-- The national anthems have been sung, the fighters have been introduced, and the referee has given his final instruction. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao jog restlessly in their corners, listening for a sound they and much of the world have been waiting to hear for more than half a decade -- the clang of the opening bell.
The final few seconds before the start of a fight are arguably the most suspenseful moments in sports, a heady cocktail of delicious anticipation and nervous energy. Nobody knows for sure what is going to happen, but everybody is keenly aware the truth is about to be revealed.
Despite assurances of victory from both camps and their supporters, the upshot of what takes place inside the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday will remain a mystery until the fight has run it course and the official outcome has been announced. That means there's still time for the favorite prefight activity: speculation. To that end, here are 10 scenarios of how things could go down, what the consequences of each would mean to the fighters and the sport, and the chances of the individual scenarios actually happening.
Mayweather wins by knockout
Mayweather's straight right is a fundamental part of his success and has discouraged most foes from being as brave as they'd planned to be going in. It's not a single-shot knockout punch, but you better believe it hurts. Floyd uses his right hand sparingly because that's usually all he needs to get the job done. Against Pacquiao, however, he'll probably have to make a stand at some point, and when he does, Floyd's right would be key. It wouldn't be entirely unprecedented if Manny, fired up and eager to finish his prey, rushed headlong into a perfectly timed right and found himself face-first on the canvas.
What would it mean for Mayweather? The crowning achievement of a brilliant career.
What would it mean for Pacquiao? Retirement talk would abound, but Manny would probably want to try again. That's just the way fighters are.
What would it mean for boxing? A fitting finale to the richest fight in history.
Chance of it happening: Fair to middling
Pacquiao wins by knockout
Although some boxers have retired undefeated, no fighter is unbeatable. It's just a matter of timing and circumstances, and Pacquiao could be the right man at the right time. His style is unlike anything Mayweather has faced before, and you just know Manny is going for broke. Could he stop Floyd? Yes, he could, especially if he refuses to allow Mayweather to set the pace and terms of engagement.
What would it mean for Pacquiao? Elevation to god-like status in the Philippines (and a cinch to win the Senate seat he covets), a return to the top spot on pound-for-pound ratings and the continuation of one of the most amazing thrill rides in the history of sports.
What would it mean for Mayweather? The worst part would not be losing. It would be the collapse of his carefully constructed tissue of invulnerability. But perhaps after a while, Floyd would see it for what it really is: an opportunity to prove he can overcome adversity.
What would it mean for boxing? A heavy blow to the Premier Boxing Champions juggernaut, but in all likelihood not a fatal one. Nonetheless, Manny and, by association, Top Rank and HBO would be back on top of the boxing food chain.
Chance of it happening: Decent
Mayweather by shutout decision
This is the outcome so many Mayweather fans have been predicting since the match was first broached. From the start, Floyd's faithful have been absolutely positive Manny doesn't have a chance. Many Mayweather supporters seem so emotionally invested in his aura of perfection, even a competitive fight with their man coming out on top is unimaginable.
What would it mean for Mayweather?: It would be the ultimate I-told-you-so moment for Floyd and his fans. Social media would be inundated with celebratory rants, sales of TMT merchandize would explode, and wannabes throughout the world would be practicing the shoulder roll in front of the mirror.
What would it mean for Pacquiao?: Philosophical and humble acceptance of defeat by Manny would be virtually assured -- along with a pound-for-pound nosedive and a drastic cut in earning power.
What would it mean for boxing? It would be like killing the golden goose to have a banquet. A shutout is such a definitive result that it would essentially end a rivalry that created the richest boxing match in history. Who knows how long it would be before we see anything approaching its magnitude again?
Chance of it happening: Doubtful
Pacquiao by shutout decision
It's no surprise there's hardly any talk about this possibility. Sure, part of boxing's charm is its ability to confound expectations, but we're so used to watching Mayweather win round after round, fight after fight, year after year that a shutout seems too much to expect. It's a bit like being brainwashed.
What would it mean for Pacquiao? A shutout victory would be greeted with a mixture of incredulity and wonder. Such an improbable outcome would be hard to wrap your mind around -- one of those you've-got-to-be-kidding-me moments, when it takes a while for your intellect to catch up with your eyeballs.
What would it mean for Mayweather? Floyd would be living his worst nightmare. How he'd react to such a wretched state of affairs is hard to imagine. Would he shake it off like a dog emerging from water -- the way Pacquiao has after a setback -- or come up with some lame excuse? With no wriggle room on the scorecards, I'm guessing he'd take the high road.
What would it mean for boxing? A systemic power shift on the business end of things and a radical re-evaluation of both fighters.
Chance of it happening: Remote
Mayweather by comprehensive decision
Regardless of the margin of victory, a decision in Mayweather's favor has been deemed the most likely outcome by oddsmakers and a majority of the media. It's the safe prediction, the one you hear the most, even among those who would like Pacquiao to win.
