Mayweather-Pacquiao bout faces 21st century issues

How Mayweather protects multi-million dollar grill

The fight of the century has taken the better part of the 21st century to come together.

Two weeks before the world learns who is the world's undisputed welterweight champion, Floyd "Money" Mayweather and Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao are sparring in training, while their management teams spar behind the scenes, reportedly over tickets. (Tweet this)

"There have been some last-minute business problems, and they are being worked out," said Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum. If they aren't worked out, Arum said that a final mediator is on standby.

"In the documents, we have agreed that if there is a dispute, that (CBS CEO) Les Moonves is the arbiter to settle all legal disputes," he said.

While he said there's always the possibility of a natural disaster like an earthquake stopping the fight, "Assuming Les survives to May 2, the chances of the fight not happening because of a business dispute are nil."

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (left) and Manny Pacquiao pose at the end of a press conference on March 11, 2015, in Los Angeles.
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The estimated numbers for the fight are staggering and break all previous records: The bout could bring in $400 million to $500 million in revenues. More than 3 million people may pay up to $99 for the pay-per-view, and a 60-40 split in the pot between Mayweather (guaranteed $120 million) and Pacquiao (guaranteed $80 million) could skyrocket. Win or lose, Mayweather will take home more pay in a single day than any athlete has ever made in a single year.

"It's a little bit about the legacy, it's a little bit about the money, it's about the fans," said Mayweather this week. "It's a little bit about everything wrapped in one."

Pacquiao told CNBC that the only way Mayweather's camp would agree to the fight was if Pacquiao agreed to take less money than his opponent. "I don't want the fans disappointed with this fight not happening," he said. "The fans are waiting five or six years to make this fight happen."

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A new era in boxing brings new challenges. Live streaming via cellphones through Meerkat or Periscope could threaten maximum profits. "We have a team of 'pirate catchers' who are going to be sitting at this," said Arum. "I'm not going to tell you how, but they shoot down the streams. It's almost like a video game, some stream is up and they shoot it down."

This match is not only needed to determine who really is the greatest fighter on the planet, it's also needed to bring some American viewers—white males, in particular—back to boxing. Arum has promoted fights from Muhammad Ali to Oscar De La Hoya, but in this century, he has watched a generation of young men turn to MMA and the UFC.

"If you ask Hispanic kids about boxing, they know it. If you ask African American kids about boxing, they know it. It's only the white Caucasian males that we've lost to to MMA," he said. "The good news about boxing is the demographics are changing. In a few years, the young African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians will be the majority of the country."

Pacquiao, a Filipino, has a massive Asian following in the United States and in the Pacific and is admired by Mexicans and Mexican-American fight fans, as well.

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Another change he has watched is the rise of social media, which lets rumors flourish but also gives fighters new means of control over their image. Few boxers have mastered social media better than Mayweather, who left Arum years ago to run his own promotions company.

"Floyd is a marketing genius," said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. "He understands what consumer needs are."

Father and trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. said his son did not inherit his business sense.

"He didn't get it from me," he said. "But I will tell you, I'm a guy now that learned how to have money in the end, and make money off the money I got."

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Mayweather is the betting favorite, an undefeated fighter who is bigger than Pacquiao. This week at his training facility in Las Vegas, he displayed a gold cake listing all his conquests in the ring. However, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach is unfazed.

"I'm happy (Pacquiao) is the underdog," he said, "because people will make more money betting."

While both sides insist this fight is really about making history, it is clear that no matter who wins, everyone goes home rich. Roach was asked how much money he'll make May 2.

"A lot," he replied.

Enough to finally stop working?

"I don't need to work now," Roach said.

Maybe it really isn't just about the money.

—CNBC's Jessica Golden contributed to this report.