Tyson.

“Certainly new talents will always come to any sport and a transcendent talent can change the dynamic of any event,” said Boland.

“But this is definitely a situation where there really are not fighters in the pipeline and this is a time when boxing is probably at its lowest point since the beginning of the 20th century and the rise of pro fighting.”

Pacquiao is just a shell of what he was five years ago, says former conditioning coach Alex Ariza

Manny Pacquiao's former strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza is convinced that the Filipino ring icon is no longer the same athlete he trained years ago.

The controversial Ariza who kicked Freddie Roach in a training session with Brandon Rios in 2013, will get another chance to beat his old boss after signing as Floyd Mayweather's new conditioning coach months ago.

"You know, if you talk to the trainers and fighters who know this sport, there's a reason why they're all picking Floyd to win," Ariza told

"For me, the guy that I trained five years ago, the guy that was walking through walls and that was literally breaking bones with shots and comatizing people with single shots, the opponent that we have now is a shell of that guy."

As for the upcoming showdown between Pacquiao and Mayweather on May 2, Ariza feels rather confident of his new boss' chances come fight night.

"For me, I think I've been in harder fights," says Ariza.

"It's just very hard for me to see where our weaknesses are in this fight versus our opponent's weaknesses."

No trash-talk from Roach, but he says Pacquiao can stop Mayweather

One element of boxing’s Super Bowl being made which bears watching is the trash-talk, or lack thereof, between the principals and parties affiliated with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

Hardcore fans know that Pacman, a most devout Christian, is more inclined to tell us that he’s praying for a poor soul who has busted his chops publicly. Mayweather, they also know, is unafraid to sling it, bring it hard in the smack-talk arena. His dad, Floyd Sr., ain’t afraid to rumble with words, either. He told me last month that he thought when his son and The Congressman fought, Floyd would beat the excrement out of Pacman.

I asked Pac’s trainer Freddie Roach about that possibility when we chatted on Monday night. And yes; I was aware of the possibility that Roach, who often acts as the stand-in chops-buster, or the designated responder, if you will, for Manny or another of his quieter boxers, might return fire hard on Senior.

“They can have that opinion,” said Roach, who informed me that Pacman will be hitting the Wild Card on March 8, to begin his in-the-U.S.-training. “If I was his father, I might say that too! But I think Manny beats Floyd, breaks him down, and knocks him out before it’s over.”

No small task, considering how adept Floyd is as a defender…and also because while Manny showed pop galore in his last outing, against Chris Algieri, his last stop came in 2009 (vs. Miguel Cotto). Freddie explained further his reasoning.

“In watching Floyd’s career, he’s definitely slowed down somewhat,” the trainer said. “Manny has also some, everyone ages. But I think Manny’s legs are fresher than Floyd’s. Against Algieri, Manny boxed really good, good rounds the whole time.”

Indeed; his stamina tank was remarkably level the whole way through.

“When Floyd sits down and rests, Manny will catch him. Floyd is a defensive master. But he takes rests. And the only place to do it is on the ropes. If Manny catches him on the ropes…Floyd can look at Manny, think he has pretty fast hands, punches pretty hard. But you don’t really feel it until you’re in there with him. He has devastating power, and he jumps in so suddenly. He still has the power and speed to get a KO.”

Pacquiao spots Mayweather’s flaws

Manny Pacquiao watched Floyd Mayweather score two victories over Marcos Maidana last year and liked what he saw.

Mayweather was far from perfect.

Especially in the first bout on May 5 where the unbeaten American escaped with a majority decision over the rugged Argentine.

The rematch on Sept. 13 was clearly won unanimously by Mayweather, who’ve adjusted to Maidana’s brawling style.

In both instances, Pacquiao’s sharp eyes discerned some flaws, which he plans to pounce on in their megabuck welterweight showdown on May 2 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“I saw his weaknesses in the Maidana fights,” Pacquiao told ANC News Monday. “Yes, I’m confident I can catch him.

“All I need to do is train hard,” added Pacquiao, who finds no need to overhaul the training regimen charted by chief trainer Freddie Roach in his preparations for Chris Algieri last November.

That time, Pacquiao thoroughly dominated Algieri, knocking down the bewildered New Yorker six times to retain his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown by lopsided unanimous decision.

Of course, Pacquiao knows Mayweather will be in far better form when they tangle for the unified 147-pound crown and, more important, the pound-for-pound king label.

That’s why the Filipino eight-division world champion admits he needs to step up further to raise his chances against Mayweather, a 2 1/2 to 1 favorite.

