Of course, there was a time when boxing was much more than a niche sport. For nearly a century, the sweet science was rivaled only by baseball and soccer in terms of US and world popularity, respectively.
Perhaps the best examples of boxing’s indelible mark on history are the countless idioms that are rooted in the sport.
A political candidate may “throw their hat in the ring,” a person struggling could be termed a “light weight,” “on the ropes,” “taking it on the chin” or “down for the count.”
A demonstration of restraint is synonymous with “pulling punches,” quitting is synonymous with “throwing in the towel,” unfair actions are “low blows” or “sucker punches,” a beautiful woman is a “knockout,” adaptation or flexibility is akin to “rolling with the punches.” One might be fortunate to be “saved by the bell” if they “square off” with a “heavy hitter” in any walk of life, unless that person has an equally influential person “in their corner.”
Indeed, boxing has seen its golden age fade away and today’s version of the sport is not often in the public’s consciousness.
Gone are the days when Joe Loius achieved international icon status, when Ray Leonard was Coca Cola’s primary pitchman, when Muhammad Ali was the most famous man in the world or when Mike Tyson was the “baddest man on the planet.”
Boxing’s household names are few and far between these days and water-cooler conversations, nearly non-existent.
Although today’s boxing community is bordering on subculture, there remains one topic of interest to the masses.
When will Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight?
As has become routine in recent years, both men are presently struggling to identify viable opponents for the fall of 2014, while the rest of the world wonders why the obvious solution is not even a consideration at this point.
A meeting of the sport’s two biggest stars would almost certainly be the richest event in boxing history, but the dollar has not proven almighty in the case of Mayweather and Pacquiao.
For nearly five years, there has been a great deal of speculation as to why this fight has not happened, much of which has been over-simplified and lacking full background. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question of “why not.”
The circumstances have grown complicated to the point where many boxing insiders have stopped addressing questions on this topic, apparently resigned to the idea that the web is far too tangled.
How did this happen?
It is a widely held belief that the egos of Mayweather and Top Rank President Bob Arum, who presently promotes Pacquiao, remain the most significant obstacles.
While much of the blame has been directed at these two men, and most notably at their failure to move beyond the bad blood which developed during the 10 years when Floyd was promoted by Top Rank, their issues are likely ancillary to those at the heart of the matter. The other principle players – former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Mayweather advisor Al Haymon and Pacquiao, himself – have been largely overlooked as culprits in boxing’s great disgrace.
In 2009, Pacquiao and Mayweather appeared on the verge of an agreement before seemingly surmountable issues scuttled the super fight. Many point at the failed contract negotiations, which culminated in litigation for slander, as the catalyst for the near five-year stalemate between the two sides, however the foundation for failure had been laid prior to these discussions.
The sordid tale of Mayweather and Pacquiao can be traced back to 2006, around the time that Floyd fled Top Rank for the greenest pastures in the history of prize fighting, and a partnership with Golden Boy Promotions. What many don’t know is that the grandiose aspirations of the Golden Boy Promotions’ leadership did not stop at luring Mayweather.
When Oscar De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Promotions in 2002, he hired a boxing outsider - then Swiss banking executive, Richard Schaefer - as the company CEO. Schaefer’s aggressive approach to business would become a key ingredient in the ultimate success of De La Hoya’s creation and, accordingly, Richard would become the voice of the organization.
The union of Schaefer and De La Hoya would last 12 years and resulted in, among other accomplishments, the two highest grossing events in boxing history.
Schaefer, in particular, has often been lauded as a boxing Robinhood, however certain unpublicized actions would seem to reveal an underbelly to Golden Boy’s business practices during the tenure of the former Swiss banker.
Of particular relevance to the Mayweather/Pacquiao saga was a 2006 incident where Golden Boy attempted to poach the Philippine star from Top Rank in a rather unscrupulous fashion. While unclear whether he was acting of his own accord or at the direction of Schaefer, De La Hoya arranged a secret meeting with Manny and reportedly delivered a cash-filled suitcase in an attempt to sign him to a promotional contract.
In an equally, if not more underhanded maneuver, Pacquiao accepted the signing bonus in spite of the fact that he was under contract to Top Rank. The companies would land in Nevada State Court to decide which had promotional rights to Pacquiao, whose reputation remained virtually untarnished despite his sketchy act, which incited what has become known as the “promotional cold war.”
Top Rank and Golden Boy reached a settlement in mid-2007, which, reportedly, dictated that Pacquiao’s rights would remain with Top Rank, however Golden Boy would be entitled to an undisclosed percentage of revenue generated from Pacquiao fights.
Further and perhaps most pertinent was a clause in the agreement which called for Top Rank to administer the accounting of revenue related to Manny’s fights, unless his opponent is promoted by Golden Boy. Translation: in cases where Pacquiao fights a Golden Boy-promoted fighter, Golden Boy would account for the revenue, expenses and subsequently pay Top Rank their share of the profits. Implicit in this, is that the two companies needed to trust one another’s accounting and ultimately this issue would become the crux of the rift between them.
