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Why There's Still Hope for a Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao Superfight

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

Why There's Still Hope for a Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao Superfight

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    Can Mayweather or Pacquiao truly be content ending their careers without answering the question?
    Can Mayweather or Pacquiao truly be content ending their careers without answering the question?Al Bello/Getty Images

    Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao still has a chance of happening. It may sound crazy, or you may have learned to tune this sort of thing out by now, but don't give up hope!

    And, perhaps even more importantly, it's still a highly significant and desired fight. 

    It's extremely difficult to believe that the two men who have largely defined an entire era in boxing could leave a superfight of epic proportions on the table. Thus far they have, but with the clock rapidly ticking toward zero on both men's careers, the demand is certain to grow. 

    Call it crazy, but there's reason to be optimistic that 2014 could finally be the year we see Mayweather and Pacquiao in a ring together exchanging punches. A lot of work needs to happen, and a lot of issues need to be settled, but let's not give up hope.

    Here is why there's still hope for a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao superfight.

The Legacy Question

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    Pacquiao's strong performance against Rios brought the legacy issue back to the front.
    Pacquiao's strong performance against Rios brought the legacy issue back to the front.Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are both going to the boxing Hall of Fame; they are both among the greatest fighters the sport has ever produced, and each man can make a reasoned argument about why he is the best of this era. 

    The reality is that this fight should've taken place somewhere between 2009 and 2010, but with that no longer an option; it could be a case of better late than never. After all, a victory would be a huge legacy boost for whichever man has his hand raised once festivities conclude.

    When the question of all-time greatness comes up, you can immediately identify several fighters who everyone will agree on.

    Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali and Roberto Duran for example.

    All were dominant fighters in their eras. All are multi-time world champions. And, perhaps most importantly, all have signature wins.

    Leonard defeated Duran, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns. Ali beat Foreman and Frazier. And Duran was the first man to defeat Leonard. 

    Where is that name on either Mayweather or Pacquiao's ledgers?

    Where is that all-time win?

    Both guys have faced, and beaten, a plethora of extremely good and talented fighters. But there is no doubt that each man would drastically enhance his legacy by defeating the other. The build-up and hype surrounding their potential clash would only serve to enhance the significance of a win.

Mayweather Has Limited Options

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    After dispatching Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather is left with few compelling options.
    After dispatching Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather is left with few compelling options.Al Bello/Getty Images

    After dispatching of Robert Guerrero and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in 2013, the cupboard lies mostly bare for the pound-for-pound king heading into 2014. 

    Sure, there are potentially interesting bouts at both welterweight and junior middleweight. There's even the—justifiably long shot—possibility of jumping to 160 pounds for a crack at a world title in a sixth weight division. 

    But short of that unlikely scenario, what is out there for Floyd Mayweather that you'd define as compelling?

    Canelo was compelling because he was young, undefeated and physically much bigger than Floyd. And all that got him was a nice paycheck and a first loss.

    Is Danny Garcia compelling? He had as good a 2013 as anyone in the sport and knocked off the Argentine destroyer Lucas Matthysse as the co-feature on Mayweather's latest triumph, but he has never fought at welterweight and might be a couple of fights away from this type of challenge. 

    Is Amir Khan compelling? He might've been, if he hadn't been starched by Garcia and dropped two of his last four bouts. He's the most likely candidate to land the fight, but it remains to be seen how well this bout will sell to a skeptical boxing public. 

    There is one bout that has gained significant traction—mainly confined to the hard-core boxing community—and that would come against Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara. That bout could be a stylistic challenge the likes of which Mayweather has never faced, but it lacks the mainstream appeal to make it a box office seller.

    No, for various reasons, none of the available options can come close to matching the event status and importance of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

    That alone keeps hope alive.

Pacquiao's Troubles with the Tax Police

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    Pacquiao reportedly owes taxes in both the Philippines and the United States.
    Pacquiao reportedly owes taxes in both the Philippines and the United States.Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Manny Pacquiao returned to the ring with a dominant performance against Brandon Rios in late November, but the news for the Filipino icon has been mostly bad ever since. 

    If reports are to be believed, the "Pacman" might just owe a ton of money in taxes.

    Just days after his victory over Rios, news broke that the Filipino government had hit Pacquiao with a tax bill of $50 million for unpaid taxes in 2008 and 2009. Both the fighter and his promoter Bob Arum vehemently denied the charges and claimed the taxes were paid, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com.

    The Filipino government has threatened to seize his assets until the matter is resolved.

    Then came word earlier this week that the United States Internal Revenue Service hit the fighter with an $18.3 million lien for unpaid taxes based on earnings from fights between 2006 and 2010.

    That's a much tougher nut to crack than the Filipino case, and it comes on the heels of Pacquiao staging his most recent fight in China, specifically to avoid the high taxes imposed by the United States on foreign athletes. 

    For years, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a potential superfight was the revenue split between the fighters. Mayweather frequently demanded the lion's share of the prize, and Pacquiao was reluctant to accept less than he felt he deserved.

    With Pacquiao having lost two of his last three fights, and with a potential need for an infusion of cash to help settle his debts, this could possibly remove that roadblock. 

Increased Public Pressure

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    Mayweather in particular continues to feel the heat, fairly or unfairly, for the fight to happen.
    Mayweather in particular continues to feel the heat, fairly or unfairly, for the fight to happen.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Putting it as simply as possible, the boxing public is tired of the shenanigans. 

    There have been hundreds—if not thousands—of stories written from every possible perspective about why this fight hasn't happened yet. Some blame Floyd Mayweather for the collapse of negotiations; others blame Manny Pacquiao, and some lay fault at the feet of both men. 

    It's definitely true that at various times, each man has been intransigent.

    There were points when Mayweather made financial demands that he knew Pacquiao would not and should not accept. 

    There were other times when Pacquiao and his promoters rejected perfectly reasonable demands regarding drug testing.

    So, regardless of where you fall on this question, neither man has totally clean hands, and both deserve a share of the blame.

    The fans are tired of it. They just wanna see a fight and have the best man win. 

    The public pressure is growing to a fevered pitch of late—largely due to Mayweather's professed desire to leave the sport after next year and Pacquiao's declining skills—and there's becoming a real sense of now or never.

    Expect that pressure to continue growing in the new year.

Pacquiao Can Leave HBO at Any Time

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    Unlike Mayweather with Showtime, Pacquiao does not have an exclusive deal with HBO.
    Unlike Mayweather with Showtime, Pacquiao does not have an exclusive deal with HBO.Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    The boxing world was rocked to its foundations in February of this year when pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather—an HBO commodity for his entire career up to that point—shunned the employer who brought him to prime time and signed an exclusive six-fight deal with rival Showtime. 

    That move was totally unexpected, and it rearranged the cable boxing landscape, turning what was for years the forgotten stepchild into a premier place for big fights and big fighters.

    Mayweather has four fights left—after dispatching of Robert Guerrero and Canelo Alvarez—on his massive contract that is set to expire at the end of 2014.

    One of the interesting quirks about Manny Pacquiao—who like Mayweather became a star on HBO—is that, for all his loyalty to the network, he is not signed to an exclusive contract. That means, at least in theory, that he could take his show to whatever network is willing to telecast it.

    Now, in reality, the matter is much more complex than that.

    When Mayweather took his ball to Showtime, the fallout was considerable. Soon after, HBO and Golden Boy Promotions—which has co-promoted every fight with Mayweather since 2007—announced they would no longer do business, which left Bob Arum's Top Rank—which promotes Pacquiao—entrenched as the network's main promotional partner. 

    It would be a stunning turn of events for Arum and Pacquiao to shun HBO, even for the biggest money fight in the sport, but it remains a possibility.

Showtime Wants the Fight to Shift the Landscape

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    Showtime desperately wants this fight to land a crushing blow on rival HBO.
    Showtime desperately wants this fight to land a crushing blow on rival HBO.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Showtime didn't dish out all that cash to Floyd Mayweather in February for nothing.

    Sure, it's certainly enjoying the newfound attention it's received and the praise for its commitment to giving the fans some bang for their buck, but boxing is a business, and it definitely wants something more than praise for its money. 

    Of course, what it really wants is more money. It got a ton for its investment in "The One: Mayweather vs. Canelo," but even that would pale in comparison to what it'd earn if it convinced the pound-for-pound king to finally settle the question with Manny Pacquiao.

    Showtime Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza—who has had more to do with his network's boxing resurgence than anyone—is committed to working on the fight and trying to bring all sides to the table for an agreement. 

    That carries some considerable weight. 

    Espinoza is a reasoned and respected voice. He definitely has the ear of Team Mayweather and the people at Golden Boy Promotions. Technically, Golden Boy doesn't even have a seat at the table, but its relationship with Mayweather is such that it's hard to see him spurning the group any time soon.

    They're all business partners, and Espinoza's possibly the man best suited to convince all sides that this fight, to use a term recently heard a lot on WWE television, is what's best for business.

Arum Says He's Willing

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    Many fans place most of the blame for the fight not happening on promoter Bob Arum.
    Many fans place most of the blame for the fight not happening on promoter Bob Arum.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Granted, we've heard this type of stuff before, but Top Rank chief Bob Arum says he's willing to work to get the fight made.

    In fact, the 82-year-old has recently taken the lead in promoting the possibility of the bout finally coming to fruition, saying that it could happen "if both sides cut out the crap."

    That's an extraordinarily vague statement, and Arum himself has frequently been cited by Team Mayweather as being one of the primary stumbling blocks to negotiating the fight. 

    It remains to be seen whether Arum's words will be matched by actions, or for that matter, whether Mayweather will remain insistent on his demand that his former promoter—from whom he had an acrimonious and highly publicized split—have no part in the fight.

    Obviously, at least from Pacquiao's standpoint, the latter can't happen.

    That remains a considerable obstacle, but hopefully Arum's candid rhetoric will help bring about a thaw that helps get something done.

It's Still a Guaranteed Box-Office Smash

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    The money factor cannot be ignored.
    The money factor cannot be ignored.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    There is simply nobody on this planet that Floyd Mayweather would generate more money by fighting than Manny Pacquiao. Even three years past its best-by date, this fight remains a guaranteed smashing success.

    Mayweather vs. Canelo was promoted more heavily, and across more platforms, than any fight in the history of boxing.

    Mayweather, Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions all made a killing from "The One," with the fight breaking records for largest live gate and overall pay-per-view revenue.

    The fight ultimately failed to garner enough total PPV buys to surpass the estimated 2.48 million sales generated by Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, but it did bring in more overall money.

    The fight with the best chance of breaking all those new records, and a few old ones as well, is still Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. 

    As long as that remains true, and unless something more lucrative and exciting comes along—highly unlikely—this will continue to be the boxing equivalent of the Super Bowl.

Pacquiao Is Credible

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    Pacquiao is still a credible opponent.
    Pacquiao is still a credible opponent.USA TODAY Sports

    There are many in the boxing community who feel that Manny Pacquiao's chances of upsetting Floyd Mayweather are, at this point at least, minimal. 

    That has largely to do with the fact that while Mayweather has continued to get better with age, Pacquiao has shown noticeable and measurable decline over the past several years.

    He's still fast and powerful, but the ruthless aggression, combined with a blitzkrieg style of attack, is the mark of a fighter who hasn't been seen in his past few outings.

    Against Timothy Bradley—in a fight he clearly should've won—Pacquiao fought only in spurts and never seemed to have his foe in trouble despite landing the harder punches.

    Against Marquez last December, the "Pacman" appeared to be just getting into a rhythm when a missile right hand ended his night. 

    And then, most recently, against Brandon Rios, Pacquiao looked as sharp as ever but couldn't put away a durable, but overmatched, former lightweight who was fighting at 147 pounds for the first time.

    That might seem to be a pretty compelling case for why this fight shouldn't happen, but it's hard to criticize a fighter for being in competitive fights against top-level opposition. 

    Bradley and Marquez are clearly pound-for-pound entrants in their own right, and losing to either is certainly no mark of shame. And you can easily argue that Pacquiao deserved a win in the first bout and was looking good before being stopped in the second.

    All that said, Pacquiao is still a very credible opponent. Even if he's not on the level he once was, he's still a world-class fighter.

Finality

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    Mayweather and Pacquiao have been locked in a cosmic dance for the better part of the last five years. This needs to be settled once and for all.
    Mayweather and Pacquiao have been locked in a cosmic dance for the better part of the last five years. This needs to be settled once and for all.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    This one is about as simple as it gets. 

    The boxing community deserves some finality for one of its greatest debates of the past several decades.

    Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao simply cannot be relegated to the dustbin of history as one of those "what if" fights that never happened. 

    What's more, this isn't one of those fights—like Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson for example—that exists purely in the hypothetical realm. It doesn't feature two great fighters from different eras. It features two great fighters from the same era, and it needs a definitive conclusion.

    This fight had and has a realistic chance of happening, and it's incumbent on all the parties involved to settle the debate once and for all. 

    Otherwise, nobody wins.

    Not the fighters, not the fans, and not the sport.

    It's hard to believe that both Mayweather and Pacquiao would be happy to end their careers with such a huge question mark remaining at the top of their resumes.

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