Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were both exceptionally well dressed for their appearance together in Los Angeles, not terribly surprising given the number of cameras focused on them.
Exceptionally well behaved, too, which was also no surprise. No need for trash talk when the $1,500 seats in the upper reaches of the MGM Grand Garden will be snapped up the minute they go on sale and people at home won’t think twice about spending $100 or so on the pay-per-view.
Just two men who beat people up for a living acting like perfect gentlemen. Not a new role for Pacquiao, but certainly one for Mayweather, who has made most of his millions by getting a lot of people to buy his fights just to see him lose.
He was once Pretty Boy Floyd, then became Money Mayweather. Now he’s Floyd Mayweather the businessman, working hard to earn his $120 million payday.
“No different than WWE,” Mayweather said. “It’s all about reinventing yourself. That’s what we did. And it’s worked so far.”
It has, in ways that seem unimaginable for any fighter, much less one who doesn’t knock people out. Mayweather is perennially on top of the highest paid athlete list, and this year it will be no contest. He’ll do it this time with a new persona that would make anyone in pro wrestling proud.
It was barely two years ago that Mayweather sat in a jail cell, serving a domestic battery sentence while wondering if he would ever fight again. Now no one mentions his checkered past because they’re so eager to see him in the fight that will break all records.
He’s still got more pricey cars than the average Bentley dealership, lives in the Big Boy Mansion on a golf course in Las Vegas, and has a team of bodyguards that tower over him wherever he goes. The entourage is still around, too, eager to please his every whim.
But the new Floyd Mayweather is all business. And right now business couldn’t be better.
“Floyd Mayweather is a winner when it’s all said and done,” Mayweather said.
Pacquiao is a winner, too, of course, and maybe a bigger one than Mayweather. He made it out of the depths of poverty in the Philippines to become a multimillionaire fighter and a congressman from the Sarangani province. He’s a national hero at home, where everything stops anytime he steps into the ring.
Like Mayweather, Pacquiao has reinvented himself in recent years. He’s trimmed his huge entourage, given up the late night partying and gambling, and turned to religion to guide his life.
Along the way he learned English as a second language and is comfortable enough with it that he spent the entire day Wednesday speaking confidently to hundreds of media, even managing to get in a slight – though very polite – dig at Mayweather.
“I’m not worried about this fight,” Pacquiao said. “I was more worried about my last few fights with (Oscar) De La Hoya, (Antonio) Margarito and (Miguel) Cotto than this.”
They have contrasting styles in the ring, and they are a stark contrast outside of it. It’s what makes this fight so intriguing, almost irresistible.
The fight that doesn’t need any promoting will still get some, of course. There was a frenzy in downtown Los Angeles this week, where some 700 media members were credentialed for what was billed as the only joint appearance of the two fighters before the week of the fight.
And there will surely be a steady trickle of news from the camps before the craziness of fight week finally arrives.
But it isn’t business as usual, as evidenced the other day when trainer Freddie Roach threw comedian Dave Chappelle and his family out of Pacquiao’s workout at his Hollywood gym. Roach and Chappelle are friends, but there were things to attend to, and they were getting in the way.
“I felt really bad,” Roach said, “but that was four bodies that didn’t need to be there.”
Mayweather is also showing signs that this fight is different. The usual crowds at his Las Vegas gym, insiders say, are being thinned out by security. There’s too much at stake here, for a fighter who has never lost in 19 years as a pro.
Yes, Mayweather has a new persona. He’s still hanging with Justin Bieber, though you probably won’t see him before this fight counting out big stacks of $100 bills, or bragging about the score he made betting on the NBA playoffs.
But he’s got the same burning desire, magnified even more by what is at stake in the Fight of the (Young) Century.
Yes, Pacquiao has the weight of a country on his shoulders. But Mayweather has his entire legacy on the line.
“I’ve never wanted to win a fight as bad in my life,” Mayweather said.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg