It was the press release heard ’round the world.
At precisely 1:20 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the media relations types at Top Rank Inc. hit “send” on their collective devices and informed Bleacher Report and the boxing-consuming public that their company’s crown jewel, Filipino title-belt collector Manny Pacquiao, had extended his promotional deal through the end of 2016.
“We are pleased that, together with our partners at HBO, we will continue presenting to the public fights of the great Manny Pacquiao,” the release read, quoting 82-year-old founder/czar Bob Arum.
“The partnership among Manny, Top Rank, MP Promotions and HBO has been a wonderful one for all parties and for the public, and it's great that is will continue for the years to come.”
By the time 1:21 p.m. ET arrived, though, another reality was pretty clear as well.
Not only had a conference set up an hour later by Showtime to hype its Saturday card been dealt a distracting blow, but the prospect of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight ever occurring—whether it had ever been more than wishful thinking to begin with—was finally dead and buried.
Because the "Money"-"Pacman" concept has created such strongly partisan battle lines since it was first hatched in late 2008, its official postmortem will no doubt be full of accusations in all directions, too.
Those who see Mayweather as the era’s top man—a group derisively labeled “FloMos” by the other side—will insist that Pacquiao’s decision to prolong his Arum contract was a choice to not remove the most significant business obstacle perceived to be standing between a Pacquiao-Floyd fight.
Ditch Bob, they say, and a fight gets made.
Stay with Bob, and it means you don’t really want it.
Meanwhile, the pro-Manny crowd—typically branded as “Pactards” by their foes in juvenile message-board debates—will counter that Mayweather’s free-agent promotional status enables him to make a fight deal with anyone he wants at any time he desires, no strings attached.
If you want Manny, they say, all you’ve got to do is say so.
And the more excuses you make, the more scared you appear.
It’s the boxing equivalent of cat videos, but it’s also what makes the Internet go around.
In reality, were Pacquiao any other athlete in nearly any other sport across today’s “everyone’s a greedy monster” landscape, he might have been hailed for a rare sense of loyalty.
With global reach and Canastota resume in hand, he could just as easily have walked at the end of his existing Top Rank pact and either made a cash-sopped deal with another company—or joined his nemesis in free agency and turned every untethered fighter between 140 and 154 pounds into a possible foil.
Instead, he stayed with the man who elevated him to stardom and became the fight-game version of an All-Pro quarterback who takes a hometown discount rather than a league-wide tour of salivating general managers.
It’s a refreshing change from guys hardwired to “make it rain,” but because it’s boxing, the knee-jerk response is not to praise Pacquiao but to bury him. Because what it means to us in practical terms is maybe a Marquez V or a Bradley III, but certainly not a Mayweather I.
So, while you’re a good guy and all, Manny...it’s a sneering “thanks a lot.”
The big fight is dead. Long live the big fight.