Friday November 21st, 2014

Did you hear the one about Floyd Mayweather fighting Manny Pacquiao? Bob Arum, that renowned humorist, is the one telling it. According to Arum, clandestine negotiations, spearheaded by top CBS executive Les Moonves, have been ongoing between HBO and Showtime that would pit boxing’s two most popular fighters against each other in 2015. Arum says that a venue has been discussed (Cowboys Stadium) and suggested -- wait for it -- there is a possibility that Pacquiao and Mayweather could fight not once but twice (twice!) next year.

Hello? Is this thing on?

If you believe Arum, I’ve got some intel on where Jimmy Hoffa is buried to sell you. Oh, and D.B. Cooper is sitting in my living room.

Could Arum have discussed a joint pay-per-view with Moonves? Sure. Arum has history with the CBS exec, and it easily could have been brought up. Could Arum have talked about his conversation with Moonves to executives at HBO? Of course. Arum all but has an output deal with the network. Could Moonves have mentioned, even in a casual setting, to someone at HBO that the two networks should find a way to work together again? That’s possible, too.

But real negotiations? Come on.

Arum is a promoter. It’s his job to drum up interest in a fight, and right now he’s trying to sell a stinker. Chris Algieri -- against whom Pacquiao (56-5-2) will defend his WBO welterweight title on Saturday in Macau, China (HBO PPV, 9 pm) -- is a perfectly nice guy. He’s smart (a Masters degree in clinical nutrition), well spoken and has a résumé just thick enough (he’s the WBO’s junior welterweight champion, having taken the title from Ruslan Provodnikov in June) to be considered credible. Algieri (20-0) has done everything he can to promote the fight -- rare is the day writers open their inbox and not see an email from Pacquiao publicist Fred Sternburg promoting Algieri’s next appearance -- but there is only so much the little known 140-pounder from Huntington, N.Y., can do.

That’s where Mayweather comes in. He’s a human starter pistol. Arum says his name and boom, mainstream media jumps on board. There remains, incredibly, a fascination with a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. Nevermind that neither fighter is in his prime, that both have looked sluggish the last few years as they have inched toward 40. A talk radio host in Miami probably doesn’t know that Pacquiao has not had a knockout since 2009. And a sports editor in New York likely wasn’t among the 1.6 million or so who bought Mayweather’s two fights against Marcos Maidana this year.

Pacquiao-Algieri does nothing for them. Pacquiao-Mayweather does.

Here’s the simple, cold truth: Pacquiao-Mayweather won’t happen until Mayweather says it will. Oh, sure, when it comes to these negotiations, there has been plenty of blame to go around. Pacquiao should have agreed to enhanced drug testing years ago. Arum probably could have toned down the rhetoric. But recently -- and let's define recently as since 2010, when ex-HBO boss Ross Greenburg thought he had struck a historic deal, only to have Mayweather pull out and his team, bizarrely, deny that any negotiations had taken place -- the blame falls at the Mayweather’s feet. He’s the one who’s indifferent, he’s the one dictating terms only a truly desperate Pacquiao would take.

I don’t get it, but then again I’m not guaranteed to collect at least $30 million from any mid-level fighter Showtime is willing to approve. We like to think that Mayweather has run out of viable opponents, but the reality is that if Amir Khan beats Devon Alexander next month, the likelihood of Mayweather-Khan is exponentially greater than Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Ultimately, what does it matter? The quiet truth is that for many, Pacquiao-Mayweather would be a colossal disappointment. Five years ago, Pacquiao was a wrecking ball and Mayweather was the most elusive man in the sport. These days Pacquiao’s speed and combination punching have diminished considerably and Mayweather relies more on head movement and his vaunted shoulder roll defense to keep opponents from teeing off on him.

Once Pacquiao-Mayweather would have determined the best fighter of this generation. Today it would just be two fading stars looking to cash a bigger paycheck.

In Macau, Arum is pulling out all the stops. He’s characterizing Algieri as a modern day Rocky, even convincing Sly Stallone himself to pop into a press conference for a photo op. He has teased Danny Garcia as a future Pacquiao opponent, pushed the narrative that Freddie Roach -- cornerman for Provodnikov when he lost to Algieri -- is out for revenge and spun a story in which Roach was ticked off at Miss Long Island. But mostly he’s talking about Mayweather, masterfully dangling the one carrot he knows pay-per-view buying fans will still desperately try to reach.

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