Will Pacquiao vs Mayweather Jr ever happen?

May 20, 2009 in Boxing by pacejmiller

Right after Manny Pacquiao’s unexpected (for most) drubbing of Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008, people were already talking about a potential matchup between former Pound-for-Pound and ‘retired’ champ Floyd Mayweather Jr.  Now after Pacquiao’s brutal demolition of Ricky Hatton in 2 rounds and Mayweather announcing his ‘return’ on the same day, everyone is expecting this amazing showdown to take place before the end of 2009.

But wait, there’s two obstacles.  The first is Juan Manuel Marquez, who will lace up his gloves to take on Mayweather Jr on July 18 (now postponed to September 19 – see my prediction for this fight!).  Many believe this will be no more than a ‘tune-up’ fight for Pretty Boy Floyd, simply because Marquez is way too small for him (and has to leap two divisions just to be in the same weight class), and will eventually lead to the fight with Pacquiao that every fight fan wants to see.

Mayweather Marquez

Marquez stands in the way of Pacquiao-Mayweather

However, it’s not impossible that Marquez can beat Mayweather.  Marquez has been in fine form since his split decision loss to Pacquiao (which many thought he won) whereas Mayweather hasn’t fought a round since December 2007 when he put the first black mark on Ricky Hatton’s previously unblemished record.  Marquez also desperately wants to fight Pacquiao for the third time (the first bout ended in a controversial draw) so there is that added incentive.  If Mayweather loses a step or two from the layoff or overlooks Marquez then it’s not inconceivable that he could lose.

Nevertheless, that is not the main obstacle between a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout.  The second, and most difficult hurdle to overcome, is financial.

Reports say that as soon as Pacquiao knocked out Hatton, promoters were already busy trying to work out a deal for Pacquiao to fight Mayweather in December 2009 (provided the latter defeats Marquez, that is).  However, as expected, early indications are that things have not gone smoothly.  Mayweather Jr is all about money and he wants the lion’s share of a 60-40 split with Pacquiao, who was willing to settle for a more civil 50-50 split.

There is simply no way that Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, will accept a 60-40 split, especially when: (1) Pacquiao is almost unanimously the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world; (2) Pacquiao is also widely regarded as the most exciting fighter in the world; (3) Pacquiao defeated both De La Hoya and Hatton in a much more dominant and spectacular fashion than Mayweather; and (4)Pacquiao is much more popular than Mayweather around the world, and perhaps even in America.

The problem is, Mayweather is one of the those guys that seem unwilling to budge because he knows he has leverage.  People often criticise Floyd for his unwillingness to fight the toughest fighters out there, and they say his method of escape is to price himself out of risky fights by throwing down hard-line purse splits that are overwhelmingly in his favour, to the extent that the other side gets insulted and simply walk away.

Mayweather probably knows that Pacquiao’s team will never accept a 60-40 split, which could be why he insisted on it in the first place.  Now, it could be that he genuinely doesn’t care who he fights has long as he gets paid handsomely for it (supporters will point to his lower split against De La Hoya, but at $25 million it was still by far his biggest pay day ever), but critics will argue that he’s getting cold feet after seeing Ricky Hatton’s brain almost getting knocked out of his skull by Pacquiao.

Is this why Mayweather is pricing himself out of fighting Pacquaio?

Is this why Mayweather is pricing himself out of fighting Pacquaio?

To support his case for a bigger share, Mayweather will undoubtedly point to his former (which I’m sure he’ll say is ‘current’) position as the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world and his undefeated record.  He will also point to his past PPV successes, especially against De Lay Hoya (2.4 million) and Hatton (915,000), where he did better in both than Pacquiao (1.25 million against De La Hoya and around 850,000 against Hatton).  And while Mayweather is clearly not as liked as Manny Pacquiao, he still has a sizeable fan base, and there are also many that would be willing to pay to watch him lose.

[Note: Having read some of Mayewather Jr’s non-promotional interviews, I’m convinced he’s not truly the arrogant dickhead he makes himself out to be.  He had a very tough upbringing with a drug-addicted mother and an estranged father who was sent to prison for drug-smuggling and was incredibly hard on him all his life.  After seeing Mayweather Sr ramble on like a moron on HBO’s 24/7 I an inclined to believe him.  Floyd also seems like a dedicated father to his four children.  But there is no doubting he loves money – perhaps his ploy is to get as many people to hate him as possible so they will pay to see him lose, kind of like what Ali did back in his day.]

