By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Like virtually everyone else interested in boxing, new HBO Sports president Ken Hershman has grown tired of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao soap opera.
If boxing’s biggest stars continue avoiding each other, Hershman thinks they’ll lessen the importance of what’s expected to be most lucrative event in the sport’s history.
“Every time they [are going to] fight, and then we go through that dance and then it doesn’t happen,” Hershman said. “I do believe there is a sell-by date by which this is just going to become just not what it should be, which is the biggest boxing event in history.”
When asked how close we’ve come to that point, Hershman didn’t mince words.
“I hope by the end of this year we see these guys in the ring together,” Hershman said. “If not, maybe early next year. But after that, it’s going to get less and less relevant.”
If the fight never occurs, Hershman doesn’t think the sport’s health will be as adversely affected as some suspect.
“I’m over it,” said Hershman, who replaced Ross Greenburg after nearly two decades at Showtime. “I don’t think it’s imperative [that they fight]. I don’t think it’s going to be anything [where] the sport needs saving or anything like that. I think that’s all hyperbole. I would love to see the fight, obviously, as a fan. I think that it does get in the way, at times like this, of fights being made and good business being done for everybody. Because you do wind up being stalled for weeks, months, while everything gets sorted out.
“I always said Floyd Mayweather is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, undefeated. He’s accomplished amazing things in his career and whether he fights Manny Pacquiao or not, it’s not going to define anything really about his greatness one way or the other, in my view. And the same holds true for Manny. He’s accomplished more in more weight classes than any fighter in the history of boxing, and you’re not going to take anything away from him. They don’t need each other to have their legacies established firmly as two of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. But I would love to see it happen, as every fan would.”
Hershman hasn’t been able to make other bouts because Mayweather (42-0, 26 KOs) and Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) are still considering multiple opponents for their respective May 5 and June 9 fights. While Hershman would love for them to face each other as soon as possible, he won’t issue any ultimatums, or even urge representatives for either fighter to make that happen.
“If they came to us, we would absolutely be willing to help in any way we could,” Hershman said. “And I think we are uniquely positioned, but I don’t envision that happening.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.