No matter how much time goes by, fight fans still hold a special place in their hearts for the elusive Mayweather vs Pacquiao confrontation that’s induced an equal amount of boners, headaches, sneers, prayers and crying jags in the boxing world ever since the tantalizing idea first took root all the way back in 2009. And while the hope that the most important fight of this era might somehow, someway materialize has never completely faded away, it is, surprisingly, particularly strong at the moment, given that Floyd and Manny will soon be competing within three weeks of each other in Las Vegas.
It’s ironic then that despite Mayweather and Pacquiao garnering so much current attention, the possibility of them finally fighting is as remote now as it’s ever been. The man who nicknamed himself “Money” claims there’s no amount of dough that could move him to do business with Bob Arum, his former promoter and the man who controls Manny. And while the Pacman’s contract with Arum’s Top Rank is due to expire at the end of this year, given Manny’s record of loyalty to Uncle Bob it’s hard to imagine him becoming a free agent–much less jump ship to Golden Boy Promotions–in order to make a showdown with Mayweather a reality.
Mayweather vs Pacquiao is far from the only match that’s become moot thanks to the promotional Cold War, but it is definitely the most relevant one. In its absence, Mayweather and Pacquiao have, with different degrees of success, engaged in contests of lesser magnitude and appeal. While Pacquiao can boast of his historic rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez, Mayweather starred last year in one of the biggest events in the history of the sport when he took on Canelo Alvarez. But the truth is even that fight is but a red dwarf compared to the supernova that would be Manny vs Money.
It’s hard to tell whether the enmity that has prevented Mayweather vs Pacquiao was the cause or a consequence of the promotional Cold War, but it certainly has not helped either way. In fact, things are moving in the opposite direction, as the Cold War has become frostier and grown in scope. Trying to make sense of the plausiblity of certain matchups would entail the disentangling of various vested interests, not only of Golden Boy and Top Rank, but also the other big promoters and managers and the feuding television networks.
But despite this, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao continues to cast a large, dark shadow over everything the two fighters and their promoters do, and indeed over the sport itself. It doesn’t matter that Pacquiao will be trying to settle his unfinished business with Timothy Bradley this weekend in a genuinely intriguing matchup, or that Mayweather has settled for a money-grabber against the tough-but-crude Marcos Maidana in May. One of the most circulated stories to be read this week involves Arum’s tirade against the MGM Grand of Las Vegas–whose Grand Garden Arena will host both Bradley vs. Pacquiao 2 and Mayweather vs. Maidana–castrating them for daring to market Mayweather’s bout more heavily than Pacquiao’s.
And this is just the beginning. The fact Mayweather and Pacquiao will each perform in the same ring within less than a month will yield a multitude of comparisons: the buzz generated by each card, the quality of their undercards, the amount of PPVs sold, the number of gamblers each attracted to Las Vegas, and, naturally, the volume of cash flow generated by each star. Mayweather vs. Pacquiao–ever since its inception as an idea–took a life of its own, and has by now transitioned to the material world as a sort of self-sustaining mini-industry of endless speculation. Fight fans, the media and even casual observers are drawn to its light like moths to a flame, even when its promise of ever happening are practically zero.
We might speculate that fans’ hopes will be kindled anew if Pacquiao finds a way to thrash Bradley this Saturday and if Mayweather posts yet another un-dramatic performance against an outclassed Maidana and calls arise again for the obvious fight to finally happen. But hope eventually clashes with reality, in which it sees itself materialized or vanquished from its holders’ mind. Our rational side tells us that Mayweather vs. Pacquiao will never happen, and even if it did, it would only be a cheap version of what might have been five years ago. But the hopeful side of us can’t help but keep wondering, “What if…” It’s a sad comment on the current state of the fight game that this is so. — Rafael García