The two will lock horns in a much-anticipated welterweight showdown at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 2, in what was surely the final year the encounter could have been made.

[FULL STORY: MAYWEATHER v PACQUIAO FINALLY SIGNED AND SEALED]

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Some doubt the fight will live up to the massive hype between the ropes. Many feel it will be a shadow of the spectacle it would have been had the original discussions in 2009 yielded a result.

However, the majority simply won’t care about any of that. Any version of Mayweather v Pacquiao will be better than never, and the records the event will no doubt break will be proof of this.

So, with over two months to wait before the two certain future Hall of Fame inductees go face-to-face in Vegas, what exactly led us to this moment? And, why now?

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THE FAILED NEGOTIATIONS

In 2009, Mayweather and Pacquiao were as close to agreeing a fight as they ever were, until now. Talks fell through, however.

Shortly after Pacquiao had stopped Miguel Cotto at the very same venue he’ll meet Floyd in May, it appeared as though details such as money, date and location had been agreed between both parties for a 2010 megafight. Then Mayweather demanded drug testing run by the United States Anti-Doping Agency during the business end of their training camps for the showdown.

Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum withdrew from negotiations at that point.

To be clear, this wasn’t Pacquiao refusing to undergo drug testing entirely. What Mayweather demanded was above and beyond your most common testing practices. Pacquiao claimed donating blood for testing less than a month before the fight was too short notice for his body to recover.

Because of the specific details of Mayweather’s demands, and Pacquiao’s subsequent attempts to at least compromise on the nature of the drug testing for the fight, many boxing fans perceived the move as a deliberate one by ‘Money’ to torpedo the fight.

2009 was a banner year for Pacquiao. Fresh off defeating Oscar de la Hoya in eight, ‘Pac-Man’ infamously wiped out Ricky Hatton in two rounds that May. Both de la Hoya and Hatton were defeated by Mayweather in 2007, arguably Floyd’s best calendar year as a professional.

Not only were the two at the peak of their powers, both in-ring and commercially, but their vanquishing of the same top-level foes seemed to put them on collision course.

With one swift demand, talks fell through. And though there were multiple attempts at re-opening the discussion in 2011 and 2012, Mayweather v Pacquiao would remain nothing more than a talking point which overshadowed all of the two fighters’ subsequent bouts against other guys.

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THE RE-IGNITION

In 2014, the Pacquiao v Mayweather debate raged on. Only this time, there seemed to be an increased degree of urgency within both camps to actually make it a reality.

Mayweather outclassed previously-unbeaten Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in September 2013 in a hugely-successful bout which, on the flip side, struck off the one remaining non-Pacquiao name the masses were genuinely excited to see tackle Mayweather’s unbeaten streak.

Pacquiao recovered from a horrible 2012, where he was controversially judged out of his match with Timothy Bradley before being knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth battle, by leading the charge to tap the market in China against Brandon Rios and then avenging his loss to Bradley.

Very few people cared about Mayweather fighting Marcos Maidana, whether ‘El Chino’ ended Adrien Broner’s unbeaten streak or not. Even fewer cared for their pointless rematch. The same can be said of the Pacquiao v Chris Algieri mis-match.

After Manny defeated Bradley last April, I wrote that the duo’s advancing ages and the lack of viable ticket-sellers elsewhere meant a clock had started ticking on their chances of ever doing battle.

Read that piece here.

That clock, thanks to Mayweather’s Showtime deal up until the end of 2015 – taking into account the possibility Floyd would fight once more after that, to try and reach the magical 50-0 milestone – would run for two years, I argued.

Thankfully, they didn’t even let it run halfway.

After fan reception to Mayweather possibly fighting Amir Khan or Lucas Matthysse on his favoured Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2015 was tepid at best, Mayweather famously called out Pacquiao on live television last December.

Surely, Floyd would only do that if he seriously wanted to make it happen, right?

Mayweather’s history of teasing one fight and then going off to do something else meant most fight fanatics weren’t going to fall for it this time.

It was only when the two finally met in person at a basketball game earlier this year that many finally felt we’d get the fight we have been waiting for since 2009.

