While Floyd Mayweather traded punches with Marcos Maidana in a surprisingly competitive fight inside the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, another battle was brewing behind the scenes. Golden Boy Promotions, the top promotional company in boxing, was falling apart at the seams.
Founder Oscar De La Hoya and CEO Richard Schaefer are currently in the midst of an internal cold war. The issue, when boiled down, is simple. De La Hoya wants to bury the hatchet with rival Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank. Schaefer wants no part in a co-promotional effort with an opponent he has on the ropes.
De La Hoya, in other words, wants Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao. In the worst way. And he's willing to fight for it.
"What matters to me most right now, obviously, is my family and this company. Boxing," De La Hoya told Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole. "That's what matters to me most behind my family. The fans. They want to see great fights. This is important to me."
It's also important to boxing.
All of a sudden, Floyd vs. PacMan is relevant again.— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) May 4, 2014
Here's the truth: No matter Mayweather's personal animus with Arum, history will judge him unkindly for refusing to meet in the middle with Pacquiao. Mayweather has fought for the world championship 23 times. With the exception of his career-defining win over De La Hoya, none of them resonate the same way as the one that got away.
It's a fight that's about more than business. Yes, the Filipino sensation has been Mayweather's mirror image for years, putting butts in seats and becoming a worldwide sensation with his fan-friendly style.
In some ways, too, the two are polar opposites.
Pacquiao, by contrast, is humble, soft-spoken and a global ambassador for the Filipino people. It's the black hat versus the white hat, an unambiguous battle of good and evil. It was made for television.
That doesn't, however, make a potential Pacquiao-Mayweather a cynical cash grab. Yes, the two are the biggest stars in boxing. But they are also the two best fighters in their division. This is just the biggest fight boxing could stage—it's the best.
It's rare for those two things to coincide. That's why the dream of this fight has such staying power. It's a fight that matters.
Those are few and far between in a sport struggling to maintain legitimacy with the viewing public after a running string of bad decisions, questionable matchmaking and continuing insistence on reaching deep into fans' pockets with pay-per-view.
And then there is this: Maidana's success in the ring suddenly makes a bout that seemed like it would be Mayweather's to lose a lot more intriguing.
Will we ever see Mayweather vs. Pacquiao?
Mayweather once told boxing historian Thomas Hauser that "In the ring I'm the predator, never the prey." Against Maidana, those roles were often reversed.
The Argentine was able to bull Mayweather into the ropes and then make him pay a steep price, punching with such volume and intensity that Mayweather was often precluded from doing anything but hanging on for dear life.
His success surprised many, but perhaps not Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, who envisioned just such an outcome for his own fighter when asked by a group of reporters about a potential Mayweather bout last year:
Mayweather is I think slipping a little bit, with his age and so forth. He can't move like he used to. He doesn't use his legs like he used to. He doesn't have the movement. He's not as fluid. He stays on the ropes a lot more. He exchanges a lot more. I think that would benefit Manny Pacquiao in a fight.
Obviously, Mayweather is very good at what he does. I'm not saying that would be an easy fight. We'd have to come up with a great game plan. We'd have to really stick to it to win that fight. He has some flaws. Nobody is perfect out there. If we could draw those flaws out and take advantage of them, we'd be in a good spot. I still pick Manny to win that fight.
Stays on the ropes more? Check. Exchanges more? Check. Doesn't have the same movement? Check. It's like Roach was looking into the future.
While it's unclear whether Pacquiao could maneuver Mayweather to the ropes quite as deftly as the bigger Maidana, if he got him there he has the potential to not just hammer him with winging punches. Pacquiao, unlike most Mayweather opponents, could actually finish the fight.
That's exciting just to contemplate.
I appreciate everything Maidana accomplished against Mayweather. But he gave it his very best and came up short. While Golden Boy is already talking rematch, it's not the most compelling fight by far. Maidana did well to put a crack in Mayweather's seeming invincibility.
Now it's time for Pacquiao to attempt to shatter the glass.