By Jake Donovan
Recent times have seen Manny Pacquiao both call out and take shots at Floyd Mayweather, demanding once and for all that the superfight five years in the making finally happens.
For the first time since Pacquiao has decided to take the lead on the subject, Mayweather offered a direct response – sort of.
“Absolutely, I would love to fight Manny Pacquiao,” Mayweather insisted during an interview on Showtime’s ShoBox series. Mayweather was on hand at ringside as lead promoter for a show headlined by Erislandy Lara versus Ishe Smith in San Antonio.
While Mayweather insisted his willingness to take part in the fight, it didn’t take long for the unbeaten pound-for-pound king to stroll down memory lane in spelling out why they’ve yet to meet in the ring.
“We tried to make the fight happen years ago. Now he's in a very tight situation. He's lost to Marquez. He's lost to Bradley. He's desperate,” Mayweather insists. “I've been wanting that fight a long time ago. We have to make the fight happen on Showtime (Pay-Per-View).”
Negotiations – or at least attempted discussions – date back to Nov. ’09, when both were the best two fighters in the world and by far the sport’s biggest draws. Mayweather returned to the ring earlier in the year, scoring a landslide decision over Juan Manuel Marquez, thus ending a 21-month hiatus.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao won his second welterweight fight, stopping Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of their Nov. ’09 title fight at a 145 lb. catchweight. The win came 11 months after the Filipino superstar battered Oscar de la Hoya into retirement, a feat that saw his career soar to new heights – and coming at a time when Mayweather was initially done with the sport.
Following the win over Cotto, negotiations were underway and seemingly on the verge of securing what many consider to be the richest fight in boxing history to be made. Alas, pen never made it to paper, as talks broke down when Mayweather demanded that both fighters undergo random blood and urine testing, a claim that was often met with subtle (and sometimes deliberate) suggestions that Pacquiao’s success as he climbed up the scales might not have been entirely natural.
“Before we tried to make the fight happen and you guys didn't want to take random blood and urine testing," Mayweather stated. "So that's why the fight didn't happen. Then I offered you $40 million and you didn't want to make the fight happen. Then you lost twice and now you're coming back begging for the same money. That's not going to happen. ”
Mayweather went on to face Shane Mosley, in the first stateside fight to feature truly random pre-fight drug testing. Pacquiao faced and defeated Joshua Clottey, albeit in a fight where he failed to come close to drawing 1 million pay-per-view buys. He reclaimed his superstar status in his next fight, cracking that barrier in a Nov. ’10 win over Antonio Margarito.
Both fighters remained the only two in the sport who could consistently sell one million PPV buys, though largely built on the belief – if not false hope – that each fight would eventually lead to a head-on collision.
Fans have responded in recent years, as both fighters have seen their numbers take a massive dip. Mayweather has underwhelmed – relatively speaking – in the pay-per-view market in three of his past four fights since signing with Showtime early last year. His 2014 campaign has been spent facing Marcos Maidana, dodging a bullet in taking a majority decision in May, before having a much easier go of things in their rematch in September.
Neither event came with the success that has been enjoyed in past events, though they remain the two highest grossing stateside events of 2014.
The exception among that lot, however, is also the highest grossing fight of all time, when Mayweather outpointed Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez last September in Las Vegas. The event pulled in a live gate of more than $20 million and $150 million in PPV revenue, both of which are box office records. The fight is paired with Mayweather’s win over de la Hoya as the two richest events in boxing history.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao has struggled to generate revenue on that level following back-to-back losses in 2012, particularly his 6th round knockout loss to Marquez in their epic fourth fight in Dec. ’12. Two of his past three fights have taken place in Macau, where points wins over Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri performed well below expectations, serving as his lowest selling PPV events since 2008. Even his revenge-fueled points win over Bradley this past April failed to meet the financial totals of their first fight nearly two years prior.
From a money perspective, Mayweather is definitely in the lead. Still, both fighters are at a point where they absolutely need each other in order to return to the superstar level at which they resided even as recent as two years ago.
As Pacquiao has called out Mayweather and even mocked the situation in a recent Foot Locker commercial, all the right things are being said in response.
“Floyd Mayweather is not ducking or dodging any opponent. Bob Arum is stopping the fight,” Mayweather claims. “We have been trying to make the fight happen, behind the scenes, for years now. The fans and the people have been fooled because they have been listening to people on just one side.
“Now it's time for us to talk, we want to fight. Let's make it happen. May 2, Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, let's do it.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox