You’ve got to hand it to Bob Arum.
He’s zigzagging across the globe schlepping a fight almost no one seems to want, yet he maintains enough savvy amid the jet lag to know precisely what to say to get other people talking.
The recipe is simple.
Mention Manny Pacquiao’s name in the same breath as Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s. Sprinkle in words like “optimistic” when suggesting they might one day share a ring together. And add a pinch of practical purpose by claiming the appropriate television networks have met and discussed the specs.
Then just stand back and let the media dig in until its collective belt buckle gives way.
Such was the case Thursday, when Arum, Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach cruised through San Francisco on the tour promoting the Filipino’s November date with Chris Algieri—a newly minted 140-pound champion with eight career KOs and zero wins over anyone in anyone’s top 15 at welterweight.
That fight was thrown together when four-time foe Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t instantly leap at the prospect of a fifth go-round with Pacquiao, and after Algieri scuttled the prospect of an in-stable tilt between Pacquiao and Ruslan Povodnikov with an upset of the sturdy Russian in June.
Pacquiao is the overwhelming choice of oddsmakers at VegasInsider.com to defeat Algieri—it’ll take a $1,300 outlay on the WBO’s 147-pound champ to make $100—and what novelty does exist revolves around the fight’s Macau, China site, where Pacquiao will appear for a second time in three outings.
Given all that, and showing his 41 years at Top Rank haven’t been wasted, Arum changed the narrative.
A Google search for news items including “Pacquiao” and “Mayweather” in the aftermath of the Thursday comments yielded links from Sports Illustrated to The Washington Post, and provided any evidence needed to back the notion that “Pacman” vs. “Money”—even with its principals at ages 35 and 37, respectively—is still the dreamiest of dreams for a superfight-starved boxing marketplace.
Wanting it, however, is still a quantum leap from getting it.
Lest anyone forget, this isn’t nearly the first time these two have seemingly inched a mite closer to one another in an awkward he-said/he-said tango that began more than half a decade ago.
Drug tests, purse splits and general animosity have been portrayed as road blocks to progress at one time or another, though it still never fails to move the needle when one side even implies a reference to the other in conversation.
Mayweather, who’ll face Marcos Maidana in a Sept. 13 rematch, set the Twitter-verse ablaze with Manny vs. Floyd chatter several weeks ago upon suggesting he had a “big surprise” in store for fans next spring, even though he never once uttered Pacquiao’s name.
Several months earlier, in fact, while touring to promote a fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, when he did bother to mention his would-be rival specifically, he sneeringly labeled Pacquiao “a has-been.”
His enmity for Arum since their relationship ended in 2006 is among the sport’s worst-kept secrets, too.
And while Pacquiao rarely fails to answer in the affirmative when asked if he’d like a Mayweather fight, he’s never been the type to seize an interview microphone and demand it outright—defaulting instead to a far less inflammatory “I fight whoever my promoter picks for me” stance.
Unless those realities change, Thursday leans far more toward hot air than hot news.
Neither HBO nor Showtime showed its hand upon a Friday morning request, with the former—represented by media relations executive Raymond Stallone—citing a “firm policy” through which it does “not speculate/comment on fights that are not made,” while the latter, in the specific form of sports communications vice president Chris DeBlasio, delivered a more succinct “no comment.”
Though the tepid cable sidesteps are by no means a flat-out rejection of Arum’s insistence that appropriate parties have been in contact, it’s at least somewhat telling that his sudden statement was accompanied by nothing else tangible that indicates any substantial progress has been made.
No reliable rumor. No indication of new interest. No worthwhile handwriting on any pristine walls.
Nothing beyond a promoter with a clearly detectable agenda, deciding that this week was as good as any to toss a crumb to the peasants and stoke the impression that a satiating meal might follow.
Maybe so, but until the plate’s on the table and the fork’s in the steak, you’d best hold off on seconds.
Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes were obtained firsthand.