The Mega-fight that may never happen
The biggest boxing match of all-time between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao has been (or not been) in the making for almost three years, ever since Pacquiao defeated Ricky Hatton in May of 2009.
But of course, there has always been something in the way. First it was a dispute over Olympic-style blood testing not required by the sanctioning bodies. Then it was Floyd Mayweather Jr wanting to take a break. Then there were the negotiations that supposedly took place but supposedly didn’t. Then it was the defamation case against Mayweather for alleging Pacquiao used/uses performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Then it was the legal troubles of Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle and trainer. Then it was Mayweather going to jail for assaulting his ex-girlfriend. There was always some crap in the way, and after a while, it all smelled the same.
Just when it looked like the most lucrative fight ever would never take place because of greed, egotism, selfishness and (for lack of a better term) cowardice on both sides, there was an unexpected twist. A Las Vegas judge agreed to delay Mayweather’s short 90-day jail sentence to 1 June 2012, allowing Mayweather to commit to his pre-scheduled 5 May 2012 fight date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Interestingly, Mayweather’s camp initially announced the 5 May 2012 fight date on 2 November 2011, less than a week after Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, claimed that the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would “never, ever” happen because of Mayweather. At the time Mayweather announced the date, they were without an opponent (a strange thing in itself), but they did proclaim that they were after the biggest fight possible, and that was with “the little fella”. It could not have been more clear that they were finally and officially calling out Pacquiao, who was coming off an unimpressive victory over Shane Mosley and was about to head into his third war with Juan Manuel Marquez 10 days later .
After Pacquiao narrowly escaped with a controversial majority decision win against Marquez on 12 November 2011 (which many thought he lost), the stage was set for the two to finally make the fight happen. But then Mayweather was sentenced to jail (6 months, 3 months suspended), essentially derailing the fight once again.
Arum ducking and dodging
Following the handing down of Mayweather’s sentence on 21 December 2011, Bob Arum declared that he was going to the Philippines to present to Pacquiao four options for his next fight, none of which included Mayweather because he was going to be unavailable. The options were: Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao had already knocked out, Juan Manuel Marquez, whom Pacquiao had already fought three times, and Lamont Peterson and Timothy Bradley, two young but relatively unknown opponents.
None of the four were even remotely as appealing as a Mayweather bout, but Arum enjoyed using Mayweather’s jail sentence to justify that he had no other alternative. More importantly for the greedy 80-year-old, it meant he could milk his cash cow Pacquiao for longer, as a loss to Mayweather would clearly diminish Pacquiao’s value or even send him into permanent retirement.
What Arum didn’t expect was the judge to delay the sentence and allow Mayweather to fight on 5 May 2012, and for Mayweather to then expressly call out Pacquiao on Twitter.
“Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see,” Mayweather tweeted, followed by, “My Jail Sentence was pushed back because the date was locked in. Step up Punk.”
The temporary reprieve for Mayweather must have caught Arum off-guard, because he was obviously flustered and began contradicting himself as to why Pacquiao could not fight Mayweather on May 5. When Mayweather became unavailable, Arum was happy to suggest 5 May 2012 (which is Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo) as a possible fight date for Pacquiao’s next fight, especially if was going to be a fourth bout with the Mexican Marquez. When Mayweather suddenly became available, May 5 was suddenly “out of the question.”
“June 9 is perfect,” Arum told The Times from The Philippines. “May 5 is out, that’s impossible.”
To make the excuse less pathetic, Arum said he would be willing to chip in for lawyer fees to try and postpone Mayweather’s jail sentence until after 9 June 2012, but everyone could see through it.
Other lame justifications Arum proffered included the cut Pacquiao suffered against Marquez (even though it would be completely healed by May) and the fact that Mayweather would need to be re-licensed to fight again in Nevada (even though there is ZERO chance of that not happening).
Arum basically shot the whole thing down: “We’re fighting in June, one of the four guys,” he said to ESPN. ”My mission is to go over to the Philippines and talk about these four guys. If Manny feels he wants to go in May, he will tell me. I want to make sure Manny’s cuts are healed. We won’t fall under this kind of pressure. June is much more likely for Manny’s fight, not May.”
When pressure persisted, Arum came up with alternative “reasons” for why 5 May would not work. This time, it was because the date made no “economic sense”. According to Arum and Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz, the MGM Grand’s 17,000-seat capacity was too small and that they ought to wait until a 45,000-seat outdoor stadium in Vegas is completed in late May to host the fight. This larger arena would fetch an estimated additional $30 million.
