Pacquiao-Mayweather: What’s the Deal?

Columns, Top Story

Citing popular culture’s growing trend to focus on disappointing or tragic events in the lives of others, some people would say that, in today’s world, no news is good news. At the moment, someone like Tiger Woods, whose name currently runs as its own topic slot on most news shows, might agree.

Not in boxing.

In this sport, as good as the best battles can be, half the show comes in the form of press conferences, weigh-ins and unrestricted trash talk. And, with the Internet boom of the 2000s opening a whole new world of access, all of it has been made available to fans eager to shower fighters with boundless praise and unabashed criticism.

Currently in the middle of what have been perhaps the most reported-on negotiations ever in boxing, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are receiving their share of both.

On November 15, Pacquiao stopped Miguel Cotto in boxing’s last superfight. Post-fight talk immediately turned to a potential clash between Pacquiao, the world’s number one fighter, and Mayweather, the previous pound-for-pound king, who retired without a loss in 2008 only to return in 2009 to reclaim his throne.

In one of the most in-depth interviews of his career, Mayweather sat down with Sky Sports less than a day after the fight and challenged Pacquiao to call him out. A week later, working through Golden Boy Promotions, Mayweather gave CEO Richard Schaefer the okay to begin negotiations with Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum to make the fight.

Going into negotiations, many feared the fight couldn’t be made because Mayweather would no doubt ask for the bigger share of the purse. Long before Pacquiao fought Cotto, Arum had made it clear that Manny wouldn’t accept less than a 50-50 share. But to the shock of many, Mayweather reportedly agreed to the split.

HBO apparently wanted to set the fight for the first weekend of May – which has historically been the highest-generating date of the year for two reasons: falling days within Cinco de Mayo, the date appeals to Mexican-rooted fight fans, who make up a large portion of boxing’s fan base in the United States and Mexico. Oscar De La Hoya, who realized the opportunity presented, tried to land many of his biggest fights then, including his fight with Mayweather – boxing’s highest-earning fight in history.

Pacquiao-Mayweather is expected to eclipse the buys generated by that fight.

While De La Hoya-Mayweather pitted the most popular fighter in the world (De La Hoya) against the best fighter in the world (Mayweather), Pacquiao-Mayweather matches up the undisputed number one and number two fighters. The order of their placement is regularly up for debate.

Once Mayweather reportedly accepted the purse split, word leaked out that Pacquiao would not fight on the May date due to congressional ambitions in the Philippines. Arum told the LA Times, “If he has to run against an opponent, then he’ll have to start campaigning for the May 10 election on March 25. If that’s the case, then Mayweather would have to be willing to fight March 13.”

Days later, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach was quoted by several boxing outlets as saying, “Mayweather doesn’t want to fight in March, so we might fight for the 154-pound title in March and move up for that eighth world title. Yuri Foreman might be the opponent. It is a possibility, and then Mayweather in September. If they guarantee me that, we’ll do that, but I need more of a commitment from Mayweather because he’s not negotiating too well.”

Just after that, Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that Mayweather had again surprised his critics by agreeing to fight on March 13. Excited by the news, Arum jumped on a plane to take the terms to Pacquiao in the Philippines, more or less threatening Manny to take the fight by talking of the repercussions of backing out after so much hoopla had already been made.

But the Pacquiao camp threw another curveball, suddenly claiming just days after Mayweather’s agreement that Manny didn’t want to fight before the elections. Frank Gascal, Pacquiao’s lawyer, told the Asian Journal that Manny was against fighting in March to April.

And Roach, who just days before talked about fighting Foreman in March, had a change of tune, saying, “There’s no way it’s going to happen that soon. There won’t even be enough time to promote the fight, and I want Manny to rest.” He told the LA Times a similar story, claiming, “March 13 is too fast a turnaround.”

Shortly thereafter came a report from Dan Rafael of ESPN that Pacquiao ultimately agreed to March 13, though obstacles remained.

What seemed to have transpired was a great deal of posturing, and it’s apparently still ongoing as neither man has actually signed a contract affirming a date, venue, weight class, glove size or ring size. The weight is rumored to be at 147 pounds for Pacquiao’s WBO title, with a glove size of 8 oz. The venue appears to be down to either the MGM Grand of Las Vegas or Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.

The reason none of the aforementioned details have been confirmed might be because they, in fact, remain undecided. Both sides are defending their respective fighter by referring to a “gag order” preventing anyone from discussing the terms in detail. That seems to be a nice way of saying both men are being difficult about the negotiations and that, after almost a full month at it, everything still wasn’t settled.

Somebody – likely both Mayweather and Pacquiao – is holding up negotiations apparently by trying to get as much wiggle room as possible before attaching his name to anything in stone.

And that is not going over well with fans waiting to make reservations and saving up for the money they will undoubtedly be asked to pay for a ticket – fans who scourge the Internet daily for confirmation that the fight is officially signed.

And it’s hard not to be skeptical for fans who suffered through what may have been boxing’s biggest debacle in the last decade – the failed negotiations between Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins in 2002. At the time, Jones and Hopkins were the best two fighters on the planet but couldn’t come to an agreement on what weight they should fight at or the money allotted to each man for taking such a big risk.

Excuse boxing fans for being a little distressed during this negotiation period between Pacquiao and Mayweather because, quite frankly, it’s all a little too familiar.

Keep in mind that everything going on behind closed doors at this point is merely speculation, and that is what has boxing fans perturbed at the moment. In an age where fighters are easily accessible and can speak their minds with a simple video upload or Internet radio interview, the “gag order” is simply out of place.

In truth, most of the details of this historically tough negotiation period will be forgotten the moment the fight is announced. And rightfully so. Fight fans are ready for the news that everything has come together and will celebrate when it does.

If it does.

And hopefully, the payoff – in the form of the press conferences, the weigh-in and the actual fight – will make all the tension from the signing period worth it.