Long, twisting road to Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

After five years of anticipation and speculation – not to mention various failed negotiations – the fight the world has clamored for has finally come to fruition.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao – widely regarded as boxing’s two best pound-for-pound fighters – will finally square off on May 2 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in what will likely be the most lucrative fight in the sport’s history.

Mayweather announced the news Friday via his Shots social media app, in which he is an investor:

“I am glad my decision to meet with Manny (at the Jan. 27 Miami Heat game) and discuss making this fight happen helped get the deal done. Giving the fans what they want to see is my main focus. This will be the biggest event in the history of the sport.”

Barring a draw, the highly-anticipated welterweight championship unification bout will ultimately determine which fighter is not only the undisputed P4P kingpin, but also the greatest fighter of their generation.

Pacquiao, the reigning WBO world champion, said he is very happy to finally reach an agreement with Mayweather and give the fight fans what they rightfully deserve:

“It is an honor to be part of this historic event. I dedicate this fight to all the fans who willed this fight to happen and, as always, to bring glory to the Philippines and my fellow Filipinos around the world.”

Mayweather and Pacquiao – both of whom have sat atop the pound-for-pound throne in recent years – agreed to a 60-40 money split that will see Mayweather, the current WBC and WBA champion, receive the lion’s share of such purse.

Rival premium cable networks Showtime (under who Mayweather has a six-fight deal) and HBO (who has Pacquiao under contract) underwent a brutal negotiation regarding who would broadcast the fight.

They ultimately agreed to produce and distribute a joint pay-per-view that will likely cost a record $89.95 (and a possible $10 more for high-definition cable subscribers).

This agreement marks only the second time the networks have come together for such a highly-anticipated event. The only other occurrence was for the June 2002 heavyweight championship fight between then-champion Lennox Lewis (who fought under HBO) and former champ Mike Tyson (who fought under Showtime).

The fight is expected to shatter every revenue record in boxing history, including the pay-per-view buy record of 2.4 million generated by Mayweather’s superfight with Oscar De La Hoya in May 2007.

Mayweather’s highly-anticipated super welterweight unification fight with Mexican fan favorite Saul “Canelo” Álvarez in September 2013 also set the all-time pay-per-view revenue record by generating $150 million.

Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, said he and everybody at the network are thrilled to deliver this fight to boxing fans all over the world:

“Now, for the second time under his current deal with Showtime Networks, Floyd Mayweather has agreed to fight an opponent that many people thought he’d never face. We set an all-time pay-per-view record with the first event back in September 2013 and we look forward to another record-breaking performance on May 2.”

HBO Sports president Ken Hershman also expressed his excitement to participate in such a monumental occasion and recognized Mayweather’s and Pacquiao’s prominence within the sport:

“May 2 will be a signature moment for the sport of boxing and HBO Sports is thrilled to be a part of this spectacular event. I know the fighters and their teams will be primed to excel and we plan to work closely with everyone involved to deliver the same level of performance from a broadcast perspective.”

According to those familiar with the agreement, the contract Mayweather signed gave him the right to announce the fight, but only after notifying Top Rank – his former promoter – of when he would do so as obligated.

The five-division world champion, who turns 38 on Tuesday, notified Top Rank on Friday afternoon, but was a little upset that the company leaked word of the impending announcement as he wanted to keep it a surprise.

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter and CEO of Top Rank, said that while trying to negotiate the fight hasn’t been a walk in the park, he believes the inability to do so ultimately enhances the fight’s value:

“The interest in this fight will be absolutely red-hot. I’ve been promoting boxing for nearly 50 years and there is nothing that has come close to this because there has been nothing that has been so difficult to come to fruition. As interest is concerned, this is akin to the first (Muhammad) Ali-(Joe) Frazier fight.”

The long-awaited summit meeting pits Mayweather’s crafty, elusive boxing wizardry against Pacquiao’s speed and relentless punch volume.

Though Mayweather ate a surprising amount of leather from Miguel Cotto in their May 2012 showdown and Marcos Maidana in their first fight this past May, he is still regarded as the sport’s best defensive fighter.

What remains to be seen is if Pacquiao can penetrate Mayweather’s seemingly unbreakable guard.

