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The Art of Negotiation: Pacquiao and Mayweather

By: William Holmes

Before beginning a negotiation, it’s best for both parties involved to place themselves in a position of power in order to get the terms that are most favorable to them. It is essential for both parties to know what their best alternative to a negotiated agreement is before trying to work out a deal with their opposing party. Negotiators, lawyers, and agents call this their BATNA for short. Prior to the third Pacquiao vs. Marquez fight, Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe announced that Floyd would be available to fight on May 5th, 2012, and that they were saving that date for Pacquiao. After the close and disputed decision by Pacquiao over Marquez, both Floyd’s team and Golden Boy Promotions announced that Top Rank indicated they have no interest in making this mega fight, and would rather chase a fourth meeting between Pacquiao and Marquez.

One has to wonder, is this another failed negotiation at the super fight that all fight fans want to see, or are both parties trying to leverage themselves into a position of power in order to get the terms most favorable to them? Let’s examine the BATNA for Mayweather and Pacquiao if a super fight does not materialize.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.:

Photo: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos

Floyd viciously knocked out Victor Ortiz in his last fight, but his reputation suffered a hit afterwards. While his knock out may have been within the rules of boxing, the way he did it, with the referee’s back turned and Ortiz still trying to apologize for his blatant head butt, appeared to many to have violated the rules of sportsmanship. Many boxing fans blamed Mayweather for the failed attempts at making the super fight a reality. Floyd’s advisers preemptively announced that Floyd was ready to take on Pacquiao on May 5th, prior to Pacquiao fighting Marquez. By doing this public proclamation, Floyd was able to make boxing fans forget about his questionable win and salivate over the prospect of the top two pound for pound fighters finally meeting inside the ring. Floyd also was able to announce the proposed terms of the fight before Top Rank even had the chance consider an offer to make to Floyd. Floyd indicated to the fans that he is ready, willing and able to fight on May 5th, and that they have a venue and date already picked out. With these terms set in place, fight fans are led to believe that Manny only has to say yes to make the fight a reality. While most insiders know much negotiation over the date, venue, purse, and other intangibles has to occur in order to make a fight a reality, the common fan is led to believe that Pacquiao will be to blame if the fight does not happen this time. Floyd Mayweather was able to put himself in an incredible position of power before Pacquiao even stepped into the ring with Marquez. It truly was a brilliant move on the part of Mayweather’s camp.

However, this announcement by Mayweather may have been the only way for his advisers to gain the most leverage possible before entering into a negotiation with Pacquiao’s advisers. If the super fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao does not happen, what is Mayweather’s BATNA? Andre Berto is handled by Al Haymon, who also happens to advise Mayweather. However, since Berto lost to Ortiz most fight fans do not consider him to be a worthy challenger. Nobody is clamoring for a rematch between Mayweather and Ortiz. Even though Mayweather’s knockout may have been unsportsmanlike, he was thoroughly outclassing Ortiz and a victory for Mayweather would have been inevitable. After Berto, Ortiz, and Pacquiao, there is nobody in the welterweight division that represents a legitimate challenge or an acceptable opponent to the fans for Mayweather.

There is a boxer in the junior welterweight division that will present an interesting matchup for Mayweather. Amir Khan is a special talent, and he supposedly gave Pacquiao all he can handle when they sparred together. Khan however is not yet an attractive name for a PPV event, and he still has to get by Lamont Peterson on December 10th. Timothy Bradley may be available, but he’s now promoted by Top Rank, and it is highly unlikely that Bob Arum will allow Bradley to fight Mayweather before Pacquiao. The junior middleweight division also lacks any desirable opponents for Floyd.

Middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez desperately wants a fight with either Pacquiao or Mayweather, and has stated that he’d be willing to cut below the middleweight limit in order to make the fight a reality. Is Mayweather really willing to fight Martinez? Mayweather’s toughest fight to date was his first battle against Jose Louis Castillo, a southpaw. Martinez is also a southpaw, will have a weight advantage, the power advantage, and also has incredible speed.

Mayweather is a pound for pound great, but matching him up against a much heavier and skilled boxer such as Martinez may be asking too much of Mayweather.

Mayweather’s BATNA appears to be either Amir Khan or Sergio Martinez, two dangerous opponents who have the ability to give him his first loss, but have yet to prove they are a PPV draw. Mayweather could take on an easier opponent, but to do so would place him at risk of being criticized for ducking credible opposition. In reality, Mayweather does not have a strong alternative to a negotiated agreement with Pacquiao, and his advisers had to announce that they were ready for a fight with Pacquiao, because no other attractive options remained.

Manny Pacquiao:

Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank

Let’s kill one myth right away. Despite fighting in the welterweight division since November of 2009, Pacquiao is not a full blown welterweight. On the night of his fight with Marquez, Pacquiao actually weighed less than his opponent. The unofficial fight night weight of Marquez was 150lbs, the weight of Pacquiao was 148lbs. Even when he agreed to fight Margarito at 150lbs, Pacquiao still weighed in at 144lbs. Manny consistently weighs in with pounds to spare at the welterweight limit. Freddie Roach has stated that if they do not constantly feed Pacquiao, his walk around weight drops to 138lbs. Pacquiao could easily still make the lightweight limit of 135lbs, and maybe even the super featherweight limit of 130lbs. Why is this important? While Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez may be a tough option for Mayweather, he’s not a realistic option for the much smaller Manny Pacquiao.

The same issues that hinder Mayweather’s search for opponents in the welterweight division also hinder Pacquiao. Berto and Ortiz have not shown that they are ready for Pacquiao. Amir Khan may be an option, but he’s also trained by Freddie Roach. It is believed that Roach would corner Pacquiao if the two met up, but Pacquiao will likely avoid that fight in order to make things easier for his trainer. It’s a possible fight down the road, but not in the near future. Timothy Bradley is now a realistic option. He signed with Top Rank in order to get a possible shot against Pacquiao in the future. Bradley is an undefeated boxer, and Pacquiao would get a chance to silence his critics who claim he’s never defeated an African American boxer in his prime.

Of course, the most attractive BATNA for Pacquiao is Juan Manuel Marquez. While I had Pacquiao edging Marquez on the scorecards, it certainly was a very close fight and did little to answer the question of who is really the better boxer. The fight was so close that a fourth match between the two will certainly sell and make both fighters an obscene amount of money. It is likely that a fight with Marquez will sell more than a fight with Bradley. Unfortunately for Marquez, he has no BATNA. He’s indicated that he will either retire, or pursue a fourth fight with Manny Pacquiao.

Floyd Mayweather was able to gain the early advantage in negotiations by declaring he is ready to fight Pacquiao on May 5th, placing himself in a position to place the blame on Pacquiao if a fight does not materialize. Negotiations for a fight rarely takes place when one of the boxers still has a tough fight ahead, but it was the best move for Mayweather to make. His BATNA is not as attractive as Pacquiao’s BATNA. Amir Khan or Sergio Martinez are the only two boxers that fans would consider acceptable opponents for Mayweather, but they are extremely risky opponents. Pacquiao’s BATNA is a boxer who he has already beat twice in a very heated rivalry, or Timothy Bradley, a boxer who gives Pacquiao the chance to silence some his critics. Pacquiao has a better chance of beating his alternative opponents than Mayweather.

In conclusion, Mayweather placed himself in a position of power by announcing he was ready to fight Pacquiao on May 5th prior to Pacquiao actually fighting Marquez. The reality however, is that Pacquiao has a much better BATNA than Mayweather, and can make Mayweather wait if he chooses to.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few months.

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