“Boxing is a business” is the phrase fighters, promoters, managers, and even fight fans use to justify about 85% of the matches that we get to see on TV nowadays–incidentally, that’s also the approximate percentage of fights that are either blatant mismatches, a bore to watch, or showcases for coddled up-and-comers. It’s also a phrase that is used to explain about 100% of the fights that fans want to see and don’t get made.
Why did Canelo Alvarez chose Amir Khan over Gennady Golovkin for his first middleweight title defense? Because boxing is a business. Why did Nicholas Walters refuse a high six-figure payday to face Vasyl Lomachenko? Because boxing is a business. Why won’t Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev ever trade punches in a sanctioned bout? Because boxing is a business. Why do talented fighters like Mikey Garcia, Andre Ward, and Guillermo Rigondeaux, among many others, go through long periods of inactivity without any ring appearances at all? Because–all together now!–BOXING IS A BUSINESS!
Alas, “boxing is a business” might also become the reason why Manny Pacquiao–supposedly about to embrace retirement following a revitalizing win over Timothy Bradley last weekend–ends up lacing them up again, and sooner than we anticipate. After his redeeming performance on Saturday night, which partially made up for last year’s #MayPac fiasco, many would like to see the Pacman continue fighting. In that category you can count his promoter, Bob Arum, as well as his beloved trainer, Freddie Roach.
When asked about it in the ring immediately following the reading of the scorecards, Pacquiao confirmed he will step away from boxing because that’s what he promised his family he would do. Then he repeated this same statement in the post-fight press conference. But not only did Pacquiao sound less than convincing on both occasions, there’s also the fact it’s hard to believe someone who stands to profit so handsomely from fighting — and someone who spends so liberally when he’s not training for a fight — won’t be tempted back into the ring. This is especially so if really big fights are just a signature away.
One such fight would be against Mexican star Canelo Alvarez, whose sole criteria for climbing into the ring these days include: 1) that his opponent’s name doesn’t rhyme with pumpkin, and 2) that the agreed weight limit is set somewhere between 154 and 159 pounds. Sure, #PacNelo wouldn’t be an easy fight to make, but it’s definitely within the realm of plausibility. The main obstacle is the size differential between the Filipino and the Mexican, but this wouldn’t be the first time Manny Pacquiao moves up in weight significantly for a fight. The Dream Match against Oscar De La Hoya saw him move from lightweight to welterweight to earn a shocking stoppage. His engagement against Antonio Margarito was signed at a catchweight of 150 pounds, and on fight night the Mexican outweighed him by 17 pounds. Pacquiao still beat the bejesus out of him.
Freddie Roach has said it would be necessary to cap Alvarez’ rehydration weight to manage his obvious advantage. But there’s reason to believe an agreement can be reached on this point. It’s true Canelo has been adamant in dictating terms for his recent bouts, especially when it comes to weight, but the fact the Mexican is running out of recognizable opponents not named Golovkin may force his hand into accepting a rehydration cap against Manny, particularly if he’s interested in maximizing his revenue and exposure before taking on a risky fight with the Kazakh.
Some point out that Canelo has no choice but to face Golovkin after he dispatches Amir Khan on May 7, mainly because the World Boxing Council ruled that should he not do so, he will be stripped of his title belt. But if a fight between two huge stars in Canelo and Pacquiao is finalized, it’s hard not to envision the WBC twisting intself into a pretzel to accommodate it, even more so considering the huge amount of money the match would generate (a portion of which would, conveniently, end up in WBC coffers).
To recap: a fight with Manny would not only allow Canelo to garner tremendous exposure, it would also net him a truckload of money. Additionally, it would also represent a winnable fight against a modern legend, one whose name would look fantastic on the Mexican’s Boxrec page. That Pacquiao also happens to wear a significantly smaller shoe size is just a fringe benefit. If that weren’t enough, the icing on the cake is that short of Mayweather coming back from retirement to grant Canelo a rematch, Pacquiao is the biggest fight the Mexican could take while keeping GGG in the backburner until next year–something which has almost certainly been Oscar De La Hoya’s plan all along. Moreover, fighting and defeating Pacquiao would boost Canelo’s appeal and earnings potential, thus increasing his leverage at the negotiating table when the time comes to do business with Golovkin. At that point, Canelo’s undisputed status as the sport’s cash cow would perhaps overwhelm the Kazakh’s aversion to catchweights. On the other hand, a potential Canelo loss to Pacquiao could be easily pinned on the catchweight and weight cap. Problem solved.
For Pacquiao, the incentives are different. First, a megafight with Canelo would provide Manny with another huge pile of cash, something he burns through with alarming speed as he seeks to augment his political standing in the Philippines. Plus, by fighting Canelo, the amazing Filipino would be aiming for an incredible sixth lineal title, and should he somehow become the middleweight king, Manny’s legacy would hold something significant over Mayweather’s, his loss to Floyd notwithstanding. This matters because all the attention and accolades that would befall Manny in light of such a historic feat might be enough to stoke Floyd’s jealousy and competitive fire so that he feels he has no option but to get back in the ring.
And before you dismiss this train of thought as too far-fetched, just remember the driving force behind Mayweather’s career in his latter days: be the center of attention at all times, at all cost. Also, don’t forget Floyd Mayweather himself already set a precedent to the above scenario back in 2009, when he cut short his retirement in the wake of Manny’s stoppage of De La Hoya. He would surely be willing to come back to boxing for a tremendously lucrative rematch against a guy he already easily defeated.
Ever since losing to Mayweather last year, Manny and his team have voiced over and over their desire for a second go-around with Floyd; a fight with Canelo could be the Pacman’s golden ticket to it. Pacquiao would lose very little in defeat to Canelo, a much bigger and stronger opponent, whom he would face in the twilight of his career. But were the Pacman to beat Canelo in the same way he beat Margarito or even Bradley last Saturday, the drums would surely beat louder for MayPac 2 than at any point since May of last year. The stage would thus be set for a rematch to the most lucrative prizefight in history. Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? Not by any stretch. When “The Theater of the Unexpected” has been replaced by “Boxing is a Business”, the only certainty we can count on is the commanding allure of the almighty dollar. If recent history is anything to go by, no one is beholden to that allure as much as the sport’s brightest luminaries.