Has Boxing Moved On from Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao?
Robert Guerrero was befuddled and bamboozled by Floyd Mayweather Jr. Saturday night in Las Vegas. That, at least, would explain away his actions.
The dozens of right hands that bounced off his head must have left him slightly dazed and more than a little confused, or else why would he have raised his hands in presumed victory after being on the wrong end of a master class in defensive boxing?
Guerrero may have been the only man alive who thought he had beaten Mayweather, although in his heart of hearts, he likely knew it was fraudulent—an early start on putting salve on an injured psyche, preparation for girding himself once again for battle one day.
Guerrero, like everyone who steps into the ring with Mayweather, dreamed about being the one man to solve the puzzle, to twist that Rubik's Cube of shoulder rolls, angles and footwork in just the right way to create the magical opening no one else had ever found. Instead he's just another name on a long resume, one more fighter to be forgotten with time and distance.
Just another opponent for a brilliant fighter in desperate need of a foil.
And so it comes to this, the single question that has haunted Floyd Mayweather Jr. since 2009, when a potential superfight invaded the nation's sports psyche.
What about Manny Pacquiao?
That's still the fight, to this day, boxing fans want most. Despite consecutive losses, Pacquiao is the one opponent Floyd has been handcuffed to and can't quite escape.
Most boxers are defined by their opponents; rivals who have stretched them to the limit, competitors who made them reach deep inside into that special place where legends are born. When you think of "Sugar" Ray Leonard, you think not of individual brilliance, but of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler.
Even the great Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most gifted fighter and promoter of all time, is defined, in part, by his relationship with Joe Frazier, his greatest foe.
Mayweather, instead, has floated mostly above the fray for the entirety of his long tenure in the ring. Like Roy Jones, his contemporary and fellow modern myth, Mayweather is just Mayweather. There is no fighter you even think to pair him with; to walk with him into boxing lore.
Floyd is "Magic" Johnson—but a Magic who has waited 17 years for his Larry Bird.
Worse? The boxing public believes he's found his Bird, the Jimmy Connors to his John McEnroe, in Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao. It's a matchup fans have clamored for, and been denied of, since 2009, when Pacquiao beat Miguel Cotto to truly establish himself as one of the very best in the world.
Before that, everyone knew Pacquiao was gifted, but he was a former featherweight. Could he hang with a legitimate welterweight star? Consecutive wins over Cotto and Ricky Hatton answered that question in the affirmative. Manny was capable of cracking a legitimate welterweight and watching him fall.
And so the wait began. Partisans on both sides got more vocal as time passed and no fight appeared on the horizon. Floyd, some said, was scared of Manny.
"No, no, no," others cried. It's Manny who is afraid of Floyd.
But the truth? That was only to be found over the rainbow, where a giant pot of gold awaited both fighters. The issue? How to divvy it up.
The ensuing struggle had less to do with lefts and rights, the language of sport, and more to do with back-end profits and guaranteed purses, the other language of sport. And it had everything to do with a war of wills between two men—Floyd Mayweather and Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter at Top Rank.
Arum, for those not in the know, is the last of boxing's old guard; a promoter who has worked with everyone from Ali to, yes, Mayweather, in a career that has spanned decades.
Before he locked horns with the likes of his former protege, Arum's greatest rival was Don King. It was a bitter battle, one King thought he had finally won when he famously proclaimed "the lights are going out in Arumville" after King's Felix Trinidad beat Arum's top fighter Oscar De La Hoya back in 1999.
But Arum was like a boxing cockroach.
De La Hoya rebuilt his career from the wreckage of defeat, Mayweather and Pacquiao emerged, and the 81-year-old Arum outlasted King, who has fallen from the scene—not in a blaze of glory, but in a sad, slow fade to irrelevance. Now Arum's main competition comes from two of his greatest fighters, De La Hoya and Mayweather, both of whom helped reinvent how boxing is promoted.
Floyd and Arum haven't worked together since Floyd left Top Rank some years ago, and Floyd has fought only Golden Boy-contracted fighters or fighters working through Golden Boy since 2007. That's not a criticism, just a fact. There have been zero Mayweather fights since 2007 not promoted by Golden Boy, even though Floyd isn't technically a Golden Boy fighter.
"That's the middle man," Mayweather said, describing Arum at a 2007 panel discussing the changing face of boxing. "Cut the middle man out and see what you can get. You were talking about paying me $2 or $3 million when it really should have been $6 million. And once I cut the middle man out, it became $15 or $30 million."
Mayweather, like De La Hoya before him, wanted his piece of the entire pie. Rather than just receiving a fight purse—for example, his $32 million prize for taking on Guerrero—the boxers dipped into the back-end profits as well. From foreign television rights to T-shirts and hot dogs, De La Hoya and Mayweather wanted it all. They were, by their reckoning, the ones taking the risks. Why shouldn't they take home the great bulk of the profits?
And so Mayweather the promoter has treated Pacquiao the way promoters have always treated the talent in boxing—by offering him a great deal of money but reserving the serious bucks for himself. The offer on the table for Pacquiao has been in the range of $40 million. But for a fight expected to bring in close to $200 million, that is just chump change, and Pacquiao has been insistent that he be more fairly compensated.
Would $40 million be the biggest payday of Manny's career? Of course, by far. But he's a proud fighter—one who, before consecutive losses, surely envisioned a larger cut at the culmination of his life's work.
Mayweather, in his sly way, has suggested a solution.
"Do I want the Pacquiao fight? Absolutely. But it's going to be hard to make the fight because Arum is worried about getting money," Mayweather told Sport 360. "The only way I think a fight [with] the guy with three losses and I-don't-know-how-many draws, the only way that fight happens is he has to leave Bob Arum."
And so the issue lingers. Two years after its ideal sell-by date, we don't seem any closer to the dream fight fans still salivate for. And we won't, not until Mayweather and Arum settle their longstanding differences or Pacquiao does what he should have done years ago—cuts Bob Arum out of the equation and joins his comrades in boxing's modern age.
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