Highlights from the only press conference featuring both fighters in Los Angeles before the May 2 super fight in Las Vegas. USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — As the hype machine for boxing's fight of fights cranked into action Wednesday, it was the camp of Manny Pacquiao, not Floyd Mayweather Jr., that came out firing the first verbal jabs.
It was a role reversal perhaps as surprising as the fact that the clash between the sport's two biggest names is finally taking place, as typically brash Mayweather stayed subdued while his Filipino opponent and his cohorts let fly.
The day of the only public meeting between the pair ahead of fight week – the bout will take place at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 2 – began with Pacquiao, usually quiet and reserved in interviews, taunting Mayweather by stating that the American would lose in a fight with female MMA star Ronda Rousey.
Later, at a scheduled media session, Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, asserted that Mayweather's legs, at age 38, were shot and that he has slowed significantly in recent years.
Pacquiao himself said he was less concerned about this matchup than he had been before facing Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito or Oscar De La Hoya, all fights he won with consummate ease.
"My feeling is I am confident 110%," Pacquiao said. "I'm not worried about this fight, I was more worried about the others."
Tickets for the bout will be priced from $1,500 to $7,500.
With less than eight weeks to go until the fight, this is usually Mayweather's time to get to work in cutting down the psyche of his opponent. Often his rivals are beaten before they step into the ring, destroyed mentally by a bombardment of taunts and jibes.
It happened with Robert Guerrero, Ricky Hatton, Victor Ortiz and countless others on Mayweather's way to a 47-0 record. Yet this time there is no long, national publicity drive to give Mayweather the daily chance to put doubt into his rival's mind.
The fight was signed Feb. 20 after five years of frustration. With Mayweather set on the May 2 date there was no time for a grand global media tour – Wednesday's news conference, red-carpet appearance and media session at the Nokia Theater served as an all-in-one promotional extravaganza.
On his one chance to get inside Pacquiao's head Wednesday, Mayweather was quiet, reserved and respectful.
"On May 2 I have a tough test," Mayweather said. "Manny Pacquiao is a good fighter. I can't see how it will play out, I am not a psychic. But you best believe I will be in top shape and the best I can be."
It was possibly the clearest signal yet that Mayweather realizes that this is a challenge unlike any other he has faced, one that can't be one won with words and actions and publicity, but only with his own mental wiles and silky skills in the ring.
In reality, this is a fight that sells itself, without need for the typical hoopla. Sure, it probably should have happened years ago, but the wait has merely served to stoke the public appetite for what Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum correctly described as the biggest fight of this century, at least to date.
Mayweather went a little further.
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"I can remember when I was young and always thought when Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard fought in the Superfight, I never thought there would be a fight that was bigger than that. And here we are," Mayweather said.
Both fighters are deeply ensconced in training camp before the bout that is likely to define the legacy of each man. Much will be made of the persona each man displayed Wednesday, Mayweather's atypical reticence and Pacquiao's cockiness.
Perhaps Mayweather truly is nervous. Maybe it was a ploy. Maybe Pacquiao is truly relaxed and convinced he can pull off the upset, or maybe his chilled nature was a mask for inner nerves.
We'll find out May 2.
"It's been a long road," Mayweather said. "But the fight is on now."
Except that it's not, not quite yet. Until then, every word, every rumor, every nuance will be analyzed with anticipatory fervor.