As Manny Pacquiao prepares himself for the eyes of the boxing world to be on him once again tomorrow night against Juan Manuel Marquez, it's no secret that even before the two step into the ring for a third time at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, many out there are still more focused on a potential 2012 fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The world's two best pound-for-pound fighters are seen by the majority to be the only real challenge left for one another, and with Mayweather recently announcing that he'll return on May 5, 2012, and his team saying he wants that date to be a Pacquiao fight, talk has stirred again.
Bob Arum has been wildly inconsistent this week on the topic of a Mayweather vs Pacquiao mega-fight. First, he took offense to the timing of Mayweather's announcement, and said that Floyd and his team were "playing games." Then, he gave wings to a floating rumor that Mayweather would instead fight Erik Morales. (Don't worry, it's absolutely not happening.)
But just today, it was reported that Arum said he'd be willing to drop the defamation lawsuit that Pacquiao has against Mayweather if Floyd "really wants" to make the fight happen.
So what's the score here? And is Arum playing against himself?
Golden Boy's side, which would represent Mayweather in negotiations (at least in part), sounds optimistic. Richard Schaefer is championing the idea that Mayweather really does want the fight, and now, in an article from Martin Rogers of Yahoo! Sports, Oscar De La Hoya says he's "very optimistic" that the fight can happen, and that the two sides can work together to make a lot of money:
"I am very optimistic now," De La Hoya said ... "I believe if he gets past Marquez, Mayweather already has his date set for May 5 and he gave orders for the biggest fight out there. It is no secret that fight is Manny Pacquiao." ... "It is up to me and Richard Schaefer and Bob Arum to sort things out for the fighters. I know from Mayweather’s point of view he is back and he wants the biggest fight – Pacquiao."
Mayweather (42-0, 26 KO) returned from a 16-month layoff to knock out Victor Ortiz in a controversial fight on September 17, and while the fight may not have lived up to some expectations, it also created an enormous post-fight buzz for boxing, and a reported 1.25 million homes bought the fight. Pacquiao (53-3-2, 38 KO) last fought on May 7, routing a lifeless Shane Mosley in a fight that was heavily booed by the live audience and drew terrible reviews from fight fans. His fight tomorrow may be more exciting, but fact is that the Marquez bout is also drawing its share of criticism.
We may be close to reaching the point where casual boxing fans are going to start tuning out from these two -- it probably hasn't happened yet, and no doubt the swirling rumors of the fight cropping up again in the last week are helping matters for now, but it will eventually happen. It's getting to where it's as if two great teams have made won their conferences and set up a huge showdown, but the NFL keeps delaying the Super Bowl.
All of this talk, from the optimism to the pessimism, has to be taken with a punch of salt. But hopefully Oscar's right, and the fight is closer than it has been in the past.