Mayweather: One foot out?
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2015 - 12:00am

Did Floyd Mayweather really ever have plans of fighting Manny Pacquiao in the first place? As of Sunday Manila time, some pieces of the puzzle are falling into place to show that there may never have been any solid plan on his part to participate in the fight, and that all pronouncements that the record-setting setto would happen are just another attempt to stay relevant in the public’s eye.

In the past weeks, Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions, who handles Pacquiao’s fight promotions, has been adamant that the megabuck confrontation will become a reality in May. Pacquiao has supposedly agreed to all the terms that Mayweather has set. Supposed details of the deal include drug testing, a bigger share of the purse for Mayweather, choice of venue (Las Vegas), and so on. If you were to listen to Arum, the ink has already dried on the contract. The only thing missing is Mayweather’s signature, which has been a long time coming.

As reported by The STAR, the latest to add their opinion that the fight was pushing through is Stephen Espinoza, executive vice-president and general manager of Showtime Sports, which holds the rights to broadcast Mayweather fights. The pay-per-view rights were supposedly another stumbling block in the deal pushing through, since Pacquiao has a contract with HBO. The enticement for the two rival networks to work together is the possibility of earning a staggering $300 million for this event. The two broadcast giants came to terms once, in 2002, when Mike Tyson fought Lennox Lewis, with then IBF champion Pacquiao actually fighting on the undercard. So it appears that everyone is interested in hammering out some sort of deal so that they all get a piece of the pie. Over the last three years, belief that the fight would ever happen has been waning, considering the disrespectful attitude Mayweather has had towards the Filipino champion, and his constant additions to the conditions to be met for him to agree to get into the ring against Pacquiao.

But, as of late, other circumstances indicate that perhaps Mayweather was never really interested in anything except being talked about again.

In December, Golden Boy Promotions owner Oscar de la Hoya confirmed that Miguel Cotto would be fighting junior middleweight contender Canelo Alvarez in May. De la Hoya confirmed that a deal was worked out with Top Rank, and that the fight would coincide with the Mexican Cinco de Mayo celebration. No specific venue was announced, but New York, Texas and Las Vegas were mentioned as possibilities. In fact, Arum even painted himself as the hero who saved that deal, saying de la Hoya reached out to him to solve a stalemate in negotiations, which he claims he did.

Then, early Sunday morning Manila time, it was announced that the fight was off. De la Hoya expressed his disappointment in what he called “a great deal” for Cotto. As reported by The Ring magazine’s website, the 1996 Olympic champion also rued that it would have injected life back into the long rivalry between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in the lower weight classes. The cancellation allegedly blew months of negotiations, and the potential for 1.5 million pay-per-view buys in the American market alone. Cotto lost to Pacquiao by TKO in a long-drawn catchweight fight in 2009 when the Filipino has run out of viable opponents in lower weight classes. After beating Cotto, Pacquiao went on to fight other bigger opponents like Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley.

If you put two and two together, Cotto and Amir Khan were always being mentioned as possible opponents for Mayweather this year. If you recall, in his initial statements regarding a possible Pacquiao fight, Mayweather simply said that he was fighting on May 2. Other boxing media have also posited that the reason Cotto would not sign against Alvarez was that he was “holding out” for the fight with Mayweather. The cancellation is a strong sign that Mayweather will probably fight Cotto. De la Hoya also said cryptically that a fight with the stature of a Mayweather-Pacquiao would need more time to promote to make it “the biggest event in sports history”. If you read between the lines, it sounded like he would have wanted that fight at a later date.

Cotto gave Mayweather some problems in their battle in 2012, losing by unanimous decision. At any rate, Cotto is a fearsome known quantity who brings a lot of action and is well-known in the US, which is Golden Boy’s primary market. Also, Mayweather has not been fighting as often as Cotto, so he is the fresher of the two. Khan would not bring in the same numbers in terms of viewership or revenue, and is not as polished a fighter as Cotto.

There is one more factor to consider, although it would be difficult to substantiate. Other boxing experts are insinuating that Arum may have appeared to be steering the negotiations and they were a done deal without anything concrete from Mayweather’s camp. Fancying himself as the consummate dealmaker in boxing, Arum’s pronouncements made it appear that the fight was a go and that only minor details remained. It is now starting to appear that that may not be the case at all. Remember also that, in the past 18 years, Mayweather has had his sights on breaking Rocky Marciano’s unblemished record of 49 wins. Floyd is only two fights away. This close to his lifelong dream, wouldn’t he rather fight someone he has beaten before (Cotto) than risk it all on an uncontrollable quantity like Pacquiao? 

Given all these facts, from Cotto not signing to fight Alvarez to no firm statements from Mayweather, perhaps Floyd has always has one foot out the door. If he was ever fully in the discussion in the first place.

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Follow this writer on Twitter @truebillvelasco.

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