Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s shameful reluctance to fight Manny Pacquiao may be driven by fear, according to veteran ring pundits.
The brash, undefeated American fears that the Filipino superstar will stain his record and seriously hurt him as well, they said.
Mayweather himself said so.
Take this from his interview with ESPN.com in 2012 where he accused Pacquiao of using performance-enhancing drugs and the boxing world of not showing any concern for his safety.
"Health is more important than anything," Mayweather said. "Because guess what? When my career is over, if I'm hurt because of something that has happened in a fight, I can't come to you and say, 'I need (money).'
"People say, 'We don't give a f- if he's taking (drugs) or not; we just want to see the fight. We don't give a f- about your health and we don't give a f- about your family.'"
In another interview with NBC's Bob Costas in the same year, Mayweather again explained why he is not keen on fighting Pacquiao.
"I am in the ring to win, not just inside the ring, but outside the ring," Mayweather said. "My health is more important. I come first. Self-preservation. I gotta worry about my family. If the fight don't happen, so be it."
After continuously evading a fight with Pacquiao for two years, however, Mayweather finally ran out of excuses. He told Showtime Sports recently that the time has come for them to fight each other. He said he wanted to fight Pacquiao on May 2 next year.
Pacquiao, who called out on Mayweather again after trouncing Chris Algieri on Nov. 23 in Macau, readily agreed.
The Filipino eight-division world champion held out hope that Mayweather would not throw a spanner in the works so that the negotiations for the projected blockbuster would succeed.
Of late, however, Mayweather has clammed up again, fueling speculations that he had made the fight announcement just to tone down growing sentiment that he has been dodging Pacquiao.
While Mayweather continues to deny the fear factor, two boxing pundits provided insights on it to aubtimes.com.
According to The Wall Street Journal's Josh Katzowitz, Pacquiao is a difficult proposition for Mayweather because he had ended the career of many boxers.
Prominent among them were boxing's former poster boy Oscar De La Hoya, who was forced by Pacquiao to quit on his stool in the eighth round in 2008, and Briton Ricky Hatton, whom Pacquiao knocked out cold in the second round in 2009.
And there were Antonio Margarito, whom Pacquiao reduced into a punching bag in 2010, and Shane Mosley, whom Pacquiao mercifully carried to finish their bout in 2011.
Fight analyst David Phillips of the Sweet Science said Pacquiao's punches are still more devastating than Mayweather's.
While Mayweather can dodge most of the punches, Phillips said the judges will likely be swayed by Pacquiao's aggression and activity.
Even casual boxing fans can read between the statistics.
Comparing their performances against common opponents, Pacquiao has the better grade.
Mayweather won by split decision over De La Hoya and took 10 rounds to stop Hatton.
Pacquiao also stopped Miguel Cotto, whom Mayweather beat by unanimous decision.
It's only against Juan Manuel Marquez that Mayweather enjoys the edge, having dominated the Mexican in their lone meeting in 2009.
In contrast, Pacquiao has a 2-win, 1-draw, 1-loss record against Marquez, who knocked him out in the sixth round of their fourth bout in 2012.