By Ivan G. Goldman
Negotiating with Floyd Mayweather can be a distinctly unpleasant experience, but recently a frustrated Bob Arum stuck his foot in his mouth by apparently likening the activity to negotiating with Hitler.
According to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, Arum told him, “This is like a tactic — I’m not equating the politics — it’s like Hitler. Before the Second World War: give me Czechoslovakia, there’ll be peace,’ and this and that … and (British Prime Minister Neville) Chamberlain kept appeasing. Was there ever going to be peace? No. No. It’s not going to get anybody closer to that fight.”
The “fight” refers to a showdown between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. I used my own punctuation above because Rafael’s didn’t make any sense. Rafael quickly tweeted that this is the “dopiest” thing Arum ever said. It was dopey, granted, but not as horrible as it might first appear. There’s a pretty standard rule that comparing anything or anyone to Hitler is out of bounds because he pretty much broke the mold when it came to being a terrible human being. The rule makes a certain sense, and Arum certainly did break it.
To be fair though, it’s one thing to say someone is like Hitler and yet another to say someone is doing something the way Hitler did it. If, for example, both Hitler and Mayweather dipped their bagels in coffee and Arum mentioned this, he wouldn’t necessarily be comparing the two in terms of villainy. But it would still be a bad idea to make the comparison.
If you want to discuss horrible boxing-related remarks, what about a statement by Rafael two years ago in which he triumphantly called James Toney an “angry, brain damaged and broke fighter”? Rafael made the remark after Toney, egged on by one of his camp followers, appeared to threaten Rafael in an online video.
Toney, apparently advised that it’s a bad idea to physically threaten writers, later apologized for his threat. Rafael, as far as I know, never apologized for relishing in the possibility that Toney was brain-damaged and broke. A writer who makes his living off the willingness of others to jeopardize their lives and health in the sport he covers ought to be more empathetic when things don’t turn out well for the athletes.
Back to Hitler and Mayweather: Hitler first demanded parts of Czechoslovakia, and when he got it, said he must have Austria, and when he got that, he invaded Poland, which is when Britain and France finally got the message and declared war.
Mayweather, the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world, never did anything of the kind. But what makes him a good negotiator is the fact that for him enough is never enough. Years ago, when he had a very limited following and Arum was his promoter, HBO offered Floyd $12.5 million for a series of fights and he famously called it a “slave contract.” You could quarrel with his language, but not the results. Mayweather’s last bout, on Showtime pay-per-view, in which he easily outpointed Canelo Alvarez, made him somewhere around $90 million.
A few years ago when it looked like a contest between him and Pacquiao was signed, sealed, and delivered, Floyd slandered Pacquiao and demanded blood tests, something that was basically not done at the time. Fight cancelled. At other times Floyd has dangled the possibility of a Pacquiao fight while making new demands – a bigger piece of the pie, the right to control the promotion, etc.
Pacquiao keeps saying yes and yes and yes, only to run into a new demand. Lately Mayweather says that Pacquiao must fire Arum and come to Floyd essentially naked and alone, as an employee of Mayweather’s promotional company. Even then Mayweather doesn’t guarantee that he’ll sign a contract. It’s similar to Don King’s tactic of handing fighters a blank sheet of paper for signature and then writing a contract on top of it.
Arum, who turned 82 in December, is losing patience and making, as Rafael pointed out, dopey remarks.
Meanwhile Floyd is still negotiating with Amir Khan, making his life hell even after Khan says he’s signed a contract to fight Mayweather May 3 in Las Vegas. Mayweather hasn’t signed and now says he might fight Marcos Maidana instead. Pacquiao is fighting Timothy Bradley April 12 in the same MGM Grand Arena.
When the two fights are concluded perhaps there’s still room to hope that the winners will come together and make the welterweight event the world wants to see. But comparing anyone’s tactics to Hitler’s won’t help make it happen.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.