By Robert Morales
Promoter Bob Arum had just gotten off a plane in Los Angeles about 2:30 p.m. West Coast time Wednesday when he engaged us in a telephone conversation. He confirmed what had already been reported on BoxingScene.com, that the proposed May 2 fight between his Manny Pacquiao and Golden Boy Promotions' Ricky Hatton "is off."
The deadline for Pacquiao to sign the revamped contract that called for a Pacquiao guarantee of $12 million and a 52-48 split of upside revenue favoring Pacquiao had come and gone early Wednesday morning. Arum was not a happy camper. He was asked straight out if he was perturbed at Pacquiao and his lawyer - Franklin "Jeng" Gacal - for not accepting the deal.
"Well, it doesn't make me happy," said Arum, trying to practice some diplomacy.
Originally, Arum and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer had agreed on a 50-50 split. The two then came to terms on the 52-48 split. The original guarantee was $11 million for Pacquiao, which was his guarantee for his fight last month against Oscar De La Hoya.
"They had copies of the contract and they were fussing about this and that and so they told me that Manny wouldn't sign and I said, 'OK,' " Arum said. "So the fight goes off and life goes on. I think everybody is sorry to hear that. What can I do? It's Manny's decision."
Was it? Arum said that after the pot was sweetened, he was led to believe that that would seal the deal.
"Then they came back with more demands and the deal fell apart," Arum said.
Perhaps what is sticking in Arum's craw the most is the very idea that Pacquiao never touched base with him or trainer Freddie Roach.
"Manny, in the course of this whole period, has not talked once to either me or Freddie," Arum said of Pacquiao, who is in the Philippines.
Arum was asked if there is any chance that the negotiations could be revisited.
"I just gave you the facts, man," Arum said. "If you had asked me last week what the chances were that the fight would not come off, I would have said zero percent. So, I'm out of the prediction business."
What now? Arum was asked.
"I don't know," he said, sounding somewhat frustrated. "I sent an e-mail to them in the Philippines saying that we have to set up a meeting for next week, of which I insist that Freddie be present, to determine what we do next for Manny."
Roach was reached about 3:20 p.m. at his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., where he trains Pacquiao. He said he has been trying hard to get Pacquiao on the phone, to no avail.
"It us unusual because Manny usually will talk to me about problems," Roach said. "I have called him 10 nights in a row now. And someone told me he is afraid I'm going to try and talk him into the 50-50 deal. And I said I just wanted to try and talk some sense into Manny about today's economy, that you can't just depend on pay-per-view numbers."
Team Pacquiao had initially wanted a 60-40 split of the upside in Pacquiao's favor.
"A $12 million guarantee today is unbelievable," Roach said. "They think they can get (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.), but he is still retired. And if he does fight, he is going to want all the money because that's the kind of guy he is."
Roach said if can just get a hold of Pacquiao for a "man-to-man" talk, he might be able to get him to change his mind.
"I hope he comes to his senses," Roach said. "I hope he gives me a call tonight. I sent him a couple of text messages today and hopefully we can get this fight back on board."
Roach said that another fight the Pacquiao people are eying is with Antonio Margarito. But Roach said he would point out to them that Margarito is tied up for two fights - Saturday's against "Sugar" Shane Mosley and a tentatively scheduled rematch with Miguel Cotto in the summer.
Interestingly, Schaefer said something last week that now appears like it was a precursor to these talks coming to a screeching halt.
"Pacquiao has some guys around him who think they are really smart, but they're really not," Schaefer said.
Asked to clarify, Schaefer said Pacquiao's advisors in the Philippines don't seem to understand that when Hatton fought Mayweather in December 2007 in Las Vegas, Hatton's fanatical British followers accounted for $20 million in revenue.
Thus, Schaefer said, a 60-40 split in favor of Pacquiao was never going to happen.
It was just three months ago, in October, that trainer Nazim Richardson helped guide 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins to a surprisingly easy victory over Kelly Pavlik in Atlantic City. On Saturday, Richardson will be working Mosley's corner for the first time when 37-year-old challenges 30-year-old Margarito for his welterweight title at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
It was Jan. 13, and Richardson sat in the living room of Mosley's training-camp home in Big Bear, Calif. Richardson touched on many subjects, most specifically Hopkins and Mosley and their ability to still be accomplished prize-fighters at ages when most fighters are well past their prime.
When asked about that, Richardson didn't take but a half a second to explain why Hopkins and Mosley are still world-class performers.
"Students of the game," Richardson said. "If you ever watch an athlete, you could tell if they are making their career out of learning boxing and learning all the aspects of boxing, the techniques, or if they're just going on talent."
Richardson gave a good example.
"Now I don't want to pick on anybody," he said. "But what I think of Roy Jones, if you've watched Roy's career, if you took this Roy Jones and put him in front of the 20-year-old Roy Jones, the 20-year-old Roy Jones would beat this Roy Jones' brains out."
Richardson said the opposite is true when it comes to Hopkins and Mosley.
