By Ivan G. Goldman
It’s the marketplace that dictates match-ups, and right now, notes boxing impresario Bob Arum, the market is pushing Manny Pacquiao toward a rematch with Miguel Cotto or (yawn) yet another bout with Juan Manuel Marquez — a fight that probably wouldn’t settle much of anything.
As for freed inmate Floyd Mayweather, he and his camp remain uncharacteristically noiseless while they map out his fighting future. But look for him and his trusted entourage to explode with plenty of razzle-dazzle sometime soon, attracting worldwide media for whatever message they want to send. At age 35 he can’t afford to wait too long.
At this point our two star-studded welterweights, though separated by an ocean, could, if everything falls into place, fight in the spring. Meanwhile, Pacquiao appears to be picking through former opponents instead of looking at new ones.
It was a hare-brained slip by one of the judges in their first fight that launched the Pacquiao-Marquez series that never seems to quit. I happened to be there in 2004 when heavy-fisted Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round and then let him back into the contest. Judge Burt Clements, admitting later that he didn’t understand the scoring system entirely, scored the first round 10-7. Had he scored it properly at 10-6, his final score would have been 113-112 Pacquiao, giving him a majority decision. Instead he scored it 113-113, making it a draw and creating a Frankenstein monster series.
The other scores were 115-110 Pacquiao from John Stewart, and 115-110 Marquez from Guy Jutras. When you have a 10-point difference in scores, that can only mean that one or both of those judges was out to lunch on another planet. And when you have a third judge who doesn’t know how to score a knockdown, this is comparable to hiring a baseball umpire who decides that a run that just crossed the plate shouldn’t be scored as a run because he got a little confused. No, only in boxing.
So they did 24 more rounds, giving Pacquiao first a split decision and then a majority decision. All three scores remain “disputed.” Very close fights. That’s how these two guys match up, just like Ali and Norton. They fought 39 rounds, and fans still argue about the scores.
Cotto gave Pacquiao some trouble, but he got stopped in the last round, and it didn’t seem like the fight left any unfinished business. Manny was the better fighter, though they competed at a catch weight, and Cotto, who was aching to go up to junior middleweight, weakened himself by coming in at 144 pounds.
That was almost three years ago, and now Manny, 33, who failed to stop any of his last five opponents, may be slipping. Cotto’s contract with his long-time promoter Arum has expired. Marquez is promoted by Fernando Beltran, who started pushing for a fourth fight before they’d wiped the sweat off Marquez in their last one.
Philippines Congressman Pacquiao is obviously a lot closer to the end of his fistic career than its start. It would be a lot more interesting to see him take on fresh meat like Robert Guerrero or Paulie Malignaggi or maybe to try Timothy Bradley again. But Guerrero is promoted by Golden Boy, whose executives are no longer on speaking terms with Arum. What’s wrong with Bradley or Malignaggi? Here’s where the ethnic angle of boxing could also be construed as a race angle. Neither Bradley nor Malignaggi is Hispanic, and neither of course is Pacquiao.
Though many fans prefer a Pac-Man rematch with Bradley, Arum told ESPN that Hispanic fans don’t see it that way, and when you lose them, or at least a good many of them, you don’t make as much money. When he offers the options to Pacquiao, Arum said, he also lays out numbers. Dollar numbers. Pacquiao’s third fight with Marquez generated 1.3 million buys. He and Cotto drew 1.25 million, and the chess match with Bradley generated a mere 900,000. Pacquiao, as he evaluates all this, will have to ask himself whether he really wants to volunteer to take punches for a smaller purse.
Promoters don’t just assemble fight cards. They also have to sell those cards to networks and the public, and that’s where they become more like P.T. Barnum and less like an accountancy firm.
Mayweather, now tied to 50 Cent instead of Golden Boy, looks at the same facts Pacquiao does, though his choices aren’t identical. Just about no one, for example, would want to see him against Marquez again. If I were advising Guerrero, I’d suggest he stay close to his phone.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE