By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I concede. I’m a betting man; but not a particularly smart one.
So even when the surest of sure things leaps out of sporting woodwork and screams, “Hey Lyle, bet on me, you can’t lose,” I’m far more likely to ignore the nudge and drop a misguided $20 on the off-chance that the New York Jets will actually win a Super Bowl at least once before I die.
As I said, I’m loyal to a fault… but not very smart.
Still, when it comes to boxing, I think I might be about ready to change my record.
Thanks to my old pal, Manny Pacquiao.
I’m sure the Filipino belt-collector had no idea the other day – as he made the studio rounds at the preeminent four-lettered basic cable sports empire in Connecticut – that he was all but ensuring a nice pre-Christmas largesse for his favorite boxing journalism nemesis.
(OK, c’mon, let’s be realistic here. Manny wouldn’t know me from Adam, but it sounds a lot better to call yourself someone’s nemesis than it does to admit that they’re completely unaware of your existence. And hey, if that offends the message-board purists among us… sue me.)
Anyway, the more Manny spoke liberally about the possibility that he’d agree fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the foreseeable future – from allowing his foe to make more cash, to confirming that he’s OK with the idea of extensive blood tests – the more he essentially guaranteed it’ll never actually happen.
Not because he doesn’t really mean what he says.
He’s a politician, after all. Do the math.
And not because of the silly Skip Bayless claim that Mayweather fears him.
That’s just a case of Skip being, well… Skip.
Instead, the reason the century’s two most prodigious divisional kingpins won’t come together in a ring, in this lifetime or any other, will remain the same as it’s been since the idea was first discussed.
You remember him, right?
He’s the promoter who, when Mayweather was in his stable several years ago, referred to Floyd as the best fighter since Muhammad Ali – then labeled him a coward when the relationship ended. He’s since saved his most breathless man-crushes for Pacquiao, going one better by labeling him “the greatest boxer I've ever seen, and I've seen them all, including Ali, Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.”
Now, whether a comment like that ought to have the old man burned at the stake, indicted for treason or simply committed to the nearest Baker Act facility is up for debate. But what’s probably less worth arguing about is the idea that putting his Southeast Asian cash cow in with Mayweather is something that gives the old man night tremors.
Not only because deep down Bob probably doesn’t think his guy stands a chance. But when it comes to the wallet as well, it’s just as likely because he’d not want Mayweather to make a legacy – and a mountain of money – by wiping the floor with his most cherished asset.
I can’t blame the guy, really. I mean, honestly, once you’ve cut your old lady loose and moved on to a newer model, who’d want to show up at the next high school reunion to see the previous version scoring in the bleachers with the high school quarterback who’s now a rich, successful CEO.
But the lengths to which he’s shown willingness to go have been pretty surprising.
Earlier this year, when the idea of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight was in the latest of its perpetual “If Manny beats his guy and Floyd beats his, maybe they’ll finally fight in the fall” modes, up popped a couple of convenient judges who claimed to see a well-timed Tim Bradley boxing clinic that somehow 99.99 percent of the rest of the world managed to miss.
The dubious decision, though it cost the Pac Man his welterweight jewelry and perhaps his perch atop the odd pound-for-pound list, served precisely the purpose laid out by a superfight-averse businessman – immediately putting the now-former champ on the less lucrative, but safer “vengeance is mine” career track while leaving his brash would-be conqueror to pursue other quarry.
And when the discerning public saw the Bradley return bout for what it was – a bad joke contrived in a desert boardroom – Arum changed direction with alacrity, flicked through his Rolodex of past foes and immediately went back to the same bag of tricks he’d pulled from to give his man legitimacy at 126, 130 and 147 pounds.
So now, just when Manny starts flapping his gums with the notion that a fight with Mayweather might actually be something he wants after all… in comes the super promoter to save the day.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Juan Manuel Marquez.
Oh sure, he barely brushes 5-foot-7. Indeed, he’s about four-tenths the size of the typical Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman. And yeah, he’s a few days short of 11 months shy of his 40th birthday.
Between now and the evening of Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, Arum and his Top Rank consiglieres are going to pull out every stop, woo every journalist and cram every available minute of HBO Sports broadcast time with the idea that Marquez and Pacquiao IV is really the fight everyone needs and wants to see.
(Who knows, Manny might even beat him this time. After all, there’s a first time for everything.)
From there, once the scary Mexican dragon has finally been slain, it’ll be off to Manila and the eternal fight for legislative truth, justice and the Filipino way, where no scary American dragon with better defense, sharper punching and more all-around skill will ever bother him again.
And unless my wager’s misplaced – and unless Pacquiao says “enough of the bullsh*t, Bob, make the fight with Mayweather now” – we can finally replace the Manny-Floyd thing with a matchup that stands a snowball’s chance in hell of actually happening.
Hmmm… whatever will I do with those 20 bucks?
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week's picks: 4-0
Overall picks record: 340-115 (74.7 percent)
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.