By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Man, that Bob Arum is something.
He zigzags across the globe schlepping a fight few seems to care about, yet he maintains enough savvy amid the jet lag to know precisely what to say to get other people talking.
That 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.
Then just stand back and let the media dig in until the belt buckle gives way.
Such was the case again last week, when Arum, Pacquiao and Freddie Roach traipsed through San Francisco on the tour promoting the Filipino’s November date with Chris Algieri – the newly minted 140-pound champ with eight career KOs and zero wins over anyone in anyone’s top 15 at welterweight.
The fight was concocted when four-time foe Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t leap at the dangled prospect of a fifth go-round with Pacquiao, and after Algieri scuttled the prospect of an in-stable tilt between Pacquiao and Ruslan Provodnikov with an iffy 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 site in Macau, China, 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 ol’ Bob’s 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 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, 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, the latest leans more toward hot air than hot news.
Neither HBO nor Showtime showed its hand upon a follow-up 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.” The latter, in the specific form of sports communications vice president Chris DeBlasio, delivered a more traditional “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 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.
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This week’s title fight schedule:
WBC flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Akira Yaegashi (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Roman Gonzalez (No. 1 contender/No. 1 IWBR)
Yaegashi (20-3, 10 KO): Fourth title defense; Held WBA title at 105 (2011-12, zero defenses)
Gonzalez (39-0, 33 KO): Tenth title fight (9-0, 5 KO); Four KOs in four Tokyo fights (eight total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: Someday the slugging Nicaraguan will lose a fight. Maybe it’ll be here. But I won’t pick against him until someone has already shown me it can be done. Gonzalez by decision
WBC light flyweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Naoya Inoue (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Samartlek Kokietgym (No. 13 contender/No. 28 IWBR)
Inoue (6-0, 5 KO): First title defense; Five KOs in five Tokyo fights (26 total rounds)
Kokietgym (17-4, 5 KO): First title fight; Fifth fight outside Thailand (1-3, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: It’s no slam dunk that a 21-year-old with six fights can handle a 29-year-old who’s a fourth-year pro, but I’ve got no qualms taking my chances with a potential stud in the making. Inoue in 8
IBF junior featherweight title – Belfast, Northern Ireland
Kiko Martinez (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Carl Frampton (No. 2 contender/No. 3 IWBR)
Martinez (31-4, 23 KO): Third title defense; Third fight in Northern Ireland (1-1, 0 KO)
Frampton (18-0, 13 KO): First title fight; Stopped Martinez in nine rounds in 2013
Fitzbitz says: You have a guy who won by stoppage the first time, fighting in his hometown, for his first world championship. Hard to imagine he won’t get it done a second time. Frampton by decision
WBA/WBO flyweight titles – Mexico City, Mexico
Juan Francisco Estrada (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Giovani Segura (No. 1 WBA contender/No. 4 IWBR)
Estrada (26-2, 19 KO): Second title defenses; Unbeaten in Mexico since 2011 (6-0, 4 KO)
Segura (32-3-1, 28 KO): Seventh title fight (5-1, 5 KO); Thirteenth fight in Mexico (11-1, 11 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Had it not been for Brian Viloria, this fight may have had a different champion/challenger arrangement. By the time it ends, it’s quite possible that’s what we’ll see anyway. Segura by decision
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Huck)
2014 picks record: 60-16 (78.9 percent)
Overall picks record: 607-210 (74.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.