LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Next week's fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is expected to be the most lucrative ever in boxing but that does not necessarily make it the biggest of all time, veteran promoter Bob Arum told Reuters.
The heavily anticipated megabout in Las Vegas on May 2 is projected to become the sport's top-grossing showdown, pulling in close to $500 million in pay-per-view, but Arum says it is impossible to rank contests from different eras.
"It's different," the 83-year-old Hall of Fame member told Reuters in a recent interview while his boxer, Filipino southpaw Pacquiao, was preparing for yet another sparring session at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California.
"You can't compare fights, you can't even compare the great fights that took place in the eighties with (Sugar Ray) Leonard and (Marvin) Hagler and (Thomas) Hearns and (Roberto) Duran.
"They were all big, major, monster events but they're different. We didn't have pay-per-view then, and we didn't have any social media then. You can't compare fights in different eras because the communications change so much."
Arum has worked with giants of the ring such as Muhammad Ali, Leonard, Hagler and Duran, and he became one of boxing's most influential figures in the 1980s, along with fellow promoter and long-time rival Don King.
During that decade, Arum organized superfights between Hagler and Duran followed by Hagler and Hearns, and went on to pit Hagler against Leonard, Leonard against Hearns in a re-match and Evander Holyfield against George Foreman.
Asked by Reuters when he last felt the level of heightened expectation he has experienced ahead of the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout, Arum replied: "I think for the first Ali-Frazier fight, and I am speaking as somebody who was around then.
"I don't believe my memory is playing tricks, I really believe that the whole country was up in arms about that fight. The whole country stopped but we only could reach 400 closed-circuit locations.
"There were no satellites so very few people saw that fight live. It's so different now. You just can't compare fights in different eras."
That bout took place in New York in March 1971 when Ali was beaten for the first time as a professional, losing to Frazier in what was dubbed "The Fight of the Century".
Next week's bout, however, has captivated genuine boxing fans as well as casual observers of the sport with the undefeated and defense-minded Mayweather taking on the aggressive Pacquiao in the biggest fight for decades.
Many pundits believe that the May 2 showdown is one of the most eagerly anticipated in boxing since the classic 1975 'Thrilla in Manila' between Ali and Frazier, and Arum loves the match-up because of its contrasting styles.
"It's a very interesting fight because Floyd is a defensive specialist who has a good right hand and picks off his opponents," Arum told a handful of reporters at the Wild Card Boxing Club. "He's an extraordinarily good fighter.
"Pacquiao's strength is speed, particularly his foot speed and the fact that he throws so many punches and attacks from low angles. He really hits harder than Floyd does, so that's really what it's going to be about.
"Floyd's defense is primarily his shoulder roll, and a lot of his defense is geared against a right-handed fighter. I think Manny (a southpaw) is going to surprise a lot of people with how he is going to be able to reach Floyd."
Editing by Frank Pingue