After three years of talking and taunting, grand boasts, failed negotiations and attempts to gain the upper hand by both sides, it looks like we've reached a turning point: Floyd Mayweather Jr may be winning the press battle against Team Pacquiao, and it might be getting a little one-sided.
Let me make this clear to start: This is mostly not about Manny Pacquiao. The two fighters have both spoken less than their representatives. For Manny, it's been Bob Arum, Freddie Roach, and even Alex Ariza. For Floyd, we've had Leonard Ellerbe yapping a lot, plus Golden Boy heads Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya, who would co-promote the fight even though Floyd doesn't officially work for them.
Pacquiao has long been pressed by media to "call out" Mayweather, to make a bold stand. "Yes, I want to fight him," is what we've wanted Pacquiao to say. But the best he's ever mustered up in that regard is, "Let's give the people what they want." It's the same, but it's not.
Now, Mayweather has also never really clearly stated, "I want to fight Manny Pacquiao. I want Manny Pacquiao!" Like Pacquiao, he's said it, but he hasn't. More often, Ellerbe says that Floyd said it. But Mayweather, whose team is savvier and less blunt than Arum in particular, has made a greater declaration of desire than Team Pacquiao.
One statement in particular gets Pacquiao criticized over and over: "I'll fight whoever Bob Arum/Top Rank/my promoter puts in front of me."
Yes, we know. But shouldn't the money man pull the strings? If he wants Mayweather, why doesn't he force the issue?
The spin today is all Mayweather, quite frankly, and Manny and Co. are reeling on the ropes. Top Rank has officially told the other side they won't be negotiating to have Pacquiao fight Mayweather on May 5, opting instead to try to make a fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. There are ways to understand this, and yet it's still so easy to just say, "Well, that's it. Top Rank clearly doesn't want this fight."
That's exactly what Team Mayweather is saying right now, too. From ESPN.com:
"I am sick and tired of Bob Arum twisting the truth. It's another case of 'yesterday I was lying, today I'm telling the truth,' " Schaefer said, invoking Arum's most famous quote. "The truth of the matter is that we received this afternoon an email from retired federal judge Daniel Weinstein, who has informed us that Top Rank is pursuing a rematch with Marquez and, therefore, is not interested in immediate talks for a possible Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. This is obviously as clear as it can be that they have no intentions of making a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Therefore, Floyd Mayweather will have no other choice than to move on and identify and lock in another opponent for his ring return on May 5."
... "In my opinion, you have three cowards -- Bob Arum, (Pacquiao trainer) Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao," Ellerbe told ESPN.com. "Now we all know the truth once and for all why this fight hasn't been made. It should be clear to everyone that they don't care what the fans want, especially when Floyd is ready, willing and able to fight Manny Pacquiao now. Floyd said if this isn't clear, he doesn't know what is."
Arum, in his own defense, says that there's no reason to sit down with Mayweather right now, as they are focused on making a fourth Marquez fight. That's a fair enough point, but it doesn't answer the question of why they're so dead-set focused on making a fourth Marquez fight instead of facing Mayweather.
Yes, Pacquiao vs Marquez III was very competitive, fairly controversial, and an exciting fight. But it's still worth far less money than Manny vs Floyd, and the public demand is much, much lower.
If it's a case of Manny Pacquiao demanding to set the record straight with Marquez in yet another fight, then OK -- but why has he never outright demanded that the fight with Mayweather be made?
The Mayweather side has convinced the majority of the public at this point that this fight is not being made because of one man: Bob Arum. Either Arum doesn't want to line Floyd's pockets thanks to their nasty grudge, or Arum just plain doesn't want the fight, and you can call that fear if you want to.
Manny Pacquiao's PR stock has taken a hit the last three days, among a lot of boxing fans. He is right now at his most questionable, in and out of the ring. Some isn't his fault. Some might be. But that's the way it is today.
And Mayweather, finally, has taken the advantage in their eternal press battle. He no longer is playing the bad guy, as the sides are becoming shades of grey.