Mayweather vs Pacquiao: Will They or Won’t They?

The never-ending saga of Mayweather vs Pacquiao continues with new reports, bogus or otherwise, surfacing almost everyday. Hopes were raised when the two fighters met at a Miami Heat basketball game and afterwards various people, including Bob Arum, declared the match was virtually signed and sealed. This past Friday, the gossip specialists at TMZ ran a story saying Mayweather vs Pacquiao was a done deal, only for Showtime boss Stephen Espinoza and Floyd Mayweather himself to vehemently deny that is the case.
The rollercoaster of developments sparked a lively email exchange among some members of our staff as they tried to make sense of the whole thing. The conversation began with a simple “Do you believe Mayweather vs Pacquiao will happen May 2,” and from there the discussion meandered every which way, reflecting the conflicting viewpoints of most boxing fans who, after six years, have a love-hate relationship with a match that has been driving them nuts for far too long. Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments section. 

Michael Carbert: So what do you think, guys? Is it about to happen? Will Mayweather and Pacquiao finally meet in the ring?

Robert Portis: I have no idea but if forced to predict, I would say, yes, it’s going to happen. That conclusion is based primarily on one thing: Floyd has nowhere else to go. The public perception (and I think it’s true) is he has avoided this fight for years and he stands to lose the most now if it doesn’t happen, in that the damage to his image, and likely his drawing power, will be substantial. As I wrote back in October, I think the Maidana fights undermined him as a major attraction. So I believe that while he’s trying to make it seem otherwise, he’s basically in a corner and has little choice but to finally face Manny. Not to mention, Showtime is probably putting pressure on him to do so as well.

I think the public is fed up. In 2010 and 2011 everyone could accept them not fighting because the sense was a showdown was inevitable, it was going to happen, and other fights were part of the buildup. Then the Marquez KO completely changed things up and everyone knew it wasn’t going to happen until Manny regained his status. Meanwhile Floyd has this aura about him, which I think the Maidana fights damaged. He was given a pass of sorts by the public because he was seen as just miles ahead of everyone else. The Marquez knockout of Manny only reinforced this view. But the dynamic has completely changed and now the fight is in danger of losing its appeal and I think this is why we see an effort to try and make it happen. We are at the end. People have run out of patience and the match is losing its luster. And I believe Floyd and Haymon and others recognize this and are looking to cash in.

Would ‘TBE’ be troubled by Maidana the way Floyd was?

Eliott McCormick: Given everything that went wrong in prior negotiations, how can anyone confidently say whether or not it will happen? We collectively have zero insight into the negotiations, and only get Bob Arum’s disinformation, which gets parsed to bits, and out of which no truth emerges. Their staged meeting at the Heat game represents a development, I guess, but I hate the way business is being done. Put another way, I resent Floyd’s presumption that fans should all stop when he deigns to give us something to discuss. He is a far less appealing figure than he realizes. Floyd’s talent is exceptional but it’s the only interesting thing about him. Outside of the ring, the idiotic “Money Mayweather” construction is one of the most boring personas ever adopted by an athlete. His manipulation of the news cycle is an insult to any thinking boxing fan. Only when he’s in the ring, fighting a legitimate opponent like Manny Pacquiao, should people pay attention to him. I disagree that Maidana undermined him as a major attraction, though. I think, more than anything, people have just tired of Floyd not making the fight they want to see.

Robert: Well, it is, at the very least, a contributing factor in terms of the public’s disenchantment. If Floyd had dispatched Maidana with ease in their first fight and then soundly defeated Amir Khan this past September, the present dynamic would be significantly different. At the very least, people like Stephen A. Smith would not have called Floyd out and demanded the Manny fight. Instead the paradigm would have stayed the same: “Floyd is TBE; it’s enough just to watch him perform; everyone better appreciate him while he’s still here.” His less-than-impressive performances against a non-elite brawler, an opponent who was supposed to be a ‘gimme,’ completely undermined all that.