What would it mean for Mayweather? A feeling "Money" can't buy.
What would it mean for Pacquiao? Not quite as bad as losing every round, especially if it was a hard-fought match, but a nasty hit to his iconic status and market value, nonetheless.
What would it mean for boxing? Nothing else, not even a match with Gennady Golovkin, could compare to the Mayweather-Pacquiao mother lode. Although the pairing would have lost much of its magic, the unprecedented revenue from the first fight could be so tempting a sequel would not be out of the question.
Chance of it happening: Good
Pacquiao by comprehensive decision
Popular opinion seems to be that Manny's best chance of winning is to stop Mayweather. But I think he has an equal, if not better, chance of winning on points. To get the decision, Pacquiao would have to dominate, but to stop Floyd he would have to achieve total domination. They are not the same thing -- not when you're fighting one of the finest defensive boxers of all time.
What would it mean for Pacquiao? Any sort of legitimate win over Mayweather would be a game-changer, but you have to wonder if Pacquiao could get a close decision in Vegas. Floyd's recent PPV numbers far exceeded Manny's, and if you believe in the follow-the-money theory, it's easy to come to the conclusion that Pacquiao is going to have to win comprehensively (or better) to get the decision, anyway.
What would it mean for Mayweather? Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greatest fighter of them all? Floyd would no longer be able to look himself in the eye and claim the honor is his. There would be only two viable choices: Rematch or retirement.
What would it mean for boxing? A reshuffling of the pecking order and a blockbuster encore.
Chance of it happening: Entirely possible
Mayweather by robbery or controversial decision
A controversial decision is not the same as a robbery. A controversial decision is one over which reasonable people can disagree. A robbery is an atrocious decision awarded to the fighter who clearly got the worst of it. Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III was a controversial decision. Bradley-Pacquiao I was a robbery.
What would it mean for Mayweather? Floyd's reputation would suffer, and the onus would be on him to fight Pacquiao again. The more outrageous the scores, the louder the hue and cry.
What would it mean for Pacquiao? Manny would say he thought he won but wouldn't complain. He wouldn't have to. Millions of fans would do it for him.
What would it mean for boxing? The hackneyed "Black Eye For Boxing" headline would be trotted out for the umpteenth time, but the public's thirst for a rematch would practically guarantee it would happen.
Chance of it happening: Within the bounds of reason
Pacquiao by robbery or controversial decision
Far less likely than a contentious verdict in Mayweather's favor, but you never know with boxing. A fight isn't always won inside the ring. Maybe the biggest struggle would be behind the scenes. Who has the most juice in Vegas these days: Bob Arum or Al Haymon?
What would it mean for Pacquiao? Pacquiao has built his career on emphatic victories, not close calls or gift decisions, so he could probably get away with a what-are-you-gonna-do shrug. It would be, as Manny is wont to say when things go wrong, "just part of boxing."
What would it mean for Mayweather? Mayweather and his minions would go bonkers, and rightly so, if it were indeed a rip-off. It would be interesting to see how Mayweather reacts to being cast in a sympathetic light, a role to which he is unaccustomed. Would he go from heel to baby face overnight?
What would it mean for boxing? The sport would take a pounding from the mainstream media for being involved in yet another fiasco. Nonetheless, a rematch would be a no-brainer.
Chance of it happening: Unlikely
Some sports books are giving 16-1 odds on a draw, and though such a result would be doubtful, it's not a totally ridiculous notion. Why couldn't it end in a draw? The contestants are widely considered the best two fighters in the world. What would be so strange about it being a very close fight?
What would it mean for the fighters? An even more vigorous debate over their merits would ensue, fueling appetites for a second serving. If the first encounter had been a "drama show," a rematch under such circumstances might do better business than the first fight.
What would it mean for boxing? Another superfight
Chance of it happening: Marginal
Injury ends bout prematurely and inconclusively
Barring a fatality or life-changing injury, a no-decision or no-contest would be the worst possible result. Consumers, regardless of whether they were rooting for Mayweather, Pacquiao or just wanted to see a good fight, would feel cheated, particularly because the price of PPV and tickets to the live event were so extravagant.
What would it mean for the fighters? The most likely cause of such a catastrophe would be an accidental clash of heads in the early going, which results in one or both of the fighters being unable to continue. The fans get essentially nothing, while the fighters (as disappointed as they might be) still go home with an obscene amount of money. MMA fans would laugh at what suckers we are.
What would it mean for boxing? In the immediate aftermath, millions swear they would never again watch a fight, let alone purchase a boxing PPV. Conspiracy theorists would insist it was a choreographed plot to defraud the public. But none of it wouldn't matter. The desire to find out once and for all who is the better fighter would trump the resentment.
Chance of it happening: Possible but not probable