For the next six days, the question that will be repeated again and again is: "Who do you like?"
It's understood the world over that the choice is between undefeated welterweight and pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Philippines congressman and national hero Manny Pacquiao. It doesn't matter that the fight should have been made five years earlier when both were in their prime because it's on now Saturday night at the MGM Grand, and that's all that matters.
Even as many boxing luminaries convened in New York for last night's heavyweight title fight between champion Wladimir Klitschko and challenger Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden, the buzz was building for Mayweather-Pacquiao.
In fact, all-time great light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, who just signed as a boxing commentator for ESPN, was literally buzzing during the week when he described the difficulty Mayweather will encounter with Pacquiao's southpaw style.
Like most of the cognoscenti, Hopkins is picking Mayweather based on his 47-0 record (26 KOs) and his defensive style and technical brilliance. But Hopkins cautioned that Mayweather won't be able to counterpunch Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) the way he dissects most foes.
Comparing Pacquiao's frenetic style to the tepid opposition Mayweather often has faced, Hopkins said, "Were they on him like a bunch of wild bees after you disturbed the bee nest, and the next thing you know, you're swatting them and they're biting on your head? This is how Pacquiao fights. Pacquiao is not one punch, then delay, then a punch.
"Mayweather is great, but as all counterpunchers will tell you, if [you're facing] a rapid-throwing fighter, you don't have pockets to throw that counter in because punches are coming more than one at a time. They're not accustomed to trying to counter a person who is throwing five, six, seven, eight, nine. If you read what Freddie Roach said, they want to swarm him like bees."
Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, naturally has been vocal about predicting victory, but even he says Pacquiao must fight a perfect fight. Fellow trainer Abel Sanchez, who handles middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, among others, doesn't believe Pacquiao can sustain his punching pace against Mayweather.
"I see Floyd winning," Sanchez said. "I think the first three or four rounds may be difficult. Floyd has to adjust to Manny's speed, but Manny is a pattern fighter. The reason for that is because of the work in the gym with Freddie. Everything is a pattern. I think Floyd is smart enough to eventually figure that out.
"I'm not going to say he's going to knock Manny out, but I think he will handle him like he did Canelo Alvarez . . . Manny makes a lot of mistakes. Manny likes to jump in, and once a fighter does that to Floyd, it's an easy fight for him."
Tom Loeffler, who is Golovkin's promoter, disagrees with Sanchez about the potential for a Pacquiao upset. He noted Marcos Maidana succeeded in landing enough punches last May to lose a majority decision that earned him a September rematch he lost unanimously.
"Pacquiao is a pressure fighter,"Loeffler said. "He throws a lot of hard punches. A lot of people discount Manny's chances, but I think he actually has a good chance. Maidana was able to hit Floyd. If Manny hits him with those same punches, he might hurt him."
While most study styles to determine a winner, promoter Gary Shaw, who handled Jennings Saturday night at the Garden, suggested the outcome might depend on whether Pacquiao can revive the knockout punch that has deserted him in his last nine fights since he stopped Miguel Cotto in November, 2009.
"It depends on which Pacquiao comes into the ring," Shaw said. "If it's the real religious Pacquiao that comes in and doesn't have the killer instinct he had years ago, I don't think he has a chance. If he takes Mayweather into a street fight . . . "
Shaw recalled how Evander Holyfield told him before fighting Mike Tyson that he planned to bully the bully, counter one punch with two back. But saying that and doing that against Mayweather is two different things.
Klitschko won a gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where Mayweather suffered his last loss in the semifinals to Bulgarian Serafim Todorov by a controversial 10-9 decision that left him with a bronze medal. "You have to give credit to him to be undefeated since 1996 in the Olympics," Klitschko said. "Maybe his fights are not as impressive as Pacquiao's, but they're effective. From a boxing standpoint, he has the physical advantage and slight technical advantage as well."
Greenlawn's Chris Algieri, who was knocked down six times while losing a unanimous decision to Pacquiao last November, came away impressed. "He was not reckless," Algieri said. "He was very smart in his attack. What I realize is that his style is so much his own and so rehearsed and so experienced. There's no change. He is Manny Pacquiao."
That might be what makes Saturday's fight so intriguing.
No matter who they are picking, most in boxing at least agree no one has a better chance of becoming the first to beat Mayweather than Pacquiao does.