Rafa: I’m not sure I can contribute anything useful to this debate, mainly because I’m still trying to get over the shock of having my boxing-fantasy-bubble popped by Eliott’s interview with Charles Farrell. Being at the moment heavily influenced by Farrell’s dictum that boxing’s powerbrokers are control junkies, I believe that not only was the basketball meeting a pre-planned PR stunt, but that the 5-year-long wait for what will become the highest grossing fight in boxing history may have been part of some master plan. Sure, Marquez almost derailed it for good in December of 2012, but Manny and Arum found a way to come back.

Going back to the basketball-game meeting, if we’re to believe what Mayweather, Pacquiao, Michael Koncz and Bob Arum are saying to the press, all that was needed to make this megafight a reality was a meeting in person between the two fighters, which means we all could’ve been saved a lot of time if either Floyd or Pac had crashed just one of each other’s events over the past five years. It’s something that happens all the time in boxing; how come it never happened between Mayweather and Pacquiao? How ridiculous is it that the biggest fight in boxing history could only come about because of a random encounter at a basketball game? Seriously guys, this is some Wag the Dog level of orchestration we’re witnessing, and it arouses the conspiracy theorist in me while also pissing me off.

Mayweather vs Cotto was fun, but there’s no need for a rematch

Michael: While no doubt there’s some degree of manipulation behind the scenes, I think it’s important to resist the idea that everything is orchestrated and fights are regularly fixed. For example, unlike Farrell, I don’t believe for a second that either AliListon match was fixed, and having watched both fights numerous times I fail to see how any careful observer of those contests could think they were. I think the five year wait is primarily about Floyd having two powerful incentives not to fight Manny Pacquiao. First, that Pacquiao represents a definite threat in terms of speed, power and the southpaw style. While Floyd may believe he can beat Manny, he doesn’t know he can, the way he has known in almost every one of his matches since his huge showdown with Oscar De La Hoya. And second, he hates Bob Arum’s guts and doing a Manny Pacquiao fight means working with Top Rank and helping to further line Bob’s pockets.

On the other side, there really exists no huge incentive for Bob and company to make this fight. Top Rank rakes in millions every time Manny steps into the ring, no matter the opponent, and they know working with Floyd means giving up the lion’s share of the upside to The Money Team. Put all this together and there’s no way this match gets made without some strong outside influence, which is what has finally materialized. But what about this courtside meeting? Was it planned? What do we make of it?

The Summit in Miami

Eliott: We can call the meeting “Ball Summit”, since they met at an NBA game and it’s the first time Floyd has shown some balls where Manny Pacquiao is concerned. What can we make of it? Apparently they both met in person in Manny’s hotel room afterwards, and the conversation was “encouraging” according to a dude who was there. “Encouraging” is an adjective used by business people to nebulously convey positivity, but it doesn’t tell us shit. We need signed contracts.

Robert: Well, the main thing I take from it is it was a smart PR move from Floyd. He has changed up the public perception of the situation and he did it with minimal effort. A short walk across a basketball court did his public image more good than anything he’s done in the last year or more, and with that single move he’s cast serious doubt on the widely held view that Floyd is ducking Manny. I would love to know if it was planned in advance or not, but even if it wasn’t, Floyd saw the opportunity, seized it and put Pac on the defensive. Now the voices calling Floyd a “ducker” are necessarily much more quiet, despite the fact there’s no question as to who has been avoiding who the last five years. Again, just a smart move and one that, if this new dynamic persists, could work in Floyd’s favor in the ring. If Floyd can be the boss before the fight and in the making of the fight, it can only enhance his chances of being so in the fight.

Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez
The night the dream of Mayweather vs Pacquiao almost died

Eliott: It’s true that a walk across a basketball court changed public opinion in his favour, but Floyd was always going to be the boss. He is the A-side, and will certainly command the negotiations prior to the fight. To your point, it reinforced something Floyd has always said about himself in relation to Pacquiao: that he answers only to himself while Manny is led by the nose by people like Bob Arum. This is an implicit shot at Pacquiao’s intellect because it suggests he’s too dumb to take control of his career. But, while Pacquiao has nowhere near Floyd’s outsized aggression, that’s inconsequential in the ring, where stylistically, Manny will come to him and force the action.

Robert: My point is less about the A-side/B-side thing and more about the psychological aspect of the match. Up to this point I saw Manny being on very solid ground mentally, in that the guy who wants to fight always has an edge over the guy who’s reluctant. From Mayweather’s point of view, it’s important that prior to an actual fight he change that up to present himself as someone who is more than willing to face Manny. It flies in the face of everything he’s been doing the last five years, not to mention public statements by 50 Cent and others close to him, but that doesn’t matter. As the Ball Summit showed, one can quickly transform the psychological dynamic at play with some well-timed aggressive gestures. The key thing is Floyd came to Manny’s side of the court. Had Pac walked over to Floyd, preferably without any advisers in tow, and proffered his hand and a big Manny smile, the PR victory would have been the Pacman’s.


Rafa: Regarding your assessment that Mayweather sees himself as his own boss and that he implies Manny’s not smart enough to become his own, I counter that Mayweather is way more invested in his identity as a prizefighter than Manny is. Floyd—to at least some degree—does see himself as TBE, and everything he’s ever done in his professional life aims at cultivating that perception of himself. In Mayweather’s mind, the platonic “TBE” has an undefeated record (check), makes unprecedented amounts of money (check), and collects as many belts as he does luxurious cars (check). I’m not saying I agree with him in any way, but I do think this sort of mindset influences the way he manages his career.

Manny Pacquiao, on the other hand, behaves more like a guy who’s just happy to be where he happened to arrive, and can’t be bothered to manage the details of his fighting career, including choosing opponents. Manny’s got way too much stuff happening on the side to be fully invested in his fighting career: he’s a singer, an actor, a celebrity, a pageant judge, a congressman, a basketball player, a Bible study group leader, and God knows what else. To put it another way, if instead of finding success in boxing Manny had become some sort of global singing superstar, it wouldn’t have made the smallest difference to him. This, in my mind, explains a lot of his laid-back attitude to the business side of boxing.

Eliott: Or maybe it’s just that Pacquiao isn’t the egomaniac that Floyd is.

Assuming they do a co-promotion, will Jim Lampley do an about-face on Floyd Mayweather? His comments on Floyd’s behaviour and personality were highly critical, not to mention, accurate. Will he openly root for Pacquiao to win, and resurrect the “Bang Bang” ejaculation? Will he cry at some point? (That’s a rhetorical question. He’ll certainly cry.) He’ll probably handle it professionally, and call the fight with his usual mixture of convoluted language, subtle self-aggrandizement, and name dropping. I’m half-kidding. I actually like Lampley.

Robert: I want Howard Cosell. No one else. They have to bring Cosell back from the dead, clone him or something. No Lampley, no Kellerman, no Bernstein, no friggin’ Roy Jones Jr. And after all the shit he’s spewed the last several weeks, no Malignaggi.

Michael: And here we are devoting all this time and attention to a fight that may never happen. A huge segment of the boxing world was convinced the match would be announced at some point during the Super Bowl. That didn’t happen and now we’re hearing it’s getting too close to a deadline for a May 2nd event and everyone’s pointing fingers as to who’s holding things up. One guy who has consistently maintained that it’s not going to happen is our very own Manny Montreal. And you know, he recently made an interesting point: both Manny and Floyd will be free agents in 2016. Their respective contracts with Showtime and Top Rank will be finished and at that point they could cash in even more on the public’s inexhaustible interest in this fight. Manny’s been correct so far on everything and he’s adamant it’s not happening any time soon. So how about it guys? All together now: May-Pac in 2016!

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