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THE INSIDE TRACK

Kevin Iole is the chief fight sports writer for Yahoo Sports US, our Stateside sister website. If and when Pacquiao and Mayweather signed to fight, he would be one of the first on the scene.

Follow Kevin on Twitter here.

Iole spoke on the phone to Mayweather within hours of the pound-for-pound king breaking the news via social media. Floyd claims he was always confident the fight would happen, “one day”.

You can read his comments in full here.

As for the road to May 2 itself, Iole had this to say: “Mayweather has fought four of the six fights on his record-breaking Showtime contract and didn't have an opponent out there who would have made the kind of show that would resonate with the public the way a Pacquiao fight would.

“Pacquiao remains under an exclusive television deal with HBO, so that further complicated the attempts to match the fighters. Only once previously, in 2002 when Lennox Lewis (HBO) and Mike Tyson (Showtime) fought, have the two premium cable giants gotten together to do a pay-per-view.

“These most recent talks began in November and were started by CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, a longtime acquaintance of Arum's. Roach actually got them together by speaking to a friend of his who owns a Southern California pizza restaurant that Moonves frequents.

“Moonves and Arum were joined in the talks by HBO CEO Richard Plepler. And while there were many false alarms along the way, they were able to get the deal done.

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“Arum told Yahoo Sports on Jan. 13 that Pacquiao had agreed to terms for the bout and that all that was required was for Mayweather to agree.

“But because Mayweather, the pound-for-pound king and the sport's biggest pay-per-view attraction, had the upper hand and was dictating the terms, there was a lot of scepticism and back and forth.

“Mayweather and Pacquiao spoke face-to-face for the first time during these negotiations Jan. 27 at American Airlines Arena in Miami at a Heat-Milwaukee Bucks game. Pacquiao had served as a judge at the Miss Universe pageant in Miami two nights earlier, but because of bad weather on the East Coast, his flight to Los Angeles had been canceled.

“As a result, he went to the game to see the Heat because he’s friends with Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. Mayweather, who owns a home in Miami, also attended the game and walked over to speak to Pacquiao at halftime. Later, Mayweather went to Pacquiao's hotel room and they had further discussions.

“That led to intense speculation of an announcement, but it took several more weeks before the deal could be consummated.”

[IOLE: AFTER OVER FIVE YEARS, RELIEF FOR ALL INVOLVED]

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SO… WHAT WILL HAPPEN ON MAY 2?

Of course, there’s no guaranteeing what will happen at the big event. Heaven forbid, big fights have been postponed thanks to unfortunate injuries in camp before. So, the first hope is that both men remain healthy – especially after all it has taken to get here.

If the road to May 2 runs smoothly, it’s important to remember that the fight itself will have a tremendous task in living up to all of this hype. Especially when you consider that it’s one battle neither man will want to lose.

Many contests in any sport that boil down to who wants it the most run the risk of losing that ‘thrill’ factor. For Manny and Floyd, entertaining viewers who have already spent their money on the bout will come second to emerging victorious. After the novelty of seeing the two trade punches fades after the first couple of rounds, it will likely boil down to tactical attrition.

[OVERREACTION THEATRE: TICKETS FOR JUST £5,100!]

Both men and their respective representatives have had differing philosophies on undercards over the years. Mayweather v Canelo had a fantastic, loaded undercard. Arum famously said “nobody gives a **** about the undercard” before packing Pacquiao-Bradley II very lightly underneath.

Arum’s beliefs will prevail here – nothing but the main event matters. However, plenty of top fighters will be keen to support them and get a piece of the financial action.

Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner and more will all be possibilities – but don’t expect any of them to waste a potential seller of a fight against each other or another top guy on May 2.

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PREDICTIONS

Right, now it’s on, there’s no better time than the present to speculate.

Early predictions are always the most interesting for any event – it’s how we get our most spectacular guesses, whether spot-on or ridiculous.

So, let us know what you think will happen on May 2 in the comments section below. And go all-out – Pacquiao-Mayweather fight prediction, undercard line-up suggestions, guessing which celebrities will walk Mayweather to ringside – the lot.

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Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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