By Ivan G. Goldman
Now it may be up to the networks. Either Showtime and HBO agree to a joint broadcast of Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather on May 2 or one corporation backs off in exchange for something else. And of course there’s also a third possibility – that negotiations will fall apart and the fight will die once more.
That third alternative has always prevailed in the past and could very well again.
Meanwhile, it’s mystifying why these two old welterweights can still stir up so much interest. Neither of them scores knockouts anymore, and they don’t have the same amount of gas in the tank they had even last year. Their fuel capacity will continue to subside as next year approaches. That’s science.
On May 2, Floyd will be 38 and Manny 36. But this is one of those stories that never seems to go away. The potential audience includes thousands and thousands of people who’d be unable to name three or four other prizefighters.
Yet they’re wedded to this fight. It’ll be like the Super Bowl. If it happens.
HBO and Showtime did a joint broadcast back in 2002, when Lennox Lewis tortured Mike Tyson for seven-and-a-half rounds before getting him out of there. It was a very big deal back then, just as Mayweather-Pacquiao is today, but it’s definitely unclear whether the contest, if it finally goes forth, will have been worth the wait.
Meanwhile, Mayweather remains tied to Showtime and Pacquiao to HBO. These exclusive network contracts are terrible for prizefighting and kill quite a number of excellent match-ups. But long-term outcomes are of little or no concern to networks. Like so many other corporations, they focus on the more immediate bottom line, which is how the big shots can wangle even huger bonuses for themselves.
Speaking of money, there’s not a chance in hell this super-fight will be priced at the prevailing $75. Another number will prevail, and it won’t be lower.
At this point media are (yes ‘media’ is a plural noun) being bombarded with sometimes conflicting tales. According to one source, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the venue. According to another, the venue hasn’t been set. Back in December, promoter Bob Arum said if Mayweather were to fight a non-Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, it would be “disrespectful” to the Mexican people. Nobody wants to mess with ethnic politics, so he got away with saying it.
I guess that means if Germany plays soccer against Argentina on July 4, we’re all supposed to be insulted. At the time Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, was trying to put together Canelo Alvarez of Mexico versus Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico for May 2. At least that’s what he said he was doing.
Now it looks like he was just using the possibility of Canelo-Cotto to pressure Floyd into agreeing to the Pacquiao bout. Eventually we may decide he was using Pacquiao-Mayweather as a device to establish Canelo-Cotto. The sad fact is that what these guys say isn’t always linked very carefully to the truth. What they do – including what they sign – carries much more weight.
Allow me to point out, as I have in the past, that in another historic welterweight match, when Sugar Ray Leonard fought Thomas Hearns the first time, Ray was 24 and Thomas was 22. And they signed on for 15 rounds. You hear a lot of people saying fighters were better in those days. I won’t get into that discussion because it’s unsolvable. But what’s clear is that fans were smarter in those days. Leonard-Hearns One was worth anticipating, a Fight of the Year that ended with Leonard scoring a 14th round kayo.
Mayweather-Pacquiao could be another pitchers’ duel that ends in either a points victory for Floyd, another one of those “controversial” Las Vegas decisions, or both. When it comes to scoring points and winning rounds, Mayweather is a genius. But the often-heard refrain from his hard-core fans of “you don’t know nothin’ about boxing” — directed at any of his critics — fails to hold together. Fans who like to see more action aren’t necessarily ignorant. In fact, they may very well be more knowledgeable.
What makes a great fight?
Often it’s counterpunching and fierce, rocket-fast exchanges. It’s certainly not one punch and move away.
If the networks find a solution and the blood gets tested and the fighters actually get into the ring with each other on May 2, everything could go downhill from there.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.