Updated at 11:50 p.m. EDT: The match is underway
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, who have have been circling one another in negotiations for six years, entered the ring Saturday for what is billed as the fight of the century.
Pacquiao, a congressman from the Philippines, bounced around the ring as he was introduced, raising his arms high and then kneeling down to pray, as people in the crowd waved Philippine flags.
Then Mayweather made his way through to the ring, looking very serious.
After official introductions, the fighters tap gloves and the match is underway.
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It may be the match of this young century, but the contest has undeniable historical significance for more prosaic reasons: It will have the biggest-ever purse, not to mention the highest price-tag of any pay-per-view — at $99.95 a pop.
Win or lose, Mayweather will take home 60 percent of the bout's total revenue, and Pacquiao 40 percent — which, according to some estimates, may be $180 million and $120 million respectively.
Mayweather and Pacquiao present a contrast in styles. Pacquiao has made his mark as an aggessor in the ring. He relies on his speed and quickness with his punches and his movement. He's a left hander, which can prove difficult for opponents because the punches are coming from different positions and angles.
Boxing experts say that could be key for Pacquiao tonight — can he attack and confuse Mayweather with those angles?
If he does, chances are the confusion won't last long. Mayweather is considered one of the best, if not the best, at making adjustments mid-fight to turn things to his advantage. Mayweather's strength is his defense. He uses his famous shoulder roll to avoid opponent's punches. Then his quickness allows him to fire accurate and powerful counterpunches.
Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach says it's key for his fighter to not get caught "in the pocket" — that area of space created when Mayweather retreats or shoulder rolls — because Mayweather can attack that pocket so quickly from a defensive position. So for Pacquiao, it's key to get in and get out.
Mayweather said, about an hour before the match, that he spend the day resting and watching TV with his kids.
"I've been here before," he said on the pay-per-view broadcast. "Not nervous or worried. Work is done. Now, time to go out and entertain."
He said it was hard to start training for this fight, but once he got to gym he didn't stop.
"Do I love sport of boxing like I once did?" he said. "Absolutely not."
Asked how he was feeling one hour before the fight, Pacquiao said, "Excited, because I have something to prove. Because I'm an underdog. Friday I thanked Floyd at weigh-in for making fight finally happen."
The red carpet area behind the arena began filling with celebrities paying sky-high prices for ringside seats, including Michael J. Fox, Michael Jordan, Michael Keaton, Paris Hilton, Andre Agassi, Charles Barkley and Steffi Graf.
Also glimpsed: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Denzel Washington — and Tom Brady, sporting sunglasses.
For many fans, picking a favorite for the welterweight title fight has more to do with personality than boxing prowess: It is either underdog "Pacman" Pacquiao, the congressman from the Philippines, or the brash, undefeated American Mayweather, who has a history of domestic abuse and reportedly has blocked two female reporters who have written about the issue from covering the big fight.
Hours before the fight was scheduled to begin, crowds were lining up outside the MGM Grand Hotel Garden Arena. Some were hoping to secure a highly prized ticket. Resold tickets have been going for thousands of dollars apiece, but ESPN reports that single ticket prices have been dropping as the fight nears.
As NPR's Frank Deford opined earlier this week: "Whatever you may think about boxing, this particular match has become the tackiest sports event this side of hot-dog eating. All of the pre-fight talk has been about money, money, money. Mayweather has a mouthguard worth $25,000 and it's made of hundred dollar bills. Meanwhile, Phillipine firms are paying to clutter up Pacquiao's trunks with more than $2 million worth of advertisements. It's safe to say that he's hitting it big below the belt."
Despite the hype (and, many say, over-hype), BoxingJunkie.com notes: "These are the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Mayweather (47-0, with 26 KOs) is 38, lives in Las Vegas and claims he has just two fights left, which is when his six-fight, $200 million contract with Showtime runs out. Pacquiao, 36, from the Philippines, is 57-5-2 (38 KOs). He is under contract to HBO."
And, The Associated Press writes:
"Their styles have been analyzed endlessly and their minds dissected as much as possible. And it still remains anyone's guess just what kind of fight this will be.
"[There are 3-1 odds] that the fight will go at least until late in the 12th round. The argument can be made that Mayweather hasn't legitimately knocked out an opponent since he stopped Ricky Hatton in 2007, and feels no pressure to do so with Pacquiao despite a payday that will likely be at least $180 million."