By Ivan G. Goldman
Manny Pacquiao said today he was more worried about beating Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto, and Oscar De La Hoya than he is about Floyd Mayweather, who will be in the opposite corner May 2 in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao stopped De La Hoya and Cotto, and over the course of 12 rounds beat Margarito’s face into hamburger.
“I’m so happy,” he said at a Los Angeles press conference to kick off publicity for the super-fight.” Pacquiao says he’s happy a lot. And he seems to mean it. “Everything is good. Being an underdog gives me motivation.” He’s a 2-1 underdog at present.
“I learned from defeat. It’s part of building you up to a higher level.”
His main concern, he said, is “the satisfaction of the fans.” Unlike Mayweather, who an hour earlier in a separate press conference said he hasn’t thought much about Pacquiao, the Philippines congressman said he’s “been thinking about this fight for five years. This fight is very important in boxing history.”
Bob Arum, who promoted Mayweather for ten years before they parted ways, said that Floyd always told him, “no southpaws.”
“You look at his style,” Arum said, “it’s for orthodox fighters.” Arum is a long-time promoter of Pacquiao, who just happens to be a southpaw and who will oppose Mayweather in what’s certainly the biggest boxing event of this century – at least so far.
“I love Manny Pacquiao and I love (Freddie Roach, his trainer) and when Manny wins on May 2nd, which I’m sure he will, I’ll be very satisfied.”
He didn’t quite spell it out, but Arum seemed to think that Muhammad Ali-versus-Joe Frazier in March 1971 in Madison Square Garden was an even bigger spectacle than Mayweather-Pacquiao.
The thriller, which Frazier won over a 15-round distance, has come to be known as the Fight of the Century. Arum was promoter.
“The whole country stopped for that fight. It was a major, major event” that was tied up in history and politics, Arum recalled. With the Vietnam War raging, Ali had refused to be drafted. Frazier, Arum said, was mistakenly identified as being for the war. It was all part of the backdrop.
“The fight was on a Monday night, closed circuit. There were no satellites. It reached only 400 locations. That was the maximum the telephone company could serve. It was an unbelievable event. How would they have done given the technological infrastructure we have now? You can’t answer questions like that.”
Was Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard bigger? “Who knows?” said Arum, who also promoted that one. “We didn’t have pay-per-view to speak of. There was Leonard-Hearns, Oscar-Trinidad. We had pay-per-view but not like now. One thing is clear. (Mayweather-Pacquiao) is the biggest fight of this century.”
Arum recalled Floyd’s first fight with Jose Luis Castillo in 2002. “I promoted that fight. I went over to Floyd and said sorry you lost the fight. But the cards were overwhelmingly for Floyd.”
Many observers thought Castillo got robbed, but Mayweather easily won the rematch. Arum said there was “no animosity” between Mayweather and himself when they worked together. “That was built up maybe by others who were around him. Floyd always remained a good friend of my stepson Todd. When he fought for us, he (Floyd) was exemplary.”
Actually, both Arum and Floyd have said nasty things about each other over the years. Arum is 83 and maybe some of it slipped from his memory, but I doubt it.
“There was an age difference. Floyd was asking me to reach out to the African-American community. I was familiar with the African-American community. But that was a different community. Floyd wanted to connect with the hip-hop generation. I didn’t do that because I didn’t know how,” Arum freely admitted. He noted that Floyd accomplished this goal later.
Arum refused to estimate the number of PPV buys May 2. “If I say four (million) somebody will say that’s the usual bullshit. It’s really three. So I’m saying nothing because I really don’t know.”
Arrangements to make the fight really got started, Arum recalled, in December when Les Moonves, the top executive at CBS, owner of Showtime, called on Arum at his house. “He came over on a couple of occasions and told me he wanted to make this fight happen.” He asked for Manny’s terms. “There were frequent dialogues.”
Pacquiao is contracted to HBO, Mayweather to Showtime. They’ll do a joint telecast. “I felt confident Moonves would do whatever he could to make this fight happen.” Back then Arum was saying this and some observers accused him of lying.
Arum said he wasn’t sure though, whether the other side “could deliver Mayweather.” But when Manny and Floyd met up by accident at a Miami Heat game, Manny and his adviser Michael Koncz were convinced Mayweather was in earnest and not ducking the fight. The details, Arum said, “were excruciating.” There’s blame on all sides, he added, calling this the most difficult fight negotiation he’s ever experienced.
It’s believed the purse money is being split 60-40 in favor of Mayweather, but I haven’t seen any of the principals actually say this.
Roach reiterated that with Mayweather’s legs slipping with age, his fighter has a better chance to beat him now than he did five years ago. “When he has to exchange with Manny Pacquiao, I think that’s good for us. That’s why we’re gonna win this fight.”
“Floyd does set traps,” Roach said. He said he saw him work traps against Oscar De La Hoya.
“I know what he does.” Roach worked Oscar’s corner in the 2007 contest, which Mayweather won by split decision. Roach said he thought Oscar won the first six rounds and Floyd the last six.
“Manny is very motivated for this fight. We have to take Floyd out of his comfort zone. He has to have everything his way. We will make the right move before we attack him. He’ll try to walk us into the shot. That puts us in better position to attack.”
“Our game plan is to win every round one at a time. Floyd does make mistakes. He could walk into a big shot.”
Mayweather is very clever, Roach said, “So we dominate him in the first round and go on from there.”
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.
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