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Fight Night: Why Mayweather-Pacquiao Became So Big

This weekend's much-anticipated boxing match is expected to ring in hundreds of millions of dollars.
/ Source: NBC News

It was billed as the fight the world has been waiting for.

About 45 minutes after the first bell rang just before 9 p.m., Floyd Mayweather remained undefeated at 48-0, earning a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao after 12 rounds.

"He’s a hell of a fighter, I take my hat off to Manny Pacquiao," Mayweather said after the win.

Even if you couldn’t care less about boxing, you probably heard about it. The bout is expected to smash records for viewership and revenue.

Larry Hazzard Sr., the commissioner of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board, has been in boxing for 58 years as a fighter, referee and regulator, and he called it the biggest since Muhammad Ali fought Smokin’ Joe Frazier in 1971 — another Fight of the Century.

"It’s like a godsend," he told NBC News. "You see kids shadowboxing in the streets again. The barbershops are buzzing. I can’t go anywhere without someone asking me who’s going to win the fight. The pool halls, the bars — everybody’s talking.”

Here are some ways to think about just how this bout became so hyped up.

1. They don’t call him Money for nothing

Let’s start with the numbers. They’re staggering.

Most of the money generated by the welterweight title fight will come from pay-per-view. A conservative estimate is that 3 million people will pony up. That would shatter the record of about 2.5 million, from Mayweather’s victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007. The fight costs $99, also a record — less if you split it with your buddies.

The pay-per-view take should shatter the previous mark of $150 million, from Mayweather’s bout with Canelo Alvarez in 2013.

Add $72 million from ticket sales, $35 million for international broadcast rights, $13 million from bars and restaurants paying to show the fight, $12 million from sponsorships and $1 million in merchandise. That’s $358 million, conservatively.

Mayweather, whose nickname is Money, is expected to earn $150 million or more. It’s a 60/40 split, so Pacquiao will earn a little less, but he should still clear nine figures.

2. Everybody who’s anybody is going

To the tune of $10,000 per seat. Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will all be there, the Los Angeles Times reports. Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and Nicki Minaj are expected. Jamie Foxx will sing the national anthem.

Justin Bieber isn’t just going — there’s talk that he’ll carry Mayweather’s championship belts to the ring.

Sen. John McCain wishes he could be there, but he’ll opt for the $99 home seats over the 10 grand. (He’ll be pulling for Pacquiao: "I like him as a boxer and admire his modesty, strong religious faith and service in the Filipino legislature,” he told Bloomberg News.)

Mayweather-Pacquiao: Coverage from NBC Sports

3. Your neighborhood wing joint is charging a cover

And that’s if they’re showing it at all.

Restaurants have to pay a licensing fee to show the fight, and to cover the cost, many of them plan to charge customers just to get in.

Buffalo Wild Wings is only showing the fight at a handful of its locations. That was enough of a concern that a Wall Street analyst brought it up this week on a conference call about corporate earnings.

"The decision was based on the cost of the fight," said the company’s chief operating officer, James Schmidt. "I think it's about $5,100 a restaurant, and so we did not feel comfortable with the cost."

4. It’s guaranteed to be pirated

With a mega-million-dollar product to protect, promoters of the fight are worried about people trying to watch for free.

And there are more ways than ever to do that: Anyone can buy the fight, point a smartphone at their TV and, using services like Meerkat, Periscope and Stringwire, broadcast a live bootleg to all their friends.

It’s already happening with sought-after premium TV shows like "Game of Thrones." As a Stanford law professor told NBC News this week, the problem is that by the time someone gets around to filing a complaint, the fight is over.

5. Beyond boxing

Pacquiao rose from poverty to wealth, fame and even a seat in the Filipino legislature, where he has been elected twice and is the odds-on favorite for a third term. This month the country rolled out a stamp with his image. Fight day will be a national holiday.

Boxers in Pacquiao’s home country speak of following his path in hopes they might lift their families out of poverty and realize their dreams.

"I want to be a champion like Pacquiao," Meljun Penapin, a 19-year-old former barbecue vendor and fisherman who is training for his first fight, told The Associated Press. "I was thinking that maybe I will be lucky. With such a hard life, maybe I will find my way of living here."

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Mayweather is 47-0. Forty-seven-and-oh. Only a handful of champions have ever gone without a loss or draw as long. The blemishes are outside the ring. Mayweather has been arrested or cited at least seven times over the past decade because of accusations that he assaulted women. He was given 90 days in prison for hitting his ex-girlfriend in front of their two children in 2010. The sport never punished him.

ESPN asked Mayweather what message that sends. He said, "I’ll just say I want everybody to tune in May 2. Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. This is a fight that you can’t miss."

6. It’s been years in the making

On Friday afternoon, more than 24 hours before the bell, the average price for a ticket sold on the resale market StubHub was $5,900. The top-selling floor seat went for $40,000.

One reason: Mayweather and Pacquiao have been flirting with this fight for years.

They were scheduled to fight in 2010, but negotiations between their promoters fell apart, and then it got ugly. Mayweather suggested that Pacquiao was doping, and Pacquiao sued for defamation. They later settled.

The previous biggest-selling boxing match on StubHub was the Mayweather-Alvarez fight in 2013, “and it’s nowhere near close," said Alison Salcedo, a spokeswoman for the company.

Even the most recent Super Bowl only topped out at an average resale of $4,000, although that was played in a much bigger venue.

"The crowning jewel, so to speak, is that it’s been anticipated for so long. This is a bout that should have been made four or five years ago," Hazzard said. "This is the greatest thing that has happened for boxing in many, many years."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.