“More than that (performance against Algieri),” said Pacquiao. “I must improve some more. I need to be in 100 percent condition.”

To do that, Pacquiao said he intends to “apply exercises that we were unable to apply before.”

The focus, according to Pacquiao, will be on gaining “more speed.”

That’s why, the Sarangani representative is intent on playing basketball as long as Roach allows it.

“It’s good for my cross-training,” said Pacquiao, before he sweated it out at his MP Wild Card Gym in Gen. Santos City under the guidance of assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez. “Basketball enhances my footwork and balance.”

Earlier, Pacquiao did his early morning run.

Though he took a break in training on Sunday, Pacquiao still played billiards and basketball in the evening.

Pacquiao, also the playing coach of KIA Carnival in the PBA, bared that he’ll see action in the Carnival’s game against Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters Wednesday.

He’s set to leave for Los Angeles, where he’ll hold training camp at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, on Saturday.

How Pacquiao can beat Mayweather, according to Juan Manuel Marquez

Juan Manuel Marquez has been in four wars with Manny Pacquiao, so he knows better than anyone what the Filipino fight icon is capable of inside the ring.

The proud Mexican champion has also fought against Floyd Mayweather, giving Marquez a unique perspective about the upcoming mega-fight on May 2 in Las Vegas.

And unlike most observers, Marquez sees Mayweather struggling with Pacquiao.

"Floyd Mayweather isn’t really used to fighting with southpaws," Marquez said on the Mexican show Golpe Y Golpe.

Marquez detailed how Pacquiao can break through Mayweather's vaunted defense.

"We know how Floyd Mayweather uses his shoulder roll, so with an orthodox fighter he can dodge many of those shots and wait for openings in his opponents than counter. Manny Pacquiao on his part has to use his speed, and lateral movement and in turn do not give Mayweather any space or minimal space to make him uncomfortable on that very stance," said Marquez.

The Mexico City native also took note what punches Pacquiao could use to bother Mayweather.

"The right hook will be key as a lefty for Manny Pacquiao.  can set it up by using a left jab to the body and following it up with a hook from the outside and repeating a double hook and he can finish it off with a straight left. The repetition will be key in landing those combinations and Pacquiao has to change it up for Floyd not to adapt," said Marquez, adding that Mayweather's boxing IQ makes the brash American formidable.

"He sets traps and throws nice uppercuts from long distance, and he will use that reach advantage to do so. He will follow that up with counter rights and straight lefts from range because of that advantage."

Mayweather-Pacquiao set for May 2

At long last, pound-for-pound greats Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will fight.

Yes, the bout that looms as one of the most anticipated in boxing history is finally on.

For more than five years sports fans have clamored for a summit meeting between the two best fighters in the world and after various failed negotiations -- and a protracted and difficult effort to make the fight in recent months -- they will get it on May 2 to unify their welterweight world titles at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The showdown is a lock to be the richest in boxing history and will, barring a draw, settle the issue that has been debated for years: Who is the No. 1 fighter in boxing and who is the king of their era?

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Excitement ratcheted up on Jan. 27 when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, both sitting courtside at a Miami Heat game, met briefly at halftime and after the game privately.
Mayweather made the announcement on Friday afternoon on a social media platform called Shots, of which he is an investor.

"I am glad my decision to meet with Manny and discuss making this fight happen helped get the deal done," Mayweather said, referring to a chance Jan. 27 meeting with Pacquiao at a Miami Heat game followed by a private discussion after the game. "Giving the fans what they want to see is always my main focus. This will be the biggest event in the history of the sport."

In addition to the future Hall of Famers finally hammering out a deal for their welterweight title unification bout -- one that will see Mayweather receive the lion's share of a 60-40 money split in a fight that could gross around $400 million -- rival premium cable networks Showtime, which has Mayweather under contract, and HBO, which has a deal with Pacquiao, went through a brutal negotiation.

The networks resultingly will come together to produce and distribute a joint pay-per-view telecast, which is expected to cost a record-high $89.95 (and probably $10 more for high definition).

"I am very happy that Floyd Mayweather and I can give the fans the fight they have wanted for so many years," Pacquiao said. "They have waited long enough and they deserve it. It is an honor to be part of this historic event. I dedicate this fight to all the fans who willed this fight to happen and, as always, to bring glory to the Philippines and my fellow Filipinos around the world."

Many involved expected the announcement to come on Thursday but Mayweather was upset because Top Rank, Pacquiao's promoter, was leaking word of the impending announcement and Mayweather wanted it to be a surprise.

