For almost six years, a fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao has been the talk of boxing. Though big fights have been made in that time, and Pacquiao has lost twice, we're once again in the news cycle where it's all anyone really wants to discuss. This happens two to three times a year, usually when one of them has just fought and once again won handily.
This year, Mayweather went 2-0 against Marcos Maidana in May and September, while Pacquiao beat Tim Bradley and Chris Algieri in April and November. And the talk is back. And this time, supposedly, it's pretty legitimate, and the sides are talking.
So where do we stand on Mayweather-Pacquiao right now? Let's look at a few things floating around.
Potential Purses: Mayweather $100 million, Pacquiao $60 million
And the Manila Bulletin has reported $100 million for Mayweather, $80 million for Pacquiao. Long story short, there is a ton of money in this fight -- a lot more than either man has made for any other fight in their careers. As has been said over and over in the last few years, Manny Pacquiao is not looking for the lion's share of the money, or even 50-50. If nothing else, he understood after he lost to Bradley and Marquez in 2012 that that idea had gone by the wayside. And Mayweather's PPV receipts, while dwindling themselves, have been much stronger than Pacquiao's in the last two years, particularly when you include the freakish numbers for Floyd's September 2013 win over Canelo Alvarez.
Mayweather's $100 million purse doesn't include PPV upside and all the other revenue streams he's wisely used to his advantage as boxing's top draw, and Pacquiao's $60 million would go up, too. There's more money than just this, but we're talking about by far the biggest guarantees boxing has ever seen.
And just to further understand this money, let's illustrate the highest-paid athletes by base salary in other sports:
- MLB: Clayton Kershaw ($32,571,428)
- NBA: Kobe Bryant ($23,500,000)
- NFL: Jay Cutler ($17,500,000)
- NHL: Shea Weber ($14,000,000)
Going past salaries, the top five highest paid athletes according to Forbes (as of June 2014) are Mayweather ($105 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($80 million), LeBron James ($72.3 million), Lionel Messi ($64.7 million), and Kobe Bryant ($61.5 million). For what it's worth, Pacquiao was No. 11 at $41.8 million.
So we're talking about Mayweather making in guarantee alone what he made to be by far the highest paid athlete in the world, and Pacquiao making in guarantee alone what the likes of Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant made including endorsements and salary.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith says Mayweather offered Bob Arum $10 million to not be involved in the fight
The real roadblock, at least as far as a lot of us have read the situation over the years, has been Bob Arum. And not because he's EVIL BOB ARUM the BAD MAN, but because Floyd Mayweather does not like Bob Arum, does not do business with Bob Arum, and doesn't want Bob Arum to profit off of another one of his fights. Mayweather and Arum had a particularly nasty split as fighter and promoter, and Floyd has not worked with any of his fighters since then. It's not just Pacquiao. Mayweather also didn't fight Miguel Cotto until Miguel Cotto was free from his old Top Rank deal and could fight without them associated with the bout. Mayweather also didn't fight Antonio Margarito or Tim Bradley or anyone else under the Top Rank banner. You can call it selective fear if you wish, but it's far more likely that Mayweather just dislikes Arum that much, and probably vice versa, to be fair.
There's been a ton of money in this fight forever and a day now -- the new numbers aren't anything we couldn't have expected before. But Mayweather has passed up that money in the past. It's a different day now, of course. Like mentioned before, PPV numbers for both fighters are down. If you take out the Canelo fight, Mayweather hasn't topped a million buys since 2012 with Miguel Cotto. Like Canelo, Cotto was an extremely strong B-side who brought a lot of his own fans to the table. The last time Mayweather did a million buys for a fight without a major star across the ring was Victor Ortiz in 2011.
Pacquiao has slid even further. Losses to Tim Bradley (sub-1 million buys itself) and Marquez (a PPV hit, over a million buys) in 2012 hurt his stock, and an uninteresting fight with Brandon Rios last year did a reported 475,000 buys, Pacquiao's worst number on PPV by far since his 2008 second fight with Marquez. That fight came before Manny exploded as a PPV attraction by destroying and retiring Oscar De La Hoya. This year's rematch with Bradley did about 750,000 buys, while the Algieri fight is expected to do something similar to that, or at least that's probably the hope. We'll know more about that soon.
