By Sean Crose
It may be the biggest boxing event in close to fifty years, but Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather didn’t have a whole lot to say about each other during Wednesday’s final press conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. What they did have to say about one another, however, was warm and respectful.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” Pacquiao claimed, “and there’s a lot of question in your minds that only God can answer.” Indeed, Pacquiao spoke a lot about the Man Upstairs during his brief time at the podium.
“I just want to let you know that everything I have accomplished is because God gave me the strength,” said the Filipino icon. “I just want to be an example, an inspiration to everybody.”
Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank honcho Bob Arum, made it a point to make a big deal of Pacquiao’s spiritual and humanitarian side. He told of how Pacquiao spared a Filipino drug dealer from the death penalty in Indonesia recently through his personal intervention. Arum also indicated that Pacquiao helped save Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s political career by attending an event during Reid’s last election campaign.
“That’s the type of influence this man has all over the world,” Arum claimed. “It’s wonderful for the sport of boxing to have a man…who believes it is his obligation to enter politics, to help the people of his country but more than anything it’s a man whose who life is guided by his innate, tremendous love for God.”
Although some argued that Arum made these statements to show the contrast between the reputations Pacquiao and Mayweather have, the veteran promoter was not as hostile as some had expected him to be on the podium Wednesday. There were no verbal attacks on Mayweather. There was nothing thrown in the direction of Mayweather adviser, Al Haymon. Everyone seemed to dodge the figurative bullet. Except, that is, the MGM Grand itself.
Arum has had a rough history with the Grand recently, openly expressing his belief that Team Mayweather is clearly the casino’s favorite. Therefore, he heaped praise upon the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, a place which is clearly more to his liking.
“They have demonstrated tremendous hospitality to us,” Arum gushed about the people at Mandalay Bay. “It’s a great, great place, for Manny to have his camp… I want everyone to know how comfortable we are at the Mandalay Bay.”
Pacquiao, however, was not going to engage in gamesmanship on Wednesday.
“First, I would like to thank God for giving us a wonderful day,” he began. “I always remember that my first fight in America (was) here at MGM.”
Pacquiao then spoke of both he and Mayweather as two parts of what he hopes to be a satisfying event. “This fight on Saturday, our goal is to give the fans satisfaction and enjoyment,” he said. “Floyd and I we‘ve been working hard to entertain you on Saturday.”
Before wrapping up his time at the microphone, however, Pacquiao uttered words which no fighter up until that point probably ever had. “The most important thing,” Pacquiao said of Mayweather, “is I’m hoping that after the fight we can have a conversation with about sharing my faith with God.”
For his own part, Mayweather didn’t respond with snark or offense, but, rather, mentioned God himself. “First off I want to thank God, because without God all this wouldn’t be possible,” he claimed. These were not unusual words to be heard coming from Mayweather’s mouth, but the notorious Mayweather of lore was not present at Wednesday’s conference at all, just as he has been missing for the entire lead up to Saturday’s fight.
“This has been truly an amazing event, an amazing turnout,” he said. “Training camp was remarkable.”
The man called Money then made it a point to throw a complement towards Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who has been trash talking Floyd to the media for weeks on end. “Freddie Roach, you guys have done a tremendous job,” Mayweather claimed. “To all the Filipino fans that have supported Manny Pacquiao thus far, I want to thank you guys.”
The pound for pound king even wrapped things up on a positive note.
“The biggest fight in boxing history and I’m a part of it – that’s a great thing,” he said. “I’m truly blessed.”