For whatever reason, reports later surfaced that Arum was no longer pushing the new arena “reason” and was willing to stage the fight at the MGM Grand, but he still wanted a date in late May as opposed to Mayweather’s scheduled May 5 date.
He also added a new potential excuse: Mayweather will need someone to guarantee his fight purse (as Golden Boy Promotions isn’t going to do it), something which he will do for Pacquiao. It’s not really something he needs to be concerned with as this will need to be worked out from Mayweather’s side.
Manny Pacquiao speaks out
Manny Pacquiao, for his part, has received a lot of flak from critics and fans alike for “hiding behind his promoter”. In the past, Pacquiao simply said that he left the matchmaking up to his promoter (Arum), and that it was his job to fight whoever they put in front of him. That stance is no longer working, because at the end of the day, Arum works for Pacquiao, and if Pacquiao wants to fight Mayweather, all he has to do is tell Arum to make it happen no matter what.
Initially, Pacquiao’s camp was defiant, posting this statement on the Examiner.com: ”We don’t take MAYWEATHER’S tweet seriously, and are always ready to fight the undefeated AMERICAN anytime. Sign the contract, sign a statement. If you really want the fight, we say yes.”
Later, perhaps due to mounting pressure, Pacquaio has become more vocal, telling Filipino news outlets that Mayweather is definitely the one he wants. “I’ve said this over and over before and I’m saying this again, I want Floyd Mayweather Jr to be my next opponent and I haven’t changed my choice despite recent developments,” he said to PhilBoxing. “I am meeting with my promoter, Bob Arum on Tuesday and I will insist that the fight with Mayweather be given the preference than the four others in the list I will fight next.”
Pacquiao also added: “I will abide by his [Mayweather’s] demand for drug testing. I am even agreeable to get lesser purse just so the fight would push through. In other words, as far as my side is concerned, there will be no problem.”
Perhaps Pacquiao spoke too soon, because shortly after he backed off the “lesser purse” comment. In a later interview with ABS-CBN news, Pacquiao said: “To all my fans, we are still waiting for Mayweather to say ‘yes’ to a 50 percent split of the revenue and the fight is on. He should be the one to say ‘yes’ because he has so many representatives. If he accepts it, he will make $50-60 million.”
However, it was also reported that if Mayweather does NOT accept a 50-50 split, then the fight will not pull through and Pacquiao will fight one of the four pre-named opponents.
So now we wait for Mayweather to respond, though given the history of this debacle, a number of other “issues” could potentially pop up at any minute and derail the whole thing again. But one thing is clear: both the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps are running out of excuses to make the fight happen, and if the fight is not made by the end of 2012 (some would say May), both men’s legacies will be tarnished forever.
If what Pacquiao says is to be believed, the only thing holding up the fight is Mayweather agreeing to a 50-50 split, something he is bound to do regardless of whether he believes he is entitled to the lion’s share. After calling out Pacquiao in such a public fashion, there is simply no way that Mayweather can allow the fight to fall, certainly not for something like the purse split. Everyone has always assumed the split will be 50-50, and suggestions of anything else will be met with the condemnation of the whole boxing world.
Sadly, reality is much murkier. Pacquiao makes no mention of the bigger issue, the date. There is a real possibility that something as silly as the date of the fight will stop it from happening this time (after all, all other excuses have been exhausted). The crux of the matter appears to be whether Mayweather can genuinely get out of his 5 May 2012 commitment.
First of all, we know there is no real reason why Arum cannot accept a 5 May 2012 date. Sure, a later date and a bigger venue might make more money, but if it comes down to it, the fight is going to be the biggest fight of all time no matter where it is held. Earning say $50 million instead of $70 million is better than not earning anything at all. If Mayweather can legitimately prove that he cannot budge from the May 5 date for contractual or court-stipulated reasons, then Pacquiao and Arum will become the “duckers”.
On the other hand, there is not enough information out there about the flexibility of Mayweather’s arrangements with the MGM Grand. Is he contractually locked in to 5 May 2012? What will happen if he doesn’t fight on that date? If they were just “holding” the seats for him and it’s not really that hard to get out of it, and with jail not commencing until 1 June 2012, there is no real excuse for Mayweather not to agree to a later date either.
