LAS VEGAS – Floyd Mayweather has shrugged off the jeers which greeted his victory over Manny Pacquiao and wasted no time in taunting his detractors.
After hugging his father and trainer Floyd Sr, the unbeaten welterweight king clambered onto the ropes of the ring, banged his fist on his chest and declared to the crowd: “I told you! I told you!”
It was a swift return to the brash persona Mayweather has perfected over the years, and which had been mostly hidden during the the build up to the bout, prompting some observers to wonder about his state of mind.
In fact Mayweather was intent on giving a star-studded audience packed with sports and entertainment giants a masterclass of defensive skill and pinpoint accuracy as he extended his record to 48-0.
NBA legends Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, actor-director Clint Eastwood, music icon Sting and power couple Beyonce and Jay-Z were just a few of the superstars packed into the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where precious ringside tickets sold for $10 000.
By the time the fighters reached the arena floor – some 45 minutes late as some US cable operators struggled to meet the demand for pay-per-view orders – the atmosphere was electric.
Filipino icon Pacquiao was bouncing and beaming as he made his way from his dressing room to the floor of the arena, cheers of “Manny, Manny” ringing out.
He paused to take a selfie with trainer Freddie Roach then began the walk through the crowd in the darkened arena.
Mayweather followed, his eyes largely shielded by the bill of his “Mayweather Promotions” cap, his visage serious as he climbed through the ropes.
Both fighters had already received the good wishes, via Twitter, of ring great Muhammad Ali.
“Rumble young men rumble,” Ali tweeted. “Good luck to Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.”
All day the MGM Grand hotel and casino pulsed with an energy that shifted to the adjacent arena as the celebrities poured in and the long-awaited bout drew near.
For superstar tennis couple Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf the fight was just a night out on the town, they live in Agassi’s hometown of Las Vegas.
But many more had jetted in for the event — evidenced by the pictures tweeted of the crush of private aircraft jamming the Las Vegas airport.
That included a bevy of Hollywood stars that included Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Jon Voight.
Actor Mark Wahlberg was in attendance, no departure for a man who is a regular at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood, run by Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach.
NFL quarterback Tom Brady, who guided the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl title in February, looked cool as ever as he entered the arena in a slick suit and sunshades.
Earlier Saturday Brady and team-mate Rob Gronkowski were across the country at the Kentucky Derby, the event that usually dominates the US sports landscape on the first Saturday in May.
But even the first jewel in US flat racing’s Triple Crown paled in comparison to the welterweight world title showdown dubbed “The Fight of the Century.” AFP