By Cliff Rold
Floyd Mayweather tweeted and called Manny Pacquiao a punk.
This is boxing in 2012.
Last week’s announcement that lineal World Welterweight Champion Floyd Mayweather would have his domestic violence sentence postponed until June sent shockwaves through the game.
Mayweather’s previously announced May date could be fulfilled. Neither he nor WBO Welterweight beltholder, and leading rival, Manny Pacquiao, have a fight officially in the queue. After years of waiting, fight fans could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Could this be it?
Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum seems to want anything but, claiming his latest version of ‘later this year.’ Manny Pacquiao has released statements to the affect that he wants Mayweather next but has fallen short of saying he’s not fighting unless it’s Floyd.
And, be sure, Pacquiao could put his foot down on this if he wanted to.
In 1991, following his rematch victory over Razor Ruddock, Mike Tyson challenging Evander Holyfield to regain the Heavyweight crown was the most obvious fight on the planet.
Promoter Don King started making noise about doing another Tyson spectacle first. Press reports of the time had Tyson demanding Holyfield and nothing but.
The fight was signed for November 1991.
A rape charge and October rib injury sent the match into the year 1996, prolonging Holyfield’s arrival at the moment of ultimate public crowning achievement for five years. It was unfortunate, but injuries happen.
The fight at least got signed.
The failure to make Mayweather-Pacquiao since it first appeared imminent in early 2010 has been a source of endless chatter, speculation, and bloodlust from fight fans. The press and pundits have joined them. Comparisons have been made to other big fights not made in years past, but has there really ever been anything like this in boxing?
A ready point of comparison has been the lack of a Riddick Bowe-Lennox Lewis bout in the 1990s. That was certainly a big one. Following Lewis’s win over Ruddock in October 1992, and Bowe’s toppling of Holyfield for the Heavyweight title in November, they appeared on a collision course. Fight fans wanted to see the two big men do big damage to each other.
Allegations from Bowe’s side had Lewis asking for too much money. Lewis’s side screamed duck. Bowe chucked a WBC belt in the garbage and Lewis picked it up for a defense against Tony Tucker. It looked, in grand boxing tradition, like a dangerous fight being set aside to marinate. Bowe losing to Holyfield in their 1993 rematch spoiled the recipe. Lewis getting knocked out by Oliver McCall in 1994 set it further away.
The 1990s was a great decade at Heavyweight. Bowe-Lewis was the one that got away. It was big…but it was no Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Bowe-Lewis wasn’t setting new revenue and pay-per-view standards. Fan desire to see it hardly crept into the mainstream sports consciousness the way this so far failