You can say you don’t want it all you want. They know you’ll watch it.
A Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. rematch is as close as one Pacquiao victory away.
And should the favored welterweight champion take care of Adrien Broner on Saturday night in Las Vegas with Mayweather ringside at MGM Grand, a repeat of the richest one-day sporting event in history becomes the best possible option for all involved.
“That’s the thinking in my mind and my heart — that there will be another [Mayweather] fight,” Pacquiao acknowledged last week in a conversation with the Times.
Later that night, in an uncanny replay of the chance 2015 meeting at a Miami Heat game that spawned the first showdown, Mayweather appeared at Staples Center with Pacquiao there for the Clippers’ Filipino Heritage Night.
Coincidence, or the start of the Mayweather-Pacquiao II promotion?
“I’m retired. I’m not fighting anymore,” Mayweather said after shaking hands with Pacquiao that night, although he’d just earned $9 million for knocking down a Japanese kickboxer three times in the first round of a New Year’s Eve boxing exhibition near Tokyo.
Mayweather, whose unanimous-decision victory over Pacquiao generated $600 million in revenue, pulled out his phone and showed me a report that he had a nine-figure offer to box again, and said he’d already rejected it.
“When history is written, I will be remembered as the greatest fighter ever,” said Mayweather, who turns 42 next month.
Pacquiao, who turned 40 last month, takes exception to that boast as boxing’s only eight-division world champion, and blames a torn right rotator cuff he suffered while training for the loss to Mayweather, and the fight’s lack of action that led it to be widely panned following more than five years of calls for the showdown.
Pacquiao has jabbed at Mayweather (50-0) since a surprise meeting last year at a music festival in Japan, tweeting “50-1,” and reminding that he’s the one wearing a belt, the World Boxing Assn. secondary welterweight strap.
“There’s no way a second fight could be as bad as the first,” one prominent boxing industry executive said this week, and while there’s no way the rematch would generate the record 4.6-million pay-per-view buys of four years ago, even half of that would stand as the strongest combat sports pay-per-view since then.
First, Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 knockouts) will have to beat a former four-division champion who’s 11 years younger.
Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs), who has emulated Mayweather, calling his promotional company “A.B. – About Billions” while flashing jewelry and the gold-tinged sunglasses he wore at Wednesday’s news conference, now finds his biggest fight overshadowed by the looming star.
“Y’all keep saying he’s going to fight Floyd. To my recognition, Floyd is … retired, man,” Broner vented at the news conference. “There’s some [stuff] going on and I feel you’re trying to throw me to the wolves.”
Broner has won belts from super-featherweight to welterweight but been defeated by Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia since 2013, and he’s coming off an April draw against Jessie Vargas, whom Pacquiao knocked down and convincingly defeated in his most recent U.S. fight, in November 2016.
Broner said he wants to beat Pacquiao, then seek a rematch with World Boxing Council champion Porter, who defends his belt for the first time March 9.
Pacquiao has fought 20 consecutive opponents who have held a belt in their career, and his July stoppage of Lucas Matthysse marked his first knockout since 2009.
“I have something to prove: that at the age of 40, I can still be at my best,” said Pacquiao, who weighed in Friday at 146 pounds while Broner was at 146 1/2.
Pacquiao revealed this week he’ll have a significant break between February and May, when elections are held in the Philippines, to train for his next bout, and another two-week window leading to July.
The May boxing schedule is filling up fast, with Canelo Alvarez defending his two middleweight belts against fellow champion Daniel Jacobs in Las Vegas on May 4, and the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch expected to take place later that month.
Pacquiao, asked if he expects to be fighting another significant bout by July, delivered the smile of someone who knows millions of dollars are coming his way again.
Jhack Tepora of the Philippines missed weight and is off the pay-per-view card. The replacement is Mexico’s Alberto Guevara. He will fight Hugo Ruiz.
Main Event: Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) vs. Adrien Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) for Pacquiao’s World Boxing Assn. secondary welterweight belt
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. Pacific
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Television: Showtime pay-per-view, $74.99