For now, the bulk of the action for the Fight of the Century has been on Manny Pacquiao. But as we get closer to the May 2 superfight, we expect the boxing odds to shift considerably toward Floyd Mayweather.
With six weeks remaining before Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the hype machine for the Fight of the Century is still in low gear. Everything is relative, of course; both fighters are receiving daily media coverage, especially Pacquiao in his native Philippines. But things won’t really heat up until we get closer to May 2. In the week or two leading up to this major box-office attraction, we expect the same rush of public interest that you see for events like March Madness and the Super Bowl.
That almost certainly means the boxing odds will swing back toward Mayweather. While Pacquiao is a beloved figure around the world, in the United States, nothing matters more than Money. The undefeated, undisputed WBC and WBA Welterweight champion is the highest paid athlete in the world three years running, according to Forbes magazine. He’s the New England Patriots, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers rolled into one. And his fans are just starting to make their boxing picks.
You already know about 50 Cent announcing that he’d be putting down $1.6 million on Mayweather. Not to be outdone, Justin Bieber is reportedly going to bet $2 million on Mayweather to win. Bieber, who’s been part of the entourage leading Mayweather to the ring for several of his title fights, was also at the press conference in Los Angeles to support his good buddy and occasional boxing trainer.
This would have been a major “news” story three years ago, when Bieber was still at the peak of his fame. Even two years ago, Forbes had Bieber ranked No. 9 on their Celebrity 100 list; Mayweather was No. 88, behind Pacquiao at No. 78. Things have changed. Last year, Mayweather was all the way up to No. 7, wedged in between Jay-Z and Rihanna. Bieber was No. 33, tied with Kevin Durant and Jennifer Lopez. Pacquiao didn’t make the list.
People may be more inclined to look at Bieber as Mayweather’s sidekick these days, but the 21-year-old pop star still has millions of Beliebers out there, including 61.6 million Twitter followers. Tack on another 22 million followers for Lil Wayne, another supporter of The Champ, and you’ve got a giant pool of potential bettors – those who are old enough to legally gamble, that is.
A Belt Don’t Make Me
For the rest of us who are making our boxing picks, we can use some basic handicapping psychology to take advantage of this marketplace. It’s been shown time and time again that public bettors tend to wait until closer to the event itself before opening up their wallets and/or purses. Most of their wagers will be smaller than the seven-figure bets from Fiddy and The Beebs, but when you add them all up, the sheer volume will presumably be enough to encourage sportsbooks to make Pacquiao a bigger underdog, in order to balance the action.
We can also count on casual bettors to be influenced a lot more by what the celebrities are saying, as opposed to minor details like the Tale of the Tape or the clash of styles, or even the boxing odds themselves. And just to emphasize how important grandeur and opulence are to this prizefight, the WBC has commissioned a brand-new, $1-million emerald championship belt to be awarded to the winner. It’s quite the number, too, adorned with the pictures of Muhammad Ali – and former WBC president Jose Sulaiman, who passed away last year at the age of 82. Just in case you needed a reminder of where the true power lies in boxing.