Ronnie Nathanielsz reports that Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says the Manny Pacquiao quotes from yesterday were fake, and that the fighter has not decided to soften his stance when it comes to drug testing to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. later this year.
Nathanielsz says that Arum stated their side would hold firm on no less than 24 days for the final random testing before any possible fight with Mayweather. They also won't budge on the previously agreed-upon 50-50 split.
Frankly, this may be a bit of damage control by Arum, who could feel that bending on one issue means bending on several, but we'll figure that out soon enough.
Arum also offered up possible "other" fights for Pacquiao this autumn, as the fighter plans to return in September or November, depending upon if he wins (November) or loses (September) his upcoming election in the Philippines. Arum, as everyone expected, brought up Antonio Margarito first, and a 150-pound rematch for a possible 154-pound title should Miguel Cotto beat Yuri Foreman in June. Margarito fights Roberto Garcia on Saturday at 154 pounds in a fight that really has not drummed up any significant interest among boxing fans. Arum and Top Rank may be hoping that time heals the wound, but it doesn't seem to me that that's happening in this case.
The possible Cotto rematch reeks. Miguel was soundly beaten the first time around and I don't think anybody has any desire to shell out $55-65 to see that again. Bumping it up to 150 pounds adds no real intrigue. Pacquiao is better than Cotto and proved it the first time around. I don't think that Emanuel Steward training Cotto is going to make him any better able to handle Pacquiao's speed, which was the killer last time out. It's also a blatant and transparent cherry-pick at another title in another division, one that would have no real validity whatsoever. I'm not saying Cotto isn't still a good fighter, but Pacquiao beating a guy he's already mauled at a catchweight for another belt is just too much. I don't think that fight would anywhere near the business it did the first time around. In fact, I don't know that it would meet what Pacquiao-Clottey did. At least that was an unknown. This is a very well known.
To be honest, I find it irritating that these sides are talking about other fights. It's somewhat of an insult to the boxing public, which has paid good money to support these two fighters over the years, and has played a huge role in building them into the stars they are today. This would be kind of like the Cavs and Lakers making the NBA finals and deciding to not play one another, but play two different series instead and then both claim to be the best when they win.
Negotiating a fight this big is obviously complex. There are so many things to worry about. But when you get right down to it, no fight in the last 25 years (at least) has needed to happen more than this one needs to happen. I am not saying boxing will "die," because boxing will never die. I am saying that the strides made in the last five-to-seven years to make better fights and make more of them available at least to your average HBO or Showtime subscriber would take a blow. I already have the constant fear that PPV successes are going to lead to too many fights on PPV again, shutting out the folks who don't have tons of disposable cash (or aren't as stupid as a guy like me, buying them all), and thus limiting the audience significantly.
Sometimes people comment on posts where I talk about boxing business with "Hey, I don't care, so long as (x) happens!" But that's the thing: (x) stops happening when the people in charge start screwing up too much. It has happened before. Boxing has been an industry proven to be reluctant if not deathly afraid of major change. The July 31 PPV fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz is a really good fight, the Fight of the Year in 2009. But on PPV? Who's going to BUY a Juan Diaz fight? He has never headlined a pay-per-view in his life, and they're expecting fans to shell out $50 to do so after two straight so-so performances against Paul Malignaggi.
As I begin to trail off into foreign territory, here's where I try to jump back on the tracks. If Mayweather-Pacquiao doesn't happen, something's wrong. Something's wrong with one or both of the fighters, or more likely, something is deadly wrong again with the way the promoters see the sport. I get asked sometimes why a fight like Marquez-Diaz II doesn't go on, say, a Mayweather-Mosley-type undercard. It's simple: the promoters can spread those two fights out and make money. The only fights that go on undercards are the ones they can't make any real money off of elsewhere. Where was Daniel Ponce de Leon-Cornelius Lock going to get the turnstiles moving?
So you could be looking at a situation where everyone is saying, "Well we could fight this guy for huge money, or keep it going elsewhere and add that money up over a few, less risky fights." Mayweather and Pacquaio are in no danger of not making money any time soon. And while it's way too early in Negotiation #2 (if there is to be real negotiation) to say that anyone is doing that, these zebras aren't going to change their stripes any time soon. I have significant doubts that anything really comes out differently than it did before. We've already had Mayweather-Sergio Martinez floated out there, and now Arum is talking about different fights for Pacquiao.
If either one of these fighters wants to talk about legacy or pleasing the fans, they should know that not fighting each other is to the great disapproval of the fans and to the detriment of their respective legacies. They're both going to the Hall of Fame. It is locked up. All that is REALLY left for either of them is to fight each other. Anything else is padding or icing on the cake.