Of course, Arum will point out that the PPV numbers are deceiving.  Mayweather’s fights against De La Hoya and Hatton didn’t take place when the entire global economy went down the shitpipe, whereas Pacquiao’s did.  Throw in the fact that Pacquiao’s popularity in the US didn’t really take off until after the De La Hoya fight and that Hatton was no longer undefeated, you could make an argument that Pacquiao’s PPV numbers were even more impressive than that of Mayweather’s.

So, where does that leave the fight every fight fan wants to see?

Much of this will depend on what happens on July 18 (now September 19) when Mayweather takes on Marquez.  If Mayweather wins convincingly, he’ll have more leverage in getting a bigger purse because he can say he’s back on top as Pacquiao struggled against Marquez (even though that was a different Pacquiao to the beast he is today).  But the most important indicator is the PPV performance of the fight.  If it really sucks (ie significantly below the 500,000 PPV buys expected), then Mayweather loses a significant portion of his leverage.  Even his most loyal supporters will start to question his courage and legacy if he tries to price himself out of a Pacquiao fight from there.

If that happens, then Mayweather may decide to budge from his 60-40 stance, simply because he knows going 50-50 with Pacquiao will still earn him a lot more money than going 70-30 against anyone else out there.  Pacquiao’s team might even soften their position a little and go for something like the 52-48 split we saw with Pacquiao-Hatton just to make it happen, because they too know the fight will be guaranteed to rake it in, and losing a couple of percentage points is better than getting nothing at all.  Personally, I would like to see a deal struck where the lion’s share of a 60-40 split goes to the winner of the fight, but that’s highly unlikely.

For now, all those that want to see Pacquiao fight Mayweather can only (1) hope that Mayweather stuggles but wins against Marquez and (2) boycott the PPV buys for that fight! (and now (3), Pacquiao win his fight against Miguel Cotto in November)

[Update: As I noted in my later post with the hilarious Mayweather Jr interviews, I no longer put the blame exclusively on Floyd Jr because it appears as though Arum and Roach are also insisting on 60-40 but in their favour, though it remains to be seen whether that is just a strategic move.  HOWEVER, Floyd has since signed on for 5 fights with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, which means Pacquiao-Mayweather is getting closer to reality.  De La Hoya still hates Arum in all likelihood (like Mayweather) but at least he is willing to do business with him.  With so many fights to fight and Floyd wanting to maximise his earning potential, it’s a good bet that he’ll get into the ring with at least one of Pacquiao, Mosley, Cotto or Berto.  The chief exec of Mayweather’s own promotion company who is working with Golden Boy says Floyd will take on all the supposed best fighters out there after Marquez, one by one.  Hope he’s referring to the guys I mentioned above, not the likes of Edwin Valero.]

[Update (July): Looks like it might be a while before Mayweather squares off with Pacquiao, but I am still hopeful it will happen.  Mayweather injured his ribs in training and so the Marquez fight has been rescheduled to September 19.  Strangely he has refused to divulge how he sustained the injury, only willing to say that it was a ‘freak accident’.  Some speculate whether the defensive master got tagged in the body during sparring, but Mayweather says: ‘Believe me, it wasn’t a small guy that done it, but it didn’t even come from sparring’.  So does this mean it was a big guy who did it outside sparring?  Mayweather has also laughed off speculation that he is in financial difficulty, and revealed in a recent interview with Brian Kenny that he is NOT going to accept a 50-50 split with Pacquiao as proposed by Bob Arum.  So it appears Arum is willing to reduce Manny’s purse to 50% in order to make the fight happen, but Mayweather won’t accept.  Interestingly, word is that the Mayweather-Marquez fight is struggling to sell, so that might help Floyd change his mind in the future.  On the Pacquiao side, it appears he will first fight fellow Top Rank boxer Miguel Cotto (who just came off a split decision win against Joshua Clottey) around November 14.  Weight (probably catch weight around 142) and purse split (probably 60-40 in favour of Pacquiao) have not yet been finalised.  Let’s hope both Pacquiao and Mayweather win and a fight against each other (or either against Shane Mosley, who has said he will accept a 40% split against Pacquiao) can be signed by the end of the year.]

[Update: (September 2009) encouraging reports are saying that Pacquiao’s camp will begin to negotiate in good faith with Mayweather if they both win their respective upcoming fights.  Let’s hope they do.  They are optimistic that a deal can be worked out, provided reasonable and rational demands are made.  From what I hear, the Pacquiao/Cotto fight is doing well, whereas it took quite a while for Mayweather/Marquez to fill up the seats.  Arum’s 50-50 proposal sounds reasonable to me, but even if it’s 55-45 I think Manny will be willing to take it, though I’m not so sure Arum will.  I guess we have to wait and see.]