PrizeFights (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

UPDATE:In what was considered the “fight of the century,” Floyd Mayweather Jr. beat Manny Pacquiao for the welterweight world championship with a unanimous decision by three judges.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s fight against Filipino Congressman Manny Pacquiao on Saturday will be the highest-grossing boxing match in history. The fight has been in the making for five years, and the delay ended up being a brilliant strategy to make even more money, with the cost of each pay-per-view now set at about $100. Social media, accessibility and the stories of the two fighters have combined to create an unparalleled furor, with half a billion dollars circulating around the contest.

Part of the allure of the fight lies in the narrative. Although no personal vendetta exists between the two fighters, they represent polar opposites, allowing the audience to view the fight as a “Rocky” movie. Mayweather, an American boxer unbeaten for 19 years, serves as the antagonist. His views on money, his self-adulation and his horrible history of woman-beating — which has landed him in jail — make him the perfect “heavy.” According to The Associated Press, Mayweather views this match in large part as a paycheck, one of more than $180 million.

According to the same narrative, Pacquiao views this fight as all about the pride of country. He was the Philippines’ biggest individual taxpayer in 2013 and is serving his second term in the House of Representatives there, even though he has not passed a bill in six years and showed up in Congress only four days last year. Many Filipinos view him as a deity who wins votes, wins prizefights and wins hearts through his donations to the poor and philanthropic activities.

Pacquiao, who has lost five times and been knocked out three times, will be facing off against an unbeaten opponent. But that seeming imbalance has not diminished interest in the fight, and certainly has not diminished the revenue. In Nevada — where the match will be held — the betting gold mine could be $60 million to $80 million.

The New York Times reports:

The prowess and fortitude of boxers in action is a wonder to behold, but it’s a sentimental failure of imagination to see a fight merely as a heroic encounter between two combatants. A boxing match is also a business deal, shaped by interests that can trump the fighters’ tactics, abilities and virtues. The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight had to happen because there were several hundred million dollars to be made from it happening. The money generated by the bout is a symptom, an effect, of the boxers’ celebrity and the forces acting upon them. But the money’s also a motive cause exerting its own gravitational pull, an agent seeking its own destiny. In addition to pitting a little guy at great disadvantage against a big guy, it has created strange bedfellows — HBO and Showtime, the rival Mexican TV networks Azteca and Televisa, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum and Mayweather Promotions’ main adviser, Al Haymon.

… “Manny represents this whole process,” Arum said. He wasn’t talking about whether his fighter was going to win; he was talking about extracting wealth from the forces of history and human nature. Half a century of making money by putting half-naked men in harm’s way has sharpened his wits and annealed his soul. Talking with him put me in mind of the scene in “Chinatown” in which the private eye Jake Gittes, having uncovered the robber baron Noah Cross’s scheme to make even more millions, asks: “Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can’t already afford?” and Cross says, “The future, Mister Gittes! The future!”

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