Boxing fans kept dreaming about a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight. Once the super-bout was finally announced last Friday, many in boxing circles had their predictions ready to go about the winner of the May 2 fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Floyd Mayweather Sr., who trains his son, delivered his forecast in a poem.
"Floyd's the best/I must confess/To all the rest/There is no contest," the elder Mayweather said.
"Floyd is smarter than him, Floyd is quicker than him, has more knowledge, and I'm going to tell you this right here: Floyd can't lose to him."
The man in the other fighter's corner, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, had a different spin.
Roach has spent years watching Mayweather Jr. (47-0, 26 knockouts), widely considered the undisputed top pound-for-pound boxer, who will fight the eight-division world champion Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) in a welterweight unification title bout.
Even before the fight was announced, Roach said his careful review of fight film convinced him Mayweather Jr., who turns 38 today, has slowed down.
Roach said his confidence in a Pacquiao victory is "100%. Everyone says [Mayweather's] changed his style to become more fan-friendly. He doesn't [care] about the fans. He just can't move no more."
And here we go …
The matchup sports fans have clamored for since 2009 is long overdue, yet Mayweather and Pacquiao still rank 1-2 in most pound-for-pound boxing rankings.
It's Mayweather's foot and hand speed, defense and wisdom matched against the southpaw Pacquiao's rapid flurries of punches from all angles, and his fitness.
Among those caught up in the fervent, pre-fight buzz is former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who predicts Pacquiao will win by decision.
"Pacquiao has the edge … Mayweather makes up [rounds] later, [but] Pacquiao stays ahead," Foreman said in a text message.
Roach insists Pacquiao, 36, will catch and hit Mayweather.
"Manny has better legs, he'll be in better shape than Floyd, and he'll be more motivated," Roach said.
Some of that motivation comes from Pacquiao allowing Mayweather Jr. to get a 60% share of the purse, with the idea that a Pacquiao win means he'd collect a greater share in a rematch.
Mayweather's own conditioning regimen is legendary, both in the gym and in his dark-of-night runs through the streets of Las Vegas. Roach counters, "I don't think running at 2 in the morning is healthy for a fighter. We go by the book. The book wins fights."
Mayweather Sr. said he doesn't want his son to overtrain, and boasted that because of the unbeaten fighter's year-round discipline, "all Floyd needs is two good, full weeks" of training. "Two good weeks and he'll put him to sleep."
The elder Mayweather points out that Pacquiao hasn't knocked out any opponent since 2009, and wonders how the Filipino can crack Mayweather Jr.'s strong chin.
For good measure, Mayweather Sr. dismissed the credibility of Roach's multiple trainer of the year awards.
"He might be the one that everyone gives awards to, but he won't be getting the award this damn year," Mayweather Sr. said.
Roach said psychology will play a role in the fight. While Pacquiao might be far more soft-spoken out of the ring, inside it, "he'll penetrate Floyd mentally with his power."
Both fighters, though, seem past their peaks.
Pacquiao suffered a knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012. He has rebounded with three straight wins, including an impressive decision over former undefeated welterweight champ Timothy Bradley Jr.
Meanwhile, Mayweather, known for his defensive wizardry, has been bruised in the last few years in fights against Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Marcos Maidana. But none of those challengers could effectively sustain an attack against the elusive champion.
That's why MGM Resorts sports book lists Mayweather as more than a 2-1 favorite to win.
"Floyd has fought younger guys with more power and different technical levels," said Jay Rood, the MGM's race and sports book director, who said he expects gambling records to be broken by Mayweather-Pacquiao, along with pay-per-view and live-gate marks.
"Certainly, I think Manny can disrupt him, but Floyd is faster and has the ability to control the ring. Very few people can cut the ring off and get him to spots where he's uncomfortable. His athleticism allows him to escape."
The "X factor," Rood says, is how the tensions and years-long animosity between the two boxers will shape the battle.
"This has been brewing so long, maybe Floyd lets his guard down to take a calculated risk to become more aggressive than usual," Rood said. "If that's the case, we've got a great fight."