By Ivan G. Goldman
If Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather get it on next year, the U.S. network that carries the Big Kahuna of all money fights will be Showtime, not HBO. That much is settled.
I determined this in a conversation today with Todd DuBoef, president of Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao’s boxing events, handles his deal-
making, and is entitled to speak for him.
It’s important to take particular note of these last points, because in this business it’s not unusual for people who have no right to conduct business in someone’s behalf to claim that they do. I’m talking specifically about Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who often speaks for Mayweather but isn’t entitled to do so. No one stops him, because Mayweather, who acts as his own promoter, doesn’t really have a public-relations apparatus set up and his “advisor” Al Haymon doesn’t speak to the media, not even to correct obvious false claims and mistruths. Also entitled to speak for Floyd is his right-hand man, Leonard Ellerbe.
Back to the network question: Bob Arum, who runs Top Rank with DuBoef, his son, has lately been saying that there’s room for the Godzilla welterweight event – the fight the public thirsts for more than any other — in the autumn of 2014, after Pacquiao faces someone in April and Mayweather in May. Floyd’s “someone” may or may not be Britain’s Amir Khan. Getting Floyd to sit down and sign that contract is like asking cats to swim.
Among the many impediments to the Monster Event is that Pacquiao fights on HBO, and Mayweather on Showtime, where he is under contract for six events — two down and four to go.
“We’ve always been willing to deal with Showtime,” DuBoef said. “We’re not going to be dismissive to anything.”
That was a signal, folks. It’s clear that the DuBoef knows more than he’s saying about the Showtime-Mayweather deal, and rather than try to blast through it, he’s decided to throw HBO under the bus. HBO, the dominant boxing network for most of the last two decades, won’t be a part of the Mother of all Mega-fights.
For a while now, Top Rank has dealt with HBO almost exclusively, and Golden Boy has gone way past heavy petting with Showtime, whose sports president Stephen Espinoza used to do legal work for Golden Boy. HBO so despises its former pal Golden Boy that the network once made a special announcement to make sure everyone understood the firm was henceforth banned from the channel.
Which brings up another hurdle to the Humongous Contest: the war between Top Rank and Golden Boy. Schaefer says Top Rank can have no part of the Big Event, but that’s wishful thinking. His company doesn’t make deals for Mayweather. It may or may not get called in after the deal is made, and Money wants someone to handle the details of the ticketing, the venue, the marketing, the undercard, and the ten thousand other issues that must be solved so a big boxing card can move from broad agreement to reality.
But as Schaefer well knows, his company, like HBO, could easily be discarded.
This particular fight, DuBoef noted, has “been talked about for four years. We’ve done a lot to try to make it. It just became more complicated in the last 18 months. At one time we had a contract for the fight with economic terms spelled out. Then came the whole drug testing thing after we had agreed to all terms. Contacts had gone back and forth.”
Brief summary: Mayweather, who made lots of accusations against Pacquiao, demanded blood testing for banned substances. Back then, it was a relatively new issue. Those who take Pacquiao’s side said Floyd was suddenly ordering Manny around and that by submitting Manny would play a subservient role and give Floyd a big psychological advantage.
Those who took Mayweather’s side mostly decided to believe his accusations. Eventually Pacquiao sued Floyd, who refused to answer questions under oath and settled out of court by writing Pacquiao a big check. But drug testing is no longer an issue. Both fighters are willing to submit to surprise blood and urine testing conducted by a third party.
Mayweather made somewhere between $80 million and $90 million for dispensing of Canelo Alvarez. Pacquiao could use a check like that right about now, though clearly, undefeated Mayweather would get a bigger share. Philippines authorities, claiming tax fraud, recently froze Pacquiao’s bank accounts. He’s a congressional representative who won’t heel to the ruling powers in a country awash in political corruption and violence, and it looks very much like the tax action was politically motivated.
It was Pacquiao’s manhandling of tough Brandon Rios that made the Mayweather match-up viable again. It’s a showdown that still matters, but would have mattered more three or four years ago. In September Pac-Man will be 35 and Floyd 37.
Still, I’m crossing my fingers.
Goldman’s novel The Barfighter, set in the boxing world, was nominated as a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Available online & at better bookstores everywhere. Purchase HERE