Even with Manny Pacquiao (left) back on top following Saturday's big win over Timothy Bradley, there's still unfortunately little to no chance of a dream matchup against Floyd Mayweather (right) ever happening because of the personal and financial impasse between the two sides.
By Michael Parente
The titans of professional boxing, the most influential promoters in the world, could do for this sport what the 1998 home run chase did for Major League Baseball if they put aside their petty differences and give fans the fight they’ve been dying to see for more than five years.
Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it.
While Manny Pacquiao’s convincing win over Timothy Bradley Saturday night in Vegas could be considered a major step toward securing the Pacman-Floyd Mayweather Super Fight we’ve all been waiting for, the histrionics and political grandstanding of Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum this past weekend showed the two sides are actually further apart than they’ve ever been.
Arum spent more time taking shots at Mayweather and lambasting casino execs over posters and signage than he did hyping his own fighter, publicly calling MGM’s Richard Sturm the “president of hanging posters for the wrong fight” because the casino hosting the event featured more promotional material for Mayweather’s May 3 showdown with Marcos Maidana than it did for Saturday’s fight.
When Pacquiao was done dismantling Bradley in Saturday’s highly-anticipated rematch, avenging the 2012 screwjob in which Pacquiao lost a split decision despite landing nearly twice as many power punches, Arum used his soapbox to urge boxing fans to boycott the “nonsense” that is the Mayweather-Maidana fight, fueling the perception that the upcoming May 3 Pay Per View extravaganza will be nothing more than another lopsided Mayweather victory.
As entertaining as they might be, Arum’s antics border on pro wrestling kayfabe, and, unfortunately, do little to bring the two sides – Arum’s Top Rank Boxing and Richard Schaefer’s Golden Boy Promotions – together, so while we can enjoy a laugh or two at the expense of boxing’s most outspoken promoter, the ever-growing divide between the sport’s greatest titans is a depressing reminder of how boxing continues to kick its loyal fans in the groin every chance it gets.
Never in the history of professional sports has there been a rivalry so heated and tempestuous between two individuals who’ve never faced one another. If you’ve been following the Mayweather-Pacquiao timeline of name-calling, excuse-making and indifference since Pacquaio’s meteoric rise in 2009 you’ve probably lost track of all the ebbs and flows and don’t really know who to blame anymore. Whether it was Pacquaio initially demanding $10 million per pound if Mayweather missed weight, Mayweather requesting Olympic-style drug testing, Arum’s ridiculous desire to build a temporary 45,000-seat arena to house the event, or Mayweather’s two-month jail stint, it’s clear both sides have played a role in sabotaging any promising contract negotiations. You’d need a week’s vacation and unlimited bandwidth to construct an accurate timeline of the laughable events that have led to this fight falling through the cracks time and time again.
The greed, corruption and malfeasance are what make the sweet science such a tough sell to mainstream audiences. It’s like trying to convince your parents your new boyfriend with the neck tattoo and wallet chain isn’t as a big a douchebag as he appears to be every time he comes to Sunday dinner.
You don’t know what he’s really like!
Casual boxing fans who wouldn’t know Paul Spadafora from Paul Reiser aren’t watching Friday Night Fights on tape delay at 3 a.m. to catch up on what they missed, nor do your parents have any interest peeking in on you and your boyfriend’s tender moments while you spoon during Mike & Molly reruns. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and boxing has a long history of putting its worst foot forward when the most people are watching.
Some of boxing’s most watched Pay Per View events in recent years were one-sided blowouts, typically at the expense of whoever stepped in front of Pacquiao or Mayweather. The two drew 1.3 and 1.4 million buys, respectively, for bludgeoning Shane Mosley within a year of one another. Mayweather’s easy wins over Victor Ortiz (2011) and Miguel Cotto (2012) drew 1.25 and 1.5 million, respectively, while his predictable, unanimous decision win over Saul Alvarez in September drew a record 2.2 million buys. If you want to go back even further, the second most-watched Pay Per View event of all time – and, to this day, the highest-grossing heavyweight fight of all time – is the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson showdown in 2002 in which Lewis pummeled a 36-year-old, past-his-prime Tyson in front of a viewing audience of 1.9 million subscribers.
While Arum’s idea of boycotting lopsided, expensive, Pay Per View cards as a form of protest is a noble idea, it’s somewhat hypocritical coming from Arum himself, not to mention unrealistic, because as long as these fights continue to break records, the Top Ranks and Golden Boys of the world will keep force-feeding us glorified jobbers as adequate B-siders.
Whether we realize it or not, we’re a major part of the problem and one of many roadblocks standing between a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao slugfest. The numbers from Saturday’s rematch haven’t been released yet, but there’s a good chance Pacquaio-Bradley II at least matched, if not surpassed, the 890,000 buys the first fight drew two years ago and more than likely squashed the lousy numbers from Pacquiao’s snoozer against the overmatched Brandon Rios in November (only 475,000 buys).
The evidence shows casual fans will buy into the illusion of a competitive fight, which is often fueled by the star quality of the name on the other side of the marquee, such as a Cotto, Mosley or even Antonio Margarito. The Robert Guerreros and Joshua Clotteys won’t draw files against the major players, and a figurehead like Bradley isn’t worth watching to the average fan unless he’s matched against someone capable of carrying the show on his own; in the first defense of the WBO title he won from Pacquiao, Bradley drew a feeble 375,000 Pay Per View buys against Marquez in October, the same Marquez whose two PPV showdowns against Pacquiao combined for more than 2 million buys.
The way Arum and Schaefer see it, the idea of either Pacquiao or Mayweather fading into irrelevancy by losing in the proposed Super Fight is too much of a financial risk considering both fighters still have a few more years of legitimate drawing power on the Pay Per View market. Either promoter could cost himself millions by putting his No. 1 breadwinner in the fight that would subsequently end boxing’s greatest debate of the past five years – not withstanding an equally lucrative rematch.
Even though Arum, the 82-year-old mouthpiece for one of boxing’s most powerful promotions who often dismisses some of his own wild claims by jokingly calling himself an “old man,” has the right idea, history suggests a fan revolt will never happen. Neither will the fight we all want to see, a less-than-shocking revelation that can only be described as another gut punch from the sport we’ve given so much of our grocery and utility money to for far too long.
What doesn’t make dollars doesn’t make sense either, so don’t hold your breath waiting for the powers that be to put their hatred for one another – or their potential gross revenue – on the back burner for the good of boxing.
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