Nevertheless, between 2007-2009, the two companies held multiple successful cross promotions until Mayweather and Pacquiao engaged in an acrimonious back and forth during their 2009 fight negotiations.
Once more, the result was a court battle rather than a ring battle. Mayweather’s last-minute insistence on Olympic style drug testing was unusual and gave the appearance that Floyd was looking for an excuse to duck Pacquiao who was riding a prodigious knockout streak at the time.
When details of the failed negotiations surfaced through various reports, the focus was on Mayweather’s comments related to performance enhancing drugs and to the effect that Pacquiao’s success was suspicious.
Public sentiment was mostly on the side of Pacquiao and against Mayweather, who was accused of making assumptions based on circumstantial evidence. While not widely reported, there have been accounts of the negotiations, which, if accurate, would understandably create concern in the Floyd camp.
Renowned trainer and television analyst, Teddy Altas, citing reliable sources involved in the negotiations, stated that there were correspondences between the two camps, in which Pacquiao’s representatives made inquiries that may suggest impropriety.
According to Atlas there were two noteworthy emails: “the first email was; what would the penalty be if our guy tested positive? The second email was; if he did test positive, could we keep it a secret for the benefit of boxing?”
While this account, even if accurate, does not constitute a smoking gun, should Mayweather have been vilified for raising this issue?
Pacquiao’s team would file a defamation lawsuit in late 2009, which was settled nearly three years later. Yet another, and the most significant legal battle would ensue, between Top Rank and Golden Boy in 2010, over financial accounting of three Pacquiao fights from 2008-2009. This was a predictable outcome, given that the two organizations could hardly communicate amicably, much less keep peace with a revenue sharing agreement.
Golden Boy’s complaint (below), a copy of which was obtained by FightSaga, in relevant part, accused Top Rank of defrauding them with questionable accounting practices and dishonest reporting of revenue.
All three fights in question were between Pacquiao and Top Rank fighters, which meant that Top Rank, alone, handled the accounting of revenue. The case would be dismissed in 2011, but the companies have not collaborated since the date of filing in 2010. With the backdrop of this legal action, there would seem to be clear disincentive for the companies to cross-promote and thereby defer to the other’s accounting. It also stands to reason that the Pacquaio promotional rights dispute and terms of the eventual revenue sharing agreement, were the impetus for the so-called “cold war.”
In recent weeks, and with the departure of Richard Schaefer from Golden Boy, more layers of this rotten onion are peeling back.
Reportedly, Schaefer's exit was precipitated by disagreements with De La Hoya over the contractual handling of several fighters. The athletes at issue have been fighting under the Golden Boy banner without contractual obligation to the company.
Curiously, all of these fighters are managed and contractually obligated to business advisor, Al Haymon who is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful men in the sport.
Raising further question has been the ad nauseum “thanks to Al Haymon” remarks from Golden Boy fighters in almost every televised post-fight interview. Could this have been a purposeful strategy to use Golden Boy’s telecasts to promote Haymon’s name? Does Schaefer intend to abscond with these non-contracted fighters to form a new entity with Haymon? Do these shady deals shed any light on the 2006 Pacquiao incident? Who knows, but the questions are fair and De La Hoya has filed (you guessed it) another lawsuit, for 50 million dollars in damages resulting from Schaefer’s actions.
In the time since Schaefer’s departure, De La Hoya and Arum have pledged to bury the hatchet, something Schaefer was unwilling to do with Arum. This would seem a positive step for boxing, however if the Haymon fighters depart Golden Boy, very little will have changed. And yes, Floyd Mayweather is among the Haymon/non-contracted Golden Boy contingent.
So, what’s the conclusion?
There are a few things that we can be certain of:
1) this is not as simple as Mayweather being afraid of Pacquiao’s power,
2) nor is it as simple as Pacquiao demanding 50 percent of the purse and
3) the entire mess has much less to do with Arum and Mayweather than Schaefer, Haymon and Pacquiao.
Let’s not forget that Arum was actually harmed in the 2007 settlement, losing a percentage of future revenue related to a fighter that he had under contract. As if that weren’t enough, Arum reportedly gave Manny an advance in order to pay Golden Boy back, the money that was delivered in the suitcase.
Perspective is very important when considering why the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight hasn’t been made.
Boxing has been in existence for a long time and has been lorded over by countless nefarious and otherwise dishonest characters.
It’s not a business for the straight laced, nor is it a business for those who hold a grudge. Don King and Bob Arum had epic clashes in the 1980’s, yet the important cross-promotional fights usually took place.
Roberto Duran fought Ray Leonard twice and Oscar De La Hoya fought Julio Cesar Chavez and Felix Trenidad. In the end, fans have generally gotten what they’ve demanded…….until now.
To unearth the truth as to why Mayweather and Pacquiao haven’t fought, fans should consider factors that are new to this situation, as compared to negotiations in years past.
And to each, their own conclusion.