By Ivan G. Goldman
Sometimes Floyd Mayweather devotees wonder aloud why Manny Pacquiao has fought with spectacular (though not uniform) success from straw-weight all the way up to welterweight and even junior middle on some occasions.
Not possible, they contend, declaring something illegitimate has been ingested or otherwise absorbed.
Mayweather used to say it too, but then he ended up paying what surely must have been many millions to settle a slander lawsuit brought by Pacquiao. Mayweather also issued an apology saying he never said Pacquiao had used performance-enhancing drugs even though that’s precisely what he said.
It was the kind of apology you sign when the plaintiff dangles you by one ankle from a 50-story rooftop and your attorney tells you to do whatever he says.
But lately a new celebrity has taken up Mayweather’s old charge – Paulie Malignaggi, though he’s framed his words much more carefully than Floyd used to do. Showtime analyst Malignaggi, who also campaigned in the welterweight division, harbors a deep antipathy for the success of the Philippines congressman.
Trouble is, Malignaggi and the other accusers always leave out some terribly important information. It involves weight and age, and it’s quite simple, really. Pacquiao turned pro in the 105-pound division Jan. 25, 1995, one month after his sixteenth birthday. Which is astonishing, say the critics. How, they ask, can a fighter possibly move up more than forty pounds in the space of one career? Well I know someone they could ask.
In 1993, at age sixteen, Mayweather won the National Golden Gloves. Want to know his weight division? 106 pounds.
But you see the Mayweather-Malignaggi Cult of Phony Statistics disregards ages and weights. It pretends nothing counts until you step into the pro ranks. True believers are instructed to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Don’t stop to wonder why the welter who climbed from 105 pounds at age 16 must be guilty and the welter who went from 106 pounds at the same age has to be in the clear.
Most fans still leveling PEDs accusations against Pacquiao aren’t aware that Floyd’s poundage stats are almost identical to Manny’s, mostly because the boxing media are too lazy to look it up. Maybe the numbers, which relate to the maturing process and oh yeah, science, are too difficult for them to master. But Malignaggi and Mayweather know all about it. They made their own journeys from amateur to pro competition, putting on muscle along the way.
Fighters from poorer places like the Philippines and Mexico tend to turn pro earlier so they can put food on the table. American fighters are constrained by tougher regulations.
Malignaggi’s nastier insinuations aren’t much seen on Showtime, if at all. He makes them in Youtube clips shot by guys who probably live in their parents’ basements. Some of them wonder aloud whether a Pacquiao-Mayweather contest will be fought in Dubai. That’s their other big story.
It’s still a compelling match, though it carries negative baggage. We’re disgusted, many of us, by all the squandered opportunities over all these years. And yet the fight, should it occur, is a surefire extravaganza, the kind we see only every few decades. It’s the only potential prizefight, in fact, that has been speculated about on all the talk shows, all the web sites, and covers of magazines that normally pay no attention to prizefighting.
And it might occur May 2 – 36-year-old Manny versus 38-year-old Floyd — but there are plenty of ways it could go up in smoke again. Rumors abound, both positive and negative. Some are just negotiating ploys.
As for Dubai, it’s no more improbable a location for an important bout than Zaire, Manila, or Lewiston, Maine (where Muhammad Ali gave Sonny Liston his rematch).
Intrinsic nuttiness is part of what makes the fight game so much fun. You wouldn’t see a World Series played in any of those places, but in boxing, promoters prowl the earth looking for deals, and when the stars match up in the right places, the improbable can become reality
Actually, we heard this Dubai story a couple years ago. It smelled like a hoax then and still does, but we’ve seen so much weirdness in this sport, almost anything can be dressed up to look plausible. You throw in enough details, find a media sap, and presto! – your fable has made the news.
After all, this is America, where a girl who can’t sing or dance can grow up to become Madonna.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.