By Ivan G. Goldman
I’ve been remonstrated by fans hot to see Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao go at it a fifth time. They’re upset I suggested, rather mildly, I thought, that we’ve seen enough of that well-worn series, that maybe Bob Arum is barking up a burned-out tree.
Photo: USA Today
After all, these two have done 42 rounds together. It’s starting to look like Gilligan’s Island in that ring only with a little more suspense.
But fans write in, some of them angry, others using cold reason, to assure us they’re eager to see another Marquez-Pacquiao 12-rounder. Arum says he plans to offer the winner of Marquez-versus-Mike Alvarado, who go at it Saturday in Inglewood, California, the chance to take on Pacquiao next. It would be hard to say no because you can bet Pacquiao will be on pay-per-view, which is the Holy Grail of the fight game, the chance to earn a seven- or even eight-figure purse.
Arum doesn’t say so, but Showtime has a deeper list of welterweights than the HBO candidates he must choose from. We’ve reached a dark day in this sport when these ridiculous business obstacles circumscribe magnificent careers.
Now that the Philippines congressman has thoroughly bested Timothy Bradley, there’s not much suspense in that match-up anymore, and Arum, reaching down into the welterweight bucket, comes up with 40-year-old Marquez and also tough Alvarado, who’s lost two of his last three bouts.
Marcos Maidana, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, and of course Floyd Mayweather all appear to be off limits for what amounts to business reasons. It’s also possible Floyd sees something in Pacquiao’s style that looks too threatening to his undefeated record. At times when he’s dismissed a Pacquiao match he’s noted that he has to protect his health. Fans hungered years for Pacquiao-Mayweather. Many still do, although Floyd dead-enders say it makes perfect sense for him to avoid fighting a guy they say he would beat for the biggest purse in history.
Any business that closes off excellent match-ups is bad business. Of course Maidana wants another shot at Mayweather and a bigger piece of the pie next time out, but if history is any guide we’ll have to wait a good five months or so before Floyd announces the next Dating Game bachelor. Khan wasted approximately one year of his fighting life hoping to be picked last time.
If boxing operated in a normal universe Thurman, Porter, Garcia, Khan, and Mayweather could all be potential opponents for Pacquiao. But these days the sport resembles a Shakespearean play, with the Showtime and HBO contingents standing in for the feuding Montagues and Capulets.
Arum, who runs Top Rank Promotions, met with Oscar De La Hoya, majority owner of Golden Boy Promotions, last week at Arum’s Los Angeles home, and, according to both their accounts, buried the hatchet. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know Golden Boy is allied with Showtime and Top Rank with HBO. Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president of Showtime sports, is an attorney who used to handle legal matters for Oscar.
Many observers expected Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy CEO, to leave the company after the Mayweather-Maidana super-fight on May 3. Schaefer flatly refuses to do business with Arum, and HBO won’t work with Golden Boy, although that could change if Schaefer takes a powder. Mayweather has offered him a place at his own promotional company, but the devil could be in the details. An off-handed comment to a reporter Mayweather is cozy with doesn’t necessarily equate with a serious offer, and Schaefer, according to De La Hoya, has a contract that runs somewhere into the year 2018.
Schaefer is so at odds with De La Hoya these days that he doesn’t even agree on the length of the contract, although he hasn’t stipulated what he believes it to be.
In the meantime Arum and his fighters must make choices now. They can’t afford to wait until the Golden Boy soap opera takes its next dramatic turn. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see Pacquiao and Marquez go at it several times a year every year until one of them decides to spend more time with his great-grandchildren.
` 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.