By Ludwig O. Daza

All roads lead to Las Vegas on May 2, 2015, but will it be the end of Manny Pacquiao’s boxing career? No one knows when Pacquiao will call it a day but a defeat in the hands of Floyd Mayweather will mean so much for him and his Filipino boxing fans that subsequent wins won’t matter anymore, unless it’s against Mayweather in a rematch. Even a win in the future against Juan Manuel Marquez will not be enough to compensate for a loss against Mayweather. For both Pacquiao and Mayweather, this is the only fight that matters.

If Pacquiao loses, such defeat must be definitive to put finis to his journey and that of his rabid Filipino fans. Because a controversial win for Mayweather or for Pacquiao will not mean a defeat for the other.

Since that day he pulverized Lehnolo Ledwaba, Filipino fans have anticipated his every fight with excitement and trepidation. His devil-may care pugilistic style endeared him to fans around world that prefers the bluntness of his fist over the sweet science. At the infancy of his worldwide appeal, sweet science was anathema to Pacquiao’s fistic arsenal.

A whirlwind of a tornado, he was punching like crazy in his younger days. A diamond in the rough, he was transformed into a mean punching machine when Freddie Roach took him under his wings.

While Pacquiao was running roughshod over his adversaries in the lighter divisions with blitzing speed and cutting his boxing teeth under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, Mayweather was already an established star with a brash attitude. And while Pacquiao took on all newcomers and seasoned fighters without qualms or reservations, Mayweather was cherry-picking his opponents – already evident though was the talent that probably is being nurtured for the long haul – saving his best for last.

In their only press-conference leading to the fight, Mayweather was cordial and even accorded his rival with a modicum of respect, saying that Pacquiao is a solid and tough competitor, while at the same time trumpeting his unbeaten record. Just when I thought he had enough nice words for Pacquiao, he praised him for being a true champion by bouncing back from a confidence-sapping knock-out.

Mayweather’s mild-mannered disposition and easy-going gait is a complete turn-around from the boorish reputation he had portrayed himself to the boxing world. But his statement that loose words and unnecessary bluster can lead to something that they can’t control betrays his real reason for behaving properly in the press-con. He said that “this fight is too big to mess up with”. An improper posturing and scathing words in the press-con leading to the fight can lead to something that the whole boxing would hate them for.

And so both parties behaved like true gentlemen, extolling each other’s feat in the ring and inviting the world that this fight is a can’t miss one. Surely, this fight eclipsed all other fights in magnitude, except probably the Ali vs. Frazier fight. But this one could top it all in every aspect of the fight, not just because of the difficulty in getting this fight to happen and prize money involved but also because the mass appeal of the protagonists transcends boxing and the fighters themselves, helped in so many ways by the information technology (IT).

Before the advent of IT and during the heydays of Marvin Hagler, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Rays and the likes, fights can only be viewed worldwide only after long delayed telecast. Boxing and other important athletic events were seen only by so few. Remote places and its inhabitants had no idea who they are and what they are good at.

But the explosion of IT have tremendously magnified this coming bout and the fighters themselves where, in this day and age, training and interviews leading to the fight can be viewed in the boondocks in no time at all with just a handheld device. With that, this fight tops it all. From the frozen places in Siberia to the frigid valleys and plains of Africa, this fight will be experienced live and in high-defined colours.

Between these two accomplished fighters, I don’t think their rivalry is good only for one fight. It isn’t just because this will be like a potential blockbuster movie that merits a part II but because there is so much at stake that neither Floyd nor Manny would be so reckless enough in the ring to court a knock-out in search of a definitive or compelling victory and in effect jeopardize their chance of a second fight.

Both fighters admitted to not knowing how this fight will play out. As to Mayweather, He emphasized that his mental edge, experience and vaunted defense will make him emerge victorious. But Manny promised to break that defense come fight time.

A split decision or a narrow unanimous decision would not incapacitate either party to negotiate a return bout. Boxing fans the world over would relish that chance to see them fight again, and a third one would not be too much to ask for, if the circumstances would permit it.

The potential that the number of viewers of this fight can reach billion will change the narrative of Michael Buffer – that is, if he is given that honor of introducing these fighters to the world.

In the Philippines, time will be at a standstill. An uptick in economic activity will register hours before the fight, with people going to market to prepare sumptuous meals to eat before, during and after the fight. In my case, Manny’s fight has always been a fiesta for my kids. They know that when Manny fights, daddy will prepare a feast for them. Win or lose, it has always been that way.

At this early, plan of meals to prepare during that day is already taking form. It has to be a feast different from the ones I prepared in the past. That day would be special for us boxing fans, and it could the last. One never knows. A long time it will be to witness another fight so rare and so grand as this one.

Another Manny. Another Floyd. Another Time. Perhaps.