by Charles Jay
Yeah, I know what many of you are probably thinking. Maybe it’s a repeat of that story we know so well as part of boxing lore; after going through that whole sham of a “retirement ceremony” some time before, Sugar Ray Leonard, upon seeing Marvin Hagler struggle with John Mugabi, decided that the long-time middleweight champion was vulnerable enough for him to take a whack at him.
And you know the rest.
Photo: Chris Farina/ Top Rank
Did Floyd Mayweather, who had been hesitant, for one reason or another, to “engage” when it came to negotiating for a fight with Manny Pacquiao, experience a similar revelation after watching Pacquiao very nearly lose to a 38-year-old fighting well above his best weight (Juan Manuel Marquez)? Did he suddenly say to himself, “I can take him. Let’s go”?
Maybe, but I’m not sure it matters a whole lot.
I have maintained for a while that for a fight like Mayweather-Pacquiao to happen, it had to be “convenient” for both fighters, meaning that it had to be absolutely under the right circumstances and maybe even a case where neither fighter had anywhere else they could go.
Whether that’s the case for Mayweather, I don’t know. There are surely other guys he could fight, for decent paydays, just not monster paydays.
But the Pacquiao side is a little smarter. Dana White of the UFC revels in calling Bob Arum an idiot, but he is far from that. Arum hasn’t been able to last so long in this business for no reason. he is about as smart as it gets.
Without a whole lot of other pay-per-view talent at his disposal, he understands that he is the helmsman of a genuine “franchise,” and he’s not going to let go of it so easily.
photo by Gene Blevins/Hogan Photos
What a lot of people who watch boxing don’t really comprehend is that many of the decisions made in this game are not made by the fighters all by themselves, or their managers (who are an endangered species), but by the promoters who hold their rights. There is obviously an upside and a downside to that. The downside is felt by people like Mayweather, who has a certain amount of independence from promoters, to be sure, but at the same time a lack of direction that has presented him from picking up on some ancillary opportunities, even if he were to be able to stay out of trouble.
For Pacquiao, the upside is that Arum and the infrastructure he has created has helped him gain at least some degree of stability, and some organization to a career and life that had been plagued with disarray for quite some time. I would sincerely doubt that Pacquiao would have risen to this level of prominence or popularity, or gotten the endorsement deals he has right now, without the participation of Top Rank.
The downside to that (you could more accurately call it a “flipside”) is that when it comes to the actual boxing decisions, he doesn’t get to make those alone. And this is where the promoter’s agenda becomes just as important as that of the fighter; perhaps even more so.
In other words, you have to ask yourself what makes more sense if you are the promoter – to make a considerable amount of money, once, for a big fight which could conceivably result in a loss that would diminish your product, in a promotion that you don’t completely control, or to go for “smaller” fights which allow you to make a considerable amount of money many times, in promotions you totally control, and to do it for an extended period of time, keeping alive all the ancillary benefits you’ve worked so hard to set up?
The answer, from a business perspective, is that you are going to milk the cow as long as it is viable. And let’s not forget this is a business.
That’s why Arum always has a backup plan; always has an answer. That’s why he’s brought in recycled fighters like Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito, who still have enough name recognition to provide the foil (Juan Manuel Marquez was supposed to fill this role too, but didn’t play along so well). That’s why he has fighters he controls promotionally to put opposite his fighter, like Margarito and Miguel Cotto (not to mention Marquez). That’s why he inked Timothy Bradley to a promotional deal. Do you think Bob Arum brought Bradley into Top Rank so he could turn him into boxing’s next superstar? If you did, think again.
It’s not exactly the path of least resistance, at least not 100%. After all, you can’t exercise absolute control over what goes on in the ring.
But it’s good business when thinking both in the moment, and for the future. Of his company, that is. If Arum makes the rematch for a fourth fight with Marquez, it will be because that is the best business decision, not just because Pacquiao absolutely insisted on it.
Assuming that Mayweather is truly willing to fight Pacquiao, what may count more here is not whether Pacquiao is willing to take that plunge, but whether it makes sense for Arum to do so.
From where I’m sitting, notwithstanding any of the tough talk that might come from either fighter or either trainer, the one vote that counts here may be that of someone who won’t climb into the ring at all.
And right now, I think he’s voting “no.”