News outlets outside the US appear to be siding with Pacquiao, saying that he has “called Mayweather’s bluff”, but if you ask me, both sides are trying to test each other. Both sides want to be the one left standing at the end, the one that can say, “I told you, he was the one ducking ME!”
Both sides to blame
The truth is, this fight could have been made back in 2010, after Mayweather defeated Juan Manuel Marquez and after and Pacquiao dismantled Miguel Cotto, when both men were at their peaks. Even if they do fight in 2012, Mayweather will be 35 and Pacquiao 33, and it’s arguable that the best years of both men are now behind them.
Now disgruntled fans have become sick and tired of all the posturing and mind games and criss-crossing accusations from these two very wealthy athletes and all the false hope and broken promises they have delivered over the past few years.
Initially, the fans were split. Probably more blamed Mayweather for the fight not happening the first couple of times, but some also blamed Pacquiao for not accepting the blood testing protocols. Then the tide shifted, and while Pacquiao still has his loyal supporters, the blame has gradually but surely shifted to him and Bob Arum. Arum’s latest excuses has only worsened the situation for the Filipino superstar, who is already going to be fighting off PED accusations for the rest of his life, thanks to baseless accusations of the Mayweathers, of course. More recently, a large contingent of fans in the middle has emerged, fans who see both of them as co-conspirators in this tiring charade.
Despite the passionate rantings of supporters from both sides, the objective truth is the both camps are to blame. It comes down to two egotistical sides who want to make the other side look bad and their life difficult simply because they hate each other and simply because they can.
The first time around, the fight fell through because Pacquiao refused be submitted to Olympic-style random blood testing up to the day of the fight. Mayweather deserves blame for making up his own rules by insisting on testing not required by the sanctioning bodies. Whether or not random blood testing SHOULD be introduced in boxing (of course it should be), it is not Mayweather’s job to force it upon others and it’s not something Pacquiao ought to be forced to accept. If Mayweather did not make such demands, the fight would have happened already. What the demands did do, however, was plant seeds of doubt about Pacquiao, which has slowly but surely grown into an army of people who are, despite not having a shred of evidence, utterly convinced that “Pacroid” either used or still uses PEDs.
Conversely, Pacquiao also deserves blame for refusing Mayweather’s demands. As many have pointed out, why refuse if you have nothing to hide? Why turn down a potential $50 million pay day because of a few needles, needles Mayweather would also be subjected to? For whatever reason, whether it’s superstition or because Pacquiao believes it “weakens” him, he turned it down, and for that, he must bear some of the blame, and he must also accept the backlash and rumours that have accompanied it.
On the whole, the blood-testing issue was arguably more Mayweather’s fault and reflected an unwillingness to seriously put his undefeated record on the line — at that time. Many people have forgotten that Mayweather implemented a “sliding” cut-off date in negotiations. Mayweather initially wanted a 14-day cut-off for random testing while Pacquiao wanted 30, though he was later willing to drop that down to 24 days as some pointed out that he had blood drawn 24 days out from a previous fight. By the time Pacquiao agreed to 14 days (this was around the second fallout), Mayweather had begun to insist on random testing up to the day of the fight. If 14 days was good enough before, why not the second time around, especially it would have essentially ruled out any PED usage anyway? Seriously, what can one hope to achieve with 14 days of PED usage that would not be detected in post-fight tests?
Of course, when Mayweather decided to embark on one of his famous “vacations” when the time was ripe for negotiations, that would also be his fault. He is obviously entitled to take time off when he wants, but when the whole world wants to see the fight, it’s certainly a curious decision, one that does not help his “ducker” status.
There was also that whole bizarre debacle when Arum stated that he had been negotiating with Mayweather advisor Al Haymon through HBO’s Ross Greenburg, while fellow Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe refuted that any negotiations took place at all. Greenburg eventually backed Arum, but given Arum’s history of lies and the dispute over what actually constituted a “negotiation”, it was safe to say that even if “negotiations” took place, they didn’t get very far at all.
At the time, it was easy to label Mayweather as “running scared”. After all, Pacquiao had demolished in superior fashion former Mayweather foes such as Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and was coming off an impressive victory over Miguel Cotto, a guy some say Mayweather also “ducked.” Mayweather faithfuls clung on to Mayweather’s right to a break and not be pressured into a fight when he isn’t ready, the opinion that Pacquiao was feasting on Mayweather “leftovers”, and the always useful “take the test” line to shift the blame back to Pacquiao.
