Friday, January 15, 2010

As Pacquiao-Mayweather fails, boxing proves its own worst enemy

A picture is worth a thousand words. So let's make a visual out of the current state of boxing.

Close your eyes and remember. October 1993. Las Vegas. The land is needed more than the building, so they fill the venerable Dunes Hotel on the Strip with dynamite, push a button and it implodes.

January 2010. The good ol' USA. No dynamite, just stupidity and ego. Same thing happens. Boxing implodes.

Last Sunday, promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank announced that Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines will fight Joshua Clottey of Ghana. The fight will be March 13 in the Dallas Cowboys' new football stadium.

Later that same day, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions announced that Floyd Mayweather Jr. would fight an opponent to be determined. The fight will be March 13 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

Yes, these are the two premier boxers in their sport.

Yes, they were supposed to fight each other.

And yes, that fight was supposed to be on March 13.

The world anticipated that one. Wallets and checkbooks were open. Sponsors were lining up. The estimated $60 pay-per-view tab even seemed reasonable. The bout would put boxing on the front pages next to the likes of Lakers and Dodgers, and in the same breath with them on the nightly newscasts.

This was a big deal, and then it wasn't. The fight was off. Mayweather's camp implied that Pacquiao must be enhancing his performances with drugs because he got so big and so good so fast. Pacquiao, with no credible hint whatsoever of any such activity, was offended, eventually said he wanted no part of the Mayweather camp and even sued for defamation.

Keep in mind that each fighter was to be guaranteed $25 million, and the likely final take for each, with projected pay-per-view revenue, was closer to $40 million.

In the end, this was an impasse the size of the Grand Canyon.

Then boxing made it worse.

By announcing separate fights on the same date, they split everything in two, especially their fan base. Television networks would have to choose. HBO is the sport's cash cow and it now must choose, alienating whomever it rejects.

Even if the two shows come off at different times with a two-hour difference from Central to Pacific zones, few are likely to plunk down money to buy both. Sports editors, website editors and TV program directors are likely to look at this mess, look at their ever-dwindling budgets and keep their reporters at home.

In essence, boxing canceled a Super Bowl and replaced it with two lesser events at the same time on competing channels. Nice work.

What ever happened to "United we stand, divided we fall"? In boxing, it appears to be "Every man for himself and take the other guy down with you."

If you are looking for a winner in this non-fight fight, it is probably the Pacquiao side. His fight with Clottey has the possibility of being competitive. It also has the attraction of a shiny new venue. Plus, whatever media attention is available, it will go more to the current star, Pacquiao. He has been backing up the Brinks truck after each fight for the last several years, while Mayweather, already retired and unretired once, has been less active.

Pacquiao, and promoter Arum, were in much better financial standing to walk away from a mega-fight. Mayweather has made millions, but has also fought recently, at least in part, for the benefit of the Internal Revenue Service.

Arum was Mayweather's promoter for many years, and is not shy about telling people he never made money with Mayweather and that Mayweather walked away from him just as his career became financially viable. Mayweather is now managed by Al Haymon, with whom Arum has dealt over the years for many fights. They like each other like cattlemen like sheepherders.

Walking away from these guys had to bring Arum at least a tinge of satisfaction.

The possibility of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight later in the year will depend on several things, including Pacquiao's possible status as a congressman in the Philippines. If he is elected in May, he could conceivably do all his fighting henceforth in political chambers, not boxing rings.

Throughout this saga, Mayweather has acted badly, as is his wont. As recently as last week, with the fight and his likely $40-million payday falling apart around him, he issued a statement that used foul language and further insulted Pacquiao.

Ultimately, he trash-talked his way into the garbage bin.

The last word on this story will go to Golden Boy's Schaefer, who unwittingly summed it all up. Early on in the talks, he said, "If we can't make this fight, we are idiots."


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