LAS VEGAS -- Someday, maybe before the end of this decade, Floyd Mayweather will make the cross-country trip to Canastota, N.Y. and be inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame. Leonard Ellerbe will be there. So will Al Haymon, Richard Schaefer and 50 other people with vague connections to the longtime champ. There will be a palpable buzz to Mayweather's arrival, for one of two reasons:
Mayweather's one, two or three fights against Manny Pacquiao.
Mayweather's refusal to face him.
How legal and sportsmanlike Mayweather's hammering one-two combination to a defenseless Victor Ortiz has, temporarily, slowed the 'will they or won't they' Mayweather-Pacquiao saga. But that will wear off, quickly. Ortiz will go away, off to fight a very digestible rematch with Andre Berto. And the debate over whether the richest, most mainstream boxing match in a long time will be made will again consume the sport.
The negotiations for Mayweather and Pacquiao are as maddening a sports story as any reporter will cover, as any fan will ever read about. The two sides negotiate, then one denies the negotiations ever happened. They come to a fundamental agreement on key issues like money, site and weight but are divided over blood and urine testing. When Pacquiao says he will agree to unlimited blood and urine testing, there is Mayweather to say he doesn't believe him.
"I've been trying to tell you, they are lying," Mayweather told me late Saturday night. "They are lying. They tell you one thing that you are interested in to keep the fans watching. They say, 'Oh we are going to fight Floyd Mayweather, we're going to fight Floyd Mayweather' and then they fight my leftovers. They have been feeding off my fan base. They are piggybacking off my fan base. They say one thing but they are not doing it. You mention Pacquiao's name, you say 'that's the kid they are trying to get to fight Floyd Mayweather.' You mention my name and you say 'that's an all-time great.'
"What [Pacquiao promoter] Bob Arum is telling everybody is not true. Don't listen to Arum. He's probably sick of putting up with Pacquaio and all his gambling. He wants to take the test but for a whole month he doesn't want to take the test. He wants to take the test but he wants to be notified when the people are coming. This sh-- will drive you up the wall. He really don't want to fight. They are tricking you all. How do you think he got this big? By being connected to my name. Arum says he is an alltime great. For what? For beating my leftovers? Antonio Margarito had just gotten beat by Mosley when he fought Margarito. Mosley just got beat by me when he fought Mosley. Margarito beat Cotto with a cast, then he goes and fights Miguel Cotto. He hasn't done anything."
Mayweather admits he is prone to contradicting himself, and it seems like he is doing it again. He says Pacquiao won't agree to blood testing while his advisors swear up and down they never sat down and talked about it. He says Pacquiao beats his leftovers but glosses over the fact that Juan Manuel Marquez had fought Pacquiao twice when Mayweather beat him.
Arum believes this isn't about money or blood testing. According to Arum, it's about Mayweather's belief that Pacquiao would be too difficult a fight.
"Manny knows styles," Arum told me during an interview at his office. "So does Floyd. That's why Manny thinks Mayweather is not a difficult fight and Floyd knows Manny is a difficult fight. Not saying Mayweather thinks he can't beat Manny. But it's a very difficult fight. It's the one style that Mayweather, with his style, cannot, or shouldn't face. That's the only reason. Everything else is bull----. The first time around, we got involved in this insane discussion about blood testing. That was an ego thing. As soon as we realized that was an ego thing and who gives a sh--, then we agreed to unlimited testing. That was a year and a half ago and this guy is still prattling 'take the test.'"
Arum believes that even if the issue of blood testing is resolved, Mayweather will use Pacquiao's desire to hold the first half of his training camp in the Philippines as an excuse not to make the fight.
"If you tell Pacquiao he can't train in the Philippines, then you end up in a bad situation," Arum said. "It would be 'here's the American telling the Filipino what he can or can't do.' Manny can't agree to that. He can't abandon the Philippines for no reason. That would be disastrous, particularly for a guy who wants to run for President of the Philippines. Imagine if he acceded to that? And then he runs for President? He'd get hammered. People don't understand -- that's the arena he is playing him. I can't allow him to do it. "
Arum, who says Pacquiao will retire after a final fight in the Philippines in November 2013, says he already has a list of opponents for Pacquiao to face. At the top is junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley, followed by welterweight Mike Jones and lightweight Brandon Rios. Mayweather will soon be given a short list of opponents, one that could include Berto and Amir Khan.
Life will go on for Mayweather and Pacquiao if they don't face each other. They will both make the trip to Canastota, both see themselves enshrined among the greats. They won't suffer. Just the boxing fans will.