By Lamar Sparkman
The proposed deadline from Bob Arum for a decision on whether Floyd Mayweather will accept a fight with Manny Pacquiao has passed and we’re no closer to a fight now then we were 7 months ago when talks fell apart. Arum held a conference call at 12am pacific Saturday morning to give an update on the past few weeks of negotiations and where Pacquiao sets his sights for his proposed November 13 date.
Obviously boxing fans are going to be disappointed because they don’t care about contractual demands, disputes, and negotiation rhetoric. They only want what’s universally considered the biggest fight that can be made in recent years between the 2 best fighters in this era. At this point its hard to point the finger at who’s to blame because in a sense the business that is boxing is to blame but that’s a topic for another day.
Arum claims the negotiations have been handled exclusively between Mayweather advisor Al Haymon and HBO sports president Ross Greenburg. Since both sides agreed not to discuss negotiations to the media there has been little information about the fight other than Arum stating that Manny has agreed to the drug testing and from what he’d gathered they were moving to a positive conclusion. “Ross for the last month has been telling me that Haymon was working very hard to get the agreement done with Floyd. A couple of weeks ago I told him I wanted to do this fight very badly, as did Manny, but at a particular point in time we have to move on.” Now that Manny has obligations in the Philippines as a congressman, he has very short windows to do promotions and press, thus he needed an opponent to be named to fit training into his legislative duties.
Since Arum has not talked directly with Mayweather reps and Floyd himself hasn’t spoken publicly all he knows is Mayweather refuses to commit to the fight. He speculates that it could be his trainer/uncle Roger Mayweather’s legal situation over an incident involving a female boxer. “Right now I understand Floyd’s position – I believe his position regarding Roger. We know about this serious issue regarding Roger. I can understand Floyd delaying any plans for a future fight until there is a resolution of the Roger situation. Once you understand that, how can you jump on the guy?” The case is scheduled for trial next month. Until Mayweather talks publicly about why the fight isn’t taking place its all speculation and since both sides have been quiet it’s hard to blame either fighter. Did Manny agree to all points including random drug testing as Arum has stated? Have both sides really agreed to the purse split? Does Mayweather not want to fight again this year? Is he waiting on a resolution with Roger? All questions we don’t have answers to and at this point fans are beginning not to care.
Although it seems unlikely, the fight could still take place this year as Arum concedes, “The fight that we want to do is Mayweather. We never said any different or acted any different. Manny wants to and has to fight in November. So we have to proceed in getting him an opponent and wrapping up a fight and if in the interim Floyd decides, despite the Roger situation, he’s ready to fight Manny…absolutely, that’s the fight we want.” If not it looks like the fans can look forward to seeing a rematch with newly crowned WBA jr. middleweight Miguel Cotto or a fight with jr. middleweight Antonio Margarito; all promoted by Top Rank. Both fights would be a disappointing and a disservice to boxing fans and why I believe this fight has boxing held hostage.
One thing we know is that Arum, Pacquiao, and trainer Freddie Roach have publicly stated for months how bad they want this fight and how disappointed they would be if the fight doesn’t take place. Holding a deadline was a calculated move by Top Rank to be seen as the party who was willing to make the fight and put the onus on Floyd. They knew he wouldn’t budge because he prides himself on being his own boss and doing things his way which publicly makes him look like he doesn’t want the fight and if he doesn’t one can only imagine why arguably the best technical and defensive fighter of his era would turn down the richest fight in history. I never question the courage of a man that gets in a ring and risks his life but I do wonder if Floyd is scared of losing his undefeated record.
Floyd came out of retirement at age 32 after 21 months out of the ring to face Marquez in what amounted to a tune up. Negations started after Pacquiao defeated Cotto in November and broke down over drug testing. He then agreed to face Shane Mosley in May and put on one of his best performances but for weeks there’s been talk of him wanting to take a year off and come back next spring. After close to 2 years off why would he take more time off and risk losing his biggest payday and the biggest challenge that would undoubtly cement his legacy. Why come out of retirement and not face the biggest threat out there unless he truly wanted to “steal money” and fight lesser opponents. This is a terrible miscalculation on his part on so many levels. Number one anything can happen in boxing so what if Pacquiao losses in November, that would greatly take away from the anticipation because the demand is predicated on both being at their peak. Even if he doesn’t Manny turns 32 in December and although he’s looked like a physical machine lately walking through and chopping down bigger men in his last few fights, looking at his face after the Cotto and Clottey fights indicate he does take punishment and at some point it has to take a toll. Could Team Mayweather be observing this and pushing the fight up another year? Also Floyd turns 34 in February and regardless of how great he is Father time waits for nobody and surely his team realizes the longer they wait the greater chance of him losing reflexes and speed which is a big part of his game. The world doesn’t want to see either fighter diminished when they face each other; they want to see two superior athletes and extraordinary boxers in their primes. That window is slowly closing and if it doesn’t happen this year or next spring then it will lose momentum and won’t have the demand it has now because fans will be turned off. Which is why this whole thing is immensely absurd, and why the biggest fight in history may not happen and if so may not be as good as it would’ve been had they come to terms this year.
There’s still time to make this fight but both fighters and their advisers need to come to their senses and realize how important this fight means to the sport of boxing and both their legacies. People wonder why boxing has lost its popularity and I’ve grown tired of hearing the sport is dead but this fight a microcosm of the problem. Everyone involved needs to let go of their ego’s and not blow this historical event instead of looking back 20 years from now wondering what if, the window is slowly closing and hopefully they won’t let it slip away.
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