$10 million is probably not enough to get Arum to step aside, because he has so much more to gain if he's involved, and then you get back to the old argument: he can make that much to do something else. When Pacquiao and Mayweather were both bringing in enormous sums of money for fights that weren't with one another, the fight was easier to turn down on either side. But those totals are down. Now the fight seems a bit more of a pressing issue for the camps. They're not getting any younger -- Mayweather is 38 in February, Pacquiao is 36 in December -- and this kind of money may not ever be there again.
Could Arum be paid to leave the negotiations? Possibly. It'd have to be a lot more than $10 million, probably, but there might be a figure that suits him. And if he can't, will Mayweather swallow his pride and go ahead with negotiations anyway? Maybe. Maybe not.
Jerry Jones interested in fight for AT&T Stadium
One of the big things for this fight is where it would be held. Macau has been mentioned, with potential money there and with a $5 PPV in China bringing the deal to around $1 billion total, but Mayweather may see Macau as a no-go because it could be considered home turf for Pacquiao and Top Rank. Even with the even more astronomical figures floated around, Floyd might not want to take the risk of fighting under a commission he doesn't know whatsoever.
And that's why Las Vegas should still be considered the favorite. There's a ton of money in Vegas, the fight would be a one-week money shower for the city and for everyone involved, and both fighters are comfortable and familiar with the commission, the officials, the venues, and all of that. Arum's talking up Macau plenty, and for good reasons, but for now, Vegas remains the king city of the fight game.
There is, however, AT&T Stadium (known for a short time as Cowboys Stadium before money got offered to call it something else) in Arlington, Texas. Jerry Jones' mall-stadium behemoth has hosted a pair of Pacquiao fights in the past, against Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Neither fight did the sort of numbers that could rival Las Vegas money, with far lower gates for 30-40,000 fans than Manny has done with 15,000 in Nevada. But this is a different fight. Jones thinks they could do 100,000 paying customers, and he may have the money to challenge a Las Vegas site fee. Consider it an outside contender, but it's probably more likely than Macau, if only because it's on American soil.
Mayweather has fought his last 10 fights at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and his last 12 fights in Las Vegas. His last bout outside of Vegas came in November 2005, when he beat Sharmba Mitchell at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. Floyd has not fought in Texas since 1997, when he beat Louie Leija in El Paso. He also fought in San Antonio earlier that same year, beating Larry O'Shields.
What about drug testing?
Let's end this bit right now: Pacquiao has long agreed to Mayweather's drug testing demands. Pacquiao has also undergone VADA or WADA testing for recent fights with Brandon Rios, Tim Bradley, and Chris Algieri. There is absolutely no issue with this anymore. At one time, there were some disagreements about how it would be handled, who would handle it, when the cutoff for testing would be, but this has long ago been a dead issue. People mostly want to remember the "Manny doesn't like needles" story, but this hasn't been a problem for years now.
So what are the odds?
Mayweather-Pacquiao may now be closer than it has been at any time since early 2010, when the fight was fairly close to being made. Instead, we wound up with Pacquiao-Clottey and Mayweather-Mosley, and there have been no really serious discussions for the fight since then, despite continued demand.
Do I personally think we're going to see the fight? I'm strangely optimistic about this for whatever reason, so I'm going to say yes, I think we will see this fight on Cinco De Mayo 2015. I really think we're at the brink, and it's going to be make or break for the negotiations soon.
But I wouldn't recommend you getting your hopes up, either. This has been close before and didn't happen. There's been every reason to make it before, and it didn't happen. We've been waiting since 2009. It has not happened yet. Whether it's a breakdown from money, or Arum's involvement, or gloves or location or any other possible thing, this negotiation can't afford a single slip.