"Boxing fans and sports fans around the world will witness greatness on May 2," Mayweather said. "I am the best ever, TBE, and this fight will be another opportunity to showcase my skills and do what I do best, which is win. Manny is going to try to do what 47 before him failed to do, but he won't be successful. He will be number 48."

According those familiar with the agreement, the contract Mayweather signed for the fight gave him the right to be the one to announce the fight, even though he was obligated to notify Top Rank of when he would do it.

On Friday afternoon, Top Rank was notified and Mayweather made the announcement about an hour later, though the deal had been done for a couple of days with both sides having signed the paperwork. Contracts were also signed by broadcasters HBO and Showtime, who will team for a historic joint pay-per-view.

"It's hasn't been easy," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told "But I think in some strange way the inability to get the fight done before now enhances its value and this is one event that the public all over the world has been talking about and discussing for years. The interest in the fight will be absolutely red hot. I've been promoting boxing for nearly 50 years and there is nothing that has come close to this because there has been nothing that has been so difficult to come to fruition. As interest is concerned, this is akin to the first (Muhammad) Ali-(Joe) Frazier fight.

"You have to be grateful that this is finally happening. You can't bemoan the false starts and the inability to do this before. It's here now."

The fight is expected to shatter every revenue record in boxing history, including the pay-per-view buy record of 2.4 million generated by Mayweather's 2007 junior middleweight championship fight against Oscar De La Hoya; the all-time pay-per-view revenue record of $150 million generated by Mayweather's 2013 junior middleweight championship fight against Canelo Alvarez; and the all-time gate record of $20,003,150.

"Everyone involved, including Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, knows this fight simply had to happen," said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. "All of us are thrilled to be able to deliver this event to boxing fans around the world.

"Now, for the second time under his current deal with Showtime Networks, Floyd Mayweather has agreed to fight an opponent that many people thought he'd never face. We set an all-time pay-per-view record with the first event back in September 2013 (with Alvarez) and we look forward to another record-breaking performance on May 2."

Said HBO Sports president Ken Hershman, "Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have been the two most prominent fighters in the sport of boxing for the past decade, and fight fans around the world have been clamoring for them to face each other.

"And now, on May 2nd, in what everyone believes will be the biggest boxing event of all-time, fight fans have been granted their wish. May 2nd will be a signature moment for the sport of boxing and HBO Sports is thrilled to be a part of this spectacular event. I know the fighters and their teams will be primed to excel and we plan to work closely with everyone involved to deliver the same level of performance from a broadcast perspective."

It is only the second time Showtime and HBO have made such a deal. The first time was for the highly anticipated 2002 fight between then-heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who was with HBO, and former champion Mike Tyson, who was with Showtime.

For years, Mayweather and Pacquiao have been the two best fighters in the world, fighting in the same weight class but having not faced each other despite constant public demand.

Both have been considered the pound-for-pound king at various times, with Mayweather having held that mythical position for the past few years with Pacquiao right behind him for most of that period.

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and living in Las Vegas, "Money" Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs), who turns 38 on Tuesday, has won world titles in five weight classes, mainly with his defensive brilliance and speed, while becoming the highest-paid athlete in the world.

Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), a 36-year-old southpaw known for his speed, power and aggressive style, became the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight weight divisions -- flyweight, junior featherweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight -- while also generating hundreds of millions of dollars and being elected to congress in his native Philippines, where he is a national icon.

"The reason I like my guy's chances so much is because of his speed, the tremendous number of punches he throws, the quality of his punches and the fact that he is left-handed," Arum said. "Top Rank promoted Floyd Mayweather for 10½ years and we recognized that he had difficulty handling a speedy, left-handed fighter and that he and his father (and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr.) were insistent that we not match Floyd with a southpaw. I remember two fights he had with southpaws who didn't have the ability Mann has but who gave him trouble -- (DeMarcus) 'Chop Chop' Corley, who buzzed him and had him in real trouble and Zab Judah."

Said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's Hall of Fame trainer: "Floyd should enjoy being the A-Side while he can because on May 2 Manny is going to put him on his backside."

Since 2009, Mayweather-Pacquiao has loomed as boxing's biggest fight, but it took all these years to make it a reality.

Mayweather, who turned pro in 1996 after receiving an Olympic bronze medal, ended a brief retirement in September 2009 by easily outpointing Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao's biggest rival.

Two months later, Pacquiao, who turned pro in 1995, ruthlessly destroyed Miguel Cotto in a 12th-round knockout victory to claim a welterweight title.

It was at that point that Mayweather and Pacquiao were clearly the two best fighters in the world pound-for-pound, in whichever order one wanted to place them.

