*A blow by blow account of the Fight of the Century and the glitches
The biggest pay-per-view event in boxing’s television history was in crisis with the hour of the fight approaching.
The subscription networks appeared to be overloading – even at $99.95 a buy – and there were reports of Time-Warner transmission in New York breaking down. Direct TV, which serves the entire US, was suffering black-outs.
Record sales of more than four million had been predicted, carrying the gross value revenue from the richest fight of all time above half a billion dollars.
That huge sale is needed to deliver the expected record purses, $180m for Mayweather and $120m for Pacquiao. At home, Sky Sports Box Office were charging £19.95.
A showboat-load of celebrities were spirited into ringside through a back door. Ten grand is peanuts for the likes of Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Rihanna, Donald Trump et al.
Not all the famous boxers in the building are flush these days – certainly not Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield – but even though their tickets had to be paid for the bill for some was being picked up by promoters Mayweather or Bob Arum or private benefactors.
There were so many household names in attendance that the rest of us felt we were in the minority and they were looking around wondering who we might be.
There were jeers and catcalls as pictures of Mayeather stripped to waist appeared on the giant screens. Then much cheering as Pacquiao was shown smiling in his white T-shirt.
Pacquiao prayed in his dressing room with a spiritual advisor. Mayweather prowled among his Money Team.
The longest wait was not quite over. The referee, the announcers, the national anthem singers, the patriotic flag-bearers… all were assembled in the ring but the gladiators for the biggest fight of all time were still readying themselves.
There were suggestions that the TV transmission crash had been cured and, sure enough, the preamble began. There was a verbal scrap between the rival announcers, before the main event. Jimmy Lennon Jnr told us it was Showtime. Michael Buffer got us Ready to Rumble.
In came Pacquiao to his recording of his own song specially written for the fight. Still smiling and waving and now jogging – to a cacophonous reception.
In walked Mayweather, focussed and serious, to a rather subdued welcome including some catcalls. Perhaps the large presence of the rich and famous – along with the ticket prices – had forced many genuine fans out of the arena but there have been more atmospheric explosions in these minutes before a fight.
Maybe there was tension, too. Sugar Ray Leonard had said that everyone including himself would have sweaty palms.
It livened up with loud support for Pacquiao and more boos for Mayweather, for whom Las Vegas did not sound like his home town.
Finally, after all these years, it began. The first bell ended five years of waiting. Mayweather, always a spectacular physical specimen , was even more muscular than usual. The suspicion that he had been training for strength in hope of a quick knockout seemed valid as he started quickly, landing well to the body. Pacquiao came on stronger in the final minute and the first big left he landed double up Mayweather who grabbed for a clinch. But he had done enough early on.
Mayweather was finding his range and Pacquiao missing more. But when the smaller man did connect with a meaty left he again pinned Mayweather on the ropes and unleashed a barrage to the body which gave him another round.
Pacquiao had his mid-fight lead on my card but Mayweather started the seventh with a shuddering right. A snappy left backed up the PacMan again. The left jab carried Mr Money happily through to the bell.
Just as Mayweather was beginning to feel assured Pacquiao opened up with another of his quick-fire assaults. But Mayweather reverted to jabbing and dodging. He figured he had the round won and probably had.
Mayweather was trying to take the sting out of the fight and as we expected it was up to Pacquiao to make it a spectacle worthy of all the millions. It was getting messy now, a lot of swinging and missing in an even round.
The prospect of a great fight was ebbing away. They had both talked of how boxing could be chess and this was its manifestation. Mayweather landing some counters but nothing damaging and Pacquaio probably edging the round with his aggression.
Mayweather’s boxing brain fully operational now and PacMan’s flurries not enough. The occasional exchanges even but not the round.
And so to the last level. Manny’s last charge. Floyd’s last dance.
*Reported by Mail Online