It’s difficult to recall when the momentum shifted in Mayweather’s favour, but there is no doubt that it did. Perhaps it started with Pacquiao’s decision to fight and his lacklustre win over a seriously declined Shane Mosley on 7 May 2011, another Mayweather “leftover”. Remember, Mosley was thoroughly outclassed by Mayweather a year before that, and had shown nothing in a stinker of a draw against Sergio Mora. No one wanted Pacquiao to face Mosley and yet he did, over better alternatives in Marquez and Andre Berto. Pacquiao copped flak for the decision and deservedly so.
Not long after Pacquiao announced his next fight against Marquez, Mayweather made a comeback statement: he was going to take on young lion Victor Ortiz. Many people applauded the decision — Ortiz was a dangerous opponent, young and strong and a southpaw, meaning he could be viewed upon as a Pacquiao tune-up. At the time, Ortiz was certainly considered a more dangerous opponent than either Mosley or Marquez.
And then, Mayweather dominated and KO’ed Ortiz, while Pacquiao put in another disappointing performance against Marquez, an opponent most thought he would steam-roll the third time around as catch-weight welterweights. The fact that Pacquiao got a majority decision when many thought he lost only added more fuel to the Pacquiao hate-wagon. The defiant “Pactards”, who defend Pacquiao no matter how unreasonably, only made things worse for the Filipino congressman’s reputation.
Pacquiao had been at the top for too long and people were starting to wonder whether he still deserved it. While Mayweather was tackling dangerous foes, Pacquiao was still allowing greedy Arum to dictate his every move and forcing the public to endure his crappy fights against unworthy opponents. It is no wonder why several news organisations replaced Pacquiao with Mayweather as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, a position Pacquiao had held ever since his impressive victory over De la Hoya.
Coupled with the latest developments, where Mayweather has called out Pacquiao and Arum has responded with some unconvincing and transparent “excuses”, it ‘s easy to see why Pacquiao has switched places with Mayweather as the person to blame for the fight not happening.
Nevertheless, just as it was harsh to put all the blame on Mayweather at the beginning, it’s not quite right to say it’s all Pacquiao’s fault this time. Mayweather did, after all, lock in a date and place before even speaking to Pacquiao’s camp. It’s the biggest fight of all time and Mayweather isn’t exactly allowing much room for negotiation. If Mayweather was entitled to “take a break” to avoid the fight for no good reason, why can’t Pacquiao refuse Mayweather’s arbitrary date? Why can Mayweather make his own rules all the time and why does Pacquiao have to accept them?
Then again, this harks back to the previous failed negotiations just before the Pacquiao-Margarito fight, when the two sides were reportedly close to agreeing to a deal, only to have everything fall apart at the last minute. That time, Arum was the one making the ultimatums and forcing Mayweather to “take it or leave it”. If Arum can do that, then why can’t Mayweather?
But like it or not, the bigger share of the fault WILL lie with Pacquiao this time if the fight falls through. For years they have been saying that Mayweather doesn’t really want the fight. Well, Mayweather has made it crystal clear that he not only wants the fight, he wants it to be his NEXT fight. He even has a date and venue locked it. Sure, Pacquiao and Arum can come up with all the excuses in the world why May 5 or the MGM Grand is not a good time or place, but unless they can come up with a legitimate reason to shift the burden back on Mayweather, no one will forgive them if the fight doesn’t happen. And they know it. May 5 or late May — either way, it’s got to happen.
The waiting game
Notwithstanding all of the above, the fight can still very well be made for May 2012. This is the closest they’ve been, and all that’s required is for Mayweather to agree to 50/50 and late May, or Arum and Pacquiao to agree to May 5.
Pacquiao will likely go in as the underdog in this fight, and there is a good chance he will be outclassed (or “exposed”, as some Mayweather fans like to say), but it’s better to see him take the beating of a lifetime than to not step into the ring with Mayweather at all. If he truly fights for the fans like he says, then he’s got to make the sacrifices necessary to make the fight happen.
The same can be said for Mayweather. While he will be the favourite (as he always is), there is still a sizeable risk of losing, but having an “L” on his record against Pacquiao will do far more for his legacy than to retire undefeated but with that big question mark hanging over it.
And so we wait.