"If you took this Bernard Hopkins and put him in front of the 20-year-old Bernard Hopkins, this Bernard Hopkins would make that 20-year-old Bernard Hopkins look like an amateur," Richardson said. "He'd embarrass that kid. So when you watch people's careers, you can see the guys who learned the sport and actually got better as they went on. You can seem them in later years actually mature into a better fighter. If you watch guys that go on talent, we see the best we're going to see when they come in the game.
"The guys who have learned the sport, their experience, they become so dangerous that you actually see them manifest into a better athlete as the years go on. Shane, Bernard, they're students of the game. They are guys who have studied the game."
Richardson remembered what people were saying when a 36-year-old Hopkins took on the ferocious 28-year-old lion that was Felix Trinidad Jr. in September 2001. Richardson said Hopkins was being called old even then, and that people in the sport wondered how he could possibly hang with a fighter who had been terrorizing his opponents, knocking most of them out.
Hopkins stopped Trinidad in the 12th round.
Richardson also brought up the number a 41-year-old Hopkins did on Antonio Tarver in June 2006, and recalled that Hopkins' former trainer, Bouie Fisher, said Tarver was too big and too strong for Hopkins.
The naysayers were also out in force when Hopkins took on 26-year-old Pavlik. Yes, Pavlik was moving up 10 pounds to fight Hopkins at a catch-weight of 170. But many experts thought the heavy-hitting Pavlik would nevertheless be too much for the supposedly aging Hopkins.
Then Hopkins went out and won by eight, 10 and 13 points on the scorecards.
"People didn't just think Bernard would lose, people were wondering, 'Is this the first time we're going to see Bernard get hurt,' " Richardson said. "From all accounts, if you watch all the highlights of Pavlik leading up to the fight, you sit there and every tape you watch, he's smashing these guys, man. He's not just winning, he's wiping them out."
But Hopkins, the student that he is, took Pavlik to school.
Richardson said that not only did Fisher think Hopkins had little chance against Tarver, Freddie Roach - another former Hopkins trainer - thought little of Hopkins' chances against Pavlik.
And, now, few are giving Mosley a real chance against Margarito, which is fine with Richardson.
"I look forward to watching Shane with Margarito because you need to count him out," Richardson said. "This is his opportunity. This is his Trinidad kind of bout, where they're going to count you out."
Richardson didn't take a thing away from Margarito during our interview with him. He said Margarito has a terrific chin, and that he is just a tough-as-nails fighter. But he correctly noted that Mosley is also a heavy-mettle guy, and that Mosley is still an incredible athlete.
Most importantly, Mosley is another top-of-the-line student.
"I'm watching him in the gym, man, and as you are teaching him and showing him things, you see the excitement, man," Richardson said. "With all the knowledge that he has, he is not one of them guys that you can't say nothing to him, you know, because they want to give you their spin on it, their philosophy."
So what, Mosley was asked during the visit to his camp, makes him think he can hang with Margarito?
"I believe I have the style to beat him," Mosley said. "The speed, power, I mean, everything, the total package."
Mosley said he has been in the ring many times with tough fighters who throw a lot of punches, so facing Margarito will be nothing new.
"Nothing he possesses really intimidates me or anything," Mosley said. "When I go in there I'm going to be myself and be relaxed."
But what if, Mosley was asked, Margarito defeats him handily? Would he consider retirement?
"If I wasn't competitive, yes, I would think about that," Mosley said. "But I think with the way I've been working, it might be him that is not very competitive in the fight. And are people are going to say, 'Oh, should Margarito retire?' I don't think so. It's just me, it's who he's in the ring with. It's vice versa. It's who we're in the ring with. We're in the ring with each other, the two top welterweight fighters in the world today.
"It's not like you're not competitive with Joe Blow. The same thing could be said about him. If I'm just too fast for him, if I'm just throwing all these punches and he cant respond and he's trying, he's trying and he's trying, but he just can't and nothing works. It's not because he fell off or he's not who he is, it's just that it's something about my style he can't deal with. I can't see his style dominating me or even winning the fight."
Palomino Begs To Differ
Carlos Palomino, the former welterweight world champion from Studio City (near Los Angeles), believes Mosley would need nothing short of a miracle to beat Margarito. He said that Mosley couldn't handle the pressure put on him by Miguel Cotto in their fight won by Cotto via decision in November 2007, so there is no way Mosley - at his age - will be able to handle the pressure Margarito is going to come with.
Margarito, of course, handed Cotto his first loss when he stopped Cotto in the 11th round in July in Las Vegas.
"I think Margarito would have to trip and break his ankles on the way in," Palomino, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, said Wednesday.
Not So Fast, Arum Says
Arum promotes Margarito. At this point, he doesn't need to do anything else to promote this fight. At last look 17,000 tickets had been sold and the fight is on regular HBO, not pay-per-view. Arum's outlook on Mosley's chances are therefore intriguing.
"I think he is the underdog, clearly," Arum said. "But he's a hell of a fighter and he's a great tactician and on any given night he is capable of beating any welterweight in the world."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News, ESPN.com, Long Beach Press-Telegram, and BoxingScene.com