Two little guys who are really good with their fists have turned this city, and perhaps the entire sports world, into silly putty.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will box
So they have.
Friday brought the eve of the fight and general insanity to the Las Vegas Strip. This was not Super Bowl weekend, nor the NCAA basketball tournament, but the crowds were as challenging and active, especially around the host hotel, the MGM Grand.
A parking garage so big it could take care of half of the island of Manhattan was completely full. Those who drove to the top floor (seventh) and found nothing still got to enjoy the view. MGM valet parking was in full swing, but only for guests who had hotel keys. And guests who had hotel keys had often paid as much as $1,000 a night.
That room rate, reportedly, dipped to as little as $169 later Friday, as gouging met hotel management reality. If you hate crowds and noise, the $100 outrage to see the fight at home on pay-per-view TV, in the comfort of your living room, might turn out to be a good deal.
The parking attendant explained the MGM valet policy by saying, "We expect 15,000 people for the weigh-in today."
For the uninitiated, boxing holds weigh-ins the day before the fight. On Friday, Mayweather and Pacquiao stood on a scale in their underwear, to assure officials that neither weighed more than the prescribed 147 pounds, the welterweight limit. To see this, thousands of people flocked from near and far.
For probably the first time, people were actually charged to get into this sweaty and meaningless event. The ticket price was $10, to go to charity, and to the promoters' credit, that was established to hold attendance down. Free is too easy for all too many people.
But even those best-laid plans didn't completely work. The minute the weigh-in tickets went on sale, they started disappearing and soon reappearing on various ticket-broker websites. One asking price was $170.
That's still tame compared to the $74 million that will be generated from the 16,700-seat sellout alone in the MGM Grand Arena, with a top price at $7,500 and resale value for a ringside seat soaring into the area of $175,000.
The anecdotal evidence is even more powerful on how much this event has seized the sports world and, in particular, this center of excess and decadence.
You cannot walk more than 100 feet around the city, especially while wearing a press badge, without somebody either asking you who is going to win or telling you why they know. The fighters say they are ready. There is no doubt about the fans.
On a monorail ride Friday heading for the MGM, two burly men boarded the train. One wore a Mayweather T-shirt, the other a Pacquiao T-shirt. As the train moved on, they stood in the middle, in a boxers' face-to-face. They never twitched, never blinked, never smiled.
The seldom-stated certainty about this fight is there will be no loser in the ring.
Mayweather is a 2-1 favorite to take his record to 48-0. He is estimating his take from the pay-per-view and other sources at $200 million. Pacquiao's record is 57-5-2 and his 40% cut of all this probably will surpass $100 million. For either of those two windfalls, you can endure a black eye or a broken nose.
There remains a feeling that this fight, five years in the making and hype-building, will be a bore because both fighters have passed their prime. Mayweather is 38, Pacquiao 36. The accuracy of this aging theory will be known only at fight time.
Mayweather's trainer, Floyd Sr., says his son hasn't lost a step. Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, says his prize pupil is smarter now, and still just as fast.
There seems to be little question that sports fans are all in on this made-to-order Las Vegas event. The casinos, recovering from some revenue dips after the Super Bowl and NCAA tournament, are overrun. You can bet on most any element of the fight, from which round it ends and how, to exactly how the three judges' scoring cards will read.
The online gambling site Bovada weighed in with even more choices, including this personal favorite: You can get 250-1 odds on Itsaknockout winning the Kentucky Derby (also Saturday) and Pacquiao knocking out Mayweather.
The boxing cliche says that styles make fights. Well, in this fight, lifestyles further the intrigue.
In Mayweather, we have a trash-talking, cocky rich man — richest in sports — who wears caps bearing the letters TBE (The Best Ever). Humility is not his long suit. Nor is staying within the boundaries of the law. He has been charged several times with domestic abuse, but served jail time (two months) only once.
In Pacquiao, we have a rags-to-riches story that includes leaving home as a child to sell doughnuts on the street and help feed his siblings. He continues to give away money in the Philippines to the needy. Like Mayweather, he is involved with the law. He is a Filipino congressman, who probably will run for a prestigious spot in the country's senate a year hence. He has had his troubles with infidelity and gambling, but says he has reformed and reads the Bible daily.
How about that for contrasts?
The media has swarmed here, even some of the really big names. Fred Roggin told Channel 4 viewers the other night that he was coming because "nobody reads newspapers anymore."
Those of us who type stories that, apparently, just drift away into nothingness, are deeply grateful for the help.