LOS ANGELES – After hearing the same question for five years, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather were sick and tired of being asked by fans, reporters and just about everyone they'd encounter in their daily lives whether they'd fight each other.
Even as talks intensified late last year and early this year to finally get the two great welterweights into the ring against each other, there were many skeptics.
But a few minutes after 2 p.m. PT on Wednesday on a cool, cloudy day in this city built on dreams, illusions and fantasy, Mayweather and Pacquiao strode across a stage at the Nokia Theater and stood eye-to-eye, living proof that the bout the world has clamored for is finally a reality.
Outside the theater, fans jostled to snap a photo with Pacquiao's mother, the never-camera-shy Dionisia. Reporters interviewed each other. And everyone within vicinity of the Nokia Theater seemed to carry a smile.
It was a hard-to-believe day for a sport that often suffers at the hands of its own bumbling and ineptitude.
Mayweather was respectful and courteous, and had nary a bad word to say about his Filipino rival.
"I think Manny is a very interesting fighter," Mayweather said. "For him to get to where he's gotten to, it's obvious he had to do something right."
They both did, which is why the May 2 bout at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas is expected to set all sorts of records, including highest purses, largest gross, most pay-per-view sales and most words written and spoken on a single bout, ever.
Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum, who promoted Mayweather from the beginning of his career in 1996 until a bitter split about 10 years later, wouldn't say it's the biggest fight of all time.
"As far as this being the biggest fight, that's a silly question," Arum said. "I remember back in '71 when [Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frazier fought the first time. The whole country stopped. The world stopped. There were political implications. … If I only had Muhammad and Joe here with me today in their primes, how would they have done given the technological infrastructure we have in place now. It would have done great. It would have been tremendous."
But in many ways, this fight is the Ali-Frazier of its era. These are the two best fighters in the world by most accounts. Mayweather is 47-0 with 26 knockouts and has been ranked No. 1 on the mythical pound-for-pound lists for more than a decade. Pacquiao is 57-5-2 with 38 knockouts and has been Palmer to Mayweather's Nicklaus, or Magic to Mayweather's Bird.
However it's shaped up, it's a fight long in the making, and Mayweather repeated over and over Wednesday that the timing was finally right for a deal to be made.
But then the man who in mid-career switched his nickname and, indeed, full persona, from "Pretty Boy" Floyd to "Money May," made the one comment that probably showed that waiting was the right move for at least one reason.
"If you get to this level, where you're making nine figures in 36 minutes, you have to be a winner," Mayweather said without a hint of emotion.
It was staggering to hear. Mayweather will earn at least – at least – $100 million, and perhaps far more. Pacquiao, who is guaranteed 40 percent, will make at least $60 million and more likely around $80 million.
It's hard to fathom that kind of money being paid out on one night for one sporting event. Combined, their purses will be more than all but a handful of team salaries in Major League Baseball in 2015.
Mayweather noted that Pacquiao has already kept a busy media schedule and done a series of high-profile interviews.
Most fans believe that Mayweather has never met a camera he didn't like. But he knows the fight is going to sell with minimal promotion on his part, so he played the part of the calm, cool businessman on Wednesday.
He wore a gray sports coat and matching slacks and had a striped shirt with his last name on the left collar. He looked like as much as a salesman as he did a fighter.
"This fight will sell itself, which is a great thing," Mayweather said. "He's doing a lot of media, talk shows, which is great. I prefer him to do it so I can train."
Pacquiao was, as usual, reserved. He chided his trainer, Freddie Roach, for repeatedly cursing. Pacquiao had Roach agree not to curse publicly, and said he'd fine him $5 for each one.
Roach and Showtime's Stephen Espinoza were the only two who spoke who were a bit edgy or something other than just bland. Roach, who said Pacquiao would "kick his ass," used another expletive at least six times.
On the sixth, Pacquiao slapped him on the leg and said, "That's $30." Looking embarrassed, Roach said, "I hope I don't lose my whole purse."
Pacquiao repeatedly stressed his faith and credited God for, as he said, "I came from nothing and turned into something."
Both of them did, in fact. Both of them spoke of hoping to please the fans, even though the ticket prices of $1,500 for a cheap seat and $7,500 for the top ticket will price out the majority of the public.
The MGM Grand Garden is going to be filled with rich people – lots and lots and lots of extraordinarily rich people – on May 2.
In a sense, the fight belonged in a venue like AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where more than 100,000 fans could have gotten inside.
But Arum made a good point when he spoke of why the fight belonged in Las Vegas, even though Mayweather is the one who insisted upon it.
"Understand that I am a resident of the state of Nevada, and I live in Las Vegas," Arum said. "This fight is going to bring tremendous revenue, not only to the hotels and the properties, but also for the cab drivers, the bartenders, everybody in the hospitality industry. These are my neighbors.
"I would have been put in a terrible position to have moved, or tried to have moved, this fight out of Las Vegas. When we understood the Mayweather camp wanted the fight to be in Las Vegas, we were more than happy to go along. Really, truly, this fight belongs in Las Vegas."
And so it is. Mayweather and Pacquiao were off, to resume training for a fight that is now less than two months away.
It was hard for some long-time observers to believe they were actually on the stage, staring at each other, and answering questions about their gameplans and the significance of the bout rather than why they were fighting someone else.
But they're fighting now. It's real. It's happening.