NEW YORK -- January has turned to February and there is still no deal for Floyd Mayweather to face Manny Pacquiao. Why? Depends on who you ask.
Ask Team Paquiao and it’s Mayweather, whose zeal to control every facet of the fight, while simultaneously bleeding Pacquiao of every nickel possible, has bogged down the deal in its final phases.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, has gone out of his way to let the world know that Pacquiao has agreed to every one of Mayweather’s demands, from drug testing (USADA) to the date (May 2) to the financial split (60-40 in favor of Mayweather). Arum told fightnews.com Mayweather is “running like a thief.”
Ask Team Mayweather and the fingers point back at Arum, whose constant public pressure is doing more harm than good. There is no deal, Mayweather confidants say, so why is Arum declaring there is? Understand Floyd, they say. Pressuring him to make a deal isn’t going to motivate him to do it; it’s going to make him more likely to pull away. There has even been the suggestion that HBO, which has an exclusive contract with Pacquiao, has been a roadblock, a notion the network strongly disputed on Monday.
“We are not an impediment to this fight,” HBO said in a statement. “We stand ready to go. The principals need to agree to terms and come to a deal.”
And there, perhaps, we find our first irrefutable truth. There is no deal. There is the framework of a deal, multiple sources told SI.com. A deal memo, a document outlining key elements, has been circulated, but there is no signed agreement. There are still fundamental issues that need to be worked out, issues that have nothing to do with the network.
There is motivation for HBO to take a tough position, of course. Pacquiao is tied to Arum through 2016, which ties him to HBO given Arum, effectively an exclusive provider to the network, isn’t doing anything to harm that relationship. Mayweather’s agreement with Showtime expires at the end of the year, when he will, presumably, complete the lucrative six-fight deal he signed with the network in 2013. Mayweather was built by HBO; what’s to stop the network from re-signing him in ’16 and staging the fight on its platform? It’s a risk -- both fighters could lose, significantly diminishing the appeal of a matchup -- but it has to be something HBO is thinking.
Really, though, it’s unfathomable that either network would stand in the way. Mayweather and Pacquiao are a step or two slower than what they were five years ago, when both were at the height of their powers. Mayweather is more stationary and Pacquiao doesn’t apply the same relentless pressure he used to. But the mainstream appeal is still considerable. This is a fight that should zoom past 2.5 million pay per view buys and has a realistic shot at eclipsing three million. HBO’s Ken Hershman would be vilified for being an obstacle; Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza would, too.
This comes down to the fighters and frankly, the buck stops with Floyd. It’s hard to see Pacquiao moving any further. The 60-40 split, which Pacquiao has confirmed, is already a major concession. Mayweather likes to point to Pacquiao’s pedestrian pay per view numbers in Macau, including the estimated 350,000 buys Pacquiao did in his last fight with little known Chris Algieri. But Pacquiao’s true appeal in the U.S. can be more closely measured by the 750,000 buys Pacquiao generated in his rematch with Tim Bradley last April. Those numbers are well below the 1 million-plus Pacquiao pulled in during his heyday and a tick below the 850,000 to 900,000 Mayweather did in each of his two fights against Marcos Maidana. But they are in the same ballpark.
Ultimately, Mayweather has to realize that. Ancillary issues aside, a 60-40 split of a fight that could be worth north of $200 million is an excellent deal; many boxing insiders feel Pacquiao’s fan friendly style is as big an asset in convincing fans to plunk down $75 (or more) for the fight as Mayweather’s polarizing personality. And as much as Mayweather abhors Arum, no promoter in boxing has been involved in as many big events. There is measurable value in having Arum, and the Top Rank machine that comes with him, involved in the fight.
The clock is ticking though, and while neither side is ready to pull away, there will come a time when they have to. A Feb. 1deadline set by Team Pacquiao has come and gone. An impromptu face-to-face negotiating session at a Miami hotel last week moved things forward, but clearly not far enough. Mayweather says he is committed to fighting on May 2, and a rematch with middleweight champion Miguel Cotto is believed to be his fallback. If a Mayweather fight can’t be made, Pacquiao will look to fight Amir Khan in May. It would be an incredibly disappointing outcome, but given the history of these negotiations, not one that should surprise anyone.