Arum, however, believes Pacquiao’s southpaw style gives him a better chance at handing Mayweather that black mark on his undefeated record because of Mayweather’s previous trouble with southpaws:

“Top Rank promoted Floyd Mayweather for 10 ½ years and we recognized that he had difficulty handling a speedy, left-handed fighter and that he and his father (and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr.) were insistent that we not match Floyd with a southpaw. I remember two fights he had with southpaws who didn’t have the ability Manny has but who gave him trouble – (DeMarcus) ‘Chop Chop’ Corley, who buzzed him and had him in real trouble and Zab Judah.”

Nevertheless, Mayweather remains confident that he will make Pacquiao his 48th victim on fight night:

“I am the best ever, TBE, and this fight will be another opportunity to showcase my skills and do what I do best, which is win. Manny is going to try and do what 47 before him failed to do, but he won’t be successful.”

The possibility of a Mayweather-Pacquiao megafight has loomed since 2009.

Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) ended a one-year retirement that September and easily schooled the naturally smaller Juan Manuel Márquez – Pacquiao’s most storied rival – en route to the 12-round unanimous decision win.

Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), meanwhile, made an impressive jump to welterweight that November and savagely annihilated Cotto to capture the WBO world title via 12th-round TKO.

Mayweather and Pacquiao were firmly established as the two best in the sport at that time and it was only fitting that they faced off in a P4P summit meeting of such caliber.

Intense negotiations soon broke out and both men, who fought under HBO at that time, agreed to many key aspects of the deal, including a 50-50 financial split.

Everything seemed in place for a March 13, 2010 date, but ultimately fell apart following disputes regarding the method of drug testing leading up to the fight.

Pacquiao refused to accept the protocol that Mayweather demanded for random blood and urine testing. He also sued Mayweather for defamation following accusations that Pacquiao used performance-enhancing drugs, but the case was ultimately settled outside of court.

Both men went their separate ways and continued to enhance their legacies by defeating a who’s who of elite talent as boxing fans continued waiting in hopes of both sides reaching an agreement one day.

Other negotiation attempts were made in the years that followed, including a 2012 meeting between Mayweather and Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz in Vegas.

Koncz got Mayweather on the phone with Pacquiao and Mayweather offered him a $40 million flat fee for the fight, but Pacquiao declined the offer because he wanted to share the overall revenue.

Pacquiao made history in 2010 by dishing out a savage beating to Mexican slugger Antonio Margarito to claim the vacant WBC super welterweight title – making him the first fighter to win world titles in eight weight classes.

The 36-year-old celebrated Filipino sensation – who also serves as a Congressman in his native Philippines – has also held titles at flyweight, junior featherweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight.

But a highly controversial split decision title loss to Timothy Bradley in June 2012 and a devastating one-punch knockout loss to Márquez in their December grudge match that same year ultimately cracked Pacquiao’s growing mantle of invincibility and seemingly killed any possibility of him securing the megafight with Mayweather.

While Pacquiao took almost all of 2013 off, Mayweather jumped ship and signed a six-fight deal with Showtime, leaving further uncertainty regarding the fight.

Mayweather has since fought four of his six fights, defeating Robert Guerrero, Álvarez and Maidana (twice). Following the second Maidana fight in September, Mayweather said he wanted to make the fight happen if it presented itself.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, regained his elite credibility by winning three straight, starting with his November 2013 domination of Brandon Rios.

He then defeated Bradley this past April to regain his WBO championship and pitched a virtual shutout of Chris Algieri in November in a fight that saw Algieri hit the canvas six times.

Pacquiao continued calling out Mayweather in the weeks leading up to and following the Algieri fight. He even filmed a television commercial for Foot Locker mocking the fact that Mayweather had yet to agree to fight him.

A huge buzz was then generated in January when both fighters were seen sitting courtside in Miami as the Heat played the Milwaukee Bucks.

Their interactions – which included a brief embrace during halftime and an hour-long discussion with Koncz in Pacquiao’s hotel suite to discuss some of the issues Mayweather had with the deal being negotiated – kept talks going for almost another month, but ultimately led to both men signing the contract this week.

Excitement over the fight’s announcement will certainly be felt throughout Vegas, as it’s reported that hotel prices will soar for fight night.

Many of the city’s priciest hotels – including the MGM Grand, which hosts more than 6,800 rooms – will go to two-night minimums while cheaper hotels will raise their rates by two to three times their average price.