But a big knockout is unlikely. The last time Pacquiao stopped anyone via KO was Cotto in 2009, while Mayweather has only knocked out one fighter in the last eight years -- Victor Ortiz in September 2011.

They were both with HBO when their representatives began to negotiate the fight intensely at the end of 2009 and into early 2010.

All of the deal points were agreed to for a March 13, 2010 fight -- including a 50-50 financial split -- except for one: the method of drug testing in the lead up to the fight. Mayweather, ahead of his time, demanded random blood and urine testing and Pacquiao declined to accept the specific protocol Mayweather wanted.

The deal fell apart and both moved on to other opponents. Pacquiao also sued Mayweather for defamation for accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs; the case was eventually settled out of court, but the bad feelings remained on both sides.

While the world waited to see them fight each other, Mayweather and Pacquiao beat a who's who of their era as they faced one common opponent after another, including De La Hoya, Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Marquez and Shane Mosley.

Since the initial negotiation broke down in early 2010 there were other attempts to make the fight, including in 2010 when then-HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg served as a go-between in the negotiations between Arum of Top Rank and Mayweather adviser Al Haymon.

Those negotiations failed also and Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, denied a negotiation had even taken place despite Greenburg and Arum saying they had.

In early 2012, another attempt was made to put the fight together when Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz, who was visiting Mayweather in Las Vegas, put him on the phone with Pacquiao. Mayweather offered Pacquiao a $40 million flat fee for the fight.

Pacquiao, seeking to share in the overall revenue, not surprisingly declined.

The fight looked dead in recent years. Pacquiao suffered back-to-back losses in 2012 -- a massively controversial split decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. and a sixth-round knockout loss to rival Marquez in their fourth fight, and then took off 11 months.

While Pacquiao was out of action, Mayweather jumped from HBO to Showtime for a six-fight contract, seemingly making the prospect of a deal even more remote.

Pacquiao returned in late 2013 and has won three fights in a row, a near-shutout of Brandon Rios followed by his regaining his welterweight title by soundly outpointing Bradley in their rematch last April.

In November, Pacquiao authored a one-sided defense against Chris Algieri, whom he knocked down six times in a virtual shutout decision.

Mayweather, meanwhile, fought four of the fights of his Showtime deal, wins against Robert Guerrero, Alvarez and two against Marcos Maidana.

But other than Mayweather's blockbuster pay-per-view against Alvarez, the numbers for Mayweather and Pacquiao began significantly decline as the public grew tired of buying expensive pay-per-view to watch them fight anybody but each other.

But after Mayweather outpointed Maidana in their September rematch, he opened the door for the fight saying at the postfight news conference, "If the Pacquiao fight presents itself, let's make it happen."

Two months later, Pacquiao, during the lead-up to the fight with Algieri, called out for a Mayweather fight and continued to do so after his dominant performance.

Pacquiao even filmed a television commercial for athletic apparel retailer Foot Locker in which he mocked the fact that Mayweather had yet to agree to fight him. In the spot, Pacquiao overheard two boxers in the gym working on the heavy bag while discussing their excitement about a Foot Locker promotion.

Pacquiao, working mitts in the ring, walked over to the ropes and shouted at the boxers: "Wait, wait! So the thing the people wanted is finally happening?" One boxers answers, "Yeah," and shrugged.

Pacquiao broke out into an epic celebration in the ring, shouting, "Yes!!! He's going to fight me!"

Meanwhile, Arum, who promoted Mayweather before an acrimonious split in 2006, was negotiating the fight with Leslie Moonves, the CEO of Showtime parent company CBS, who served as the go-between on behalf of Mayweather and adviser Al Haymon, Arum's bitter enemy (although they did have at least two face-to-face meetings at Moonves' Los Angeles home during the talks).

The networks also got serious about making a deal with high-ranking company executives -- HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler and HBO Sports president Ken Hershman and Showtime chairman and CEO Matt Blank and Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Stephen Espinoza -- meeting face-to-face in New York in mid-January.

Excitement that the fight would be made ratcheted up on Jan. 27 when Mayweather and Pacquiao, coincidentally both sitting courtside in Miami for a Heat game against the Milwaukee Bucks, met face to face briefly at halftime, exchanged cell phone numbers and shared a brief embrace. After the game, Mayweather met with Pacquiao and Koncz in Pacquiao's hotel suite for about an hour to discuss some of the issues he had with the deal being negotiated.

The talks dragged out for nearly another month until they reached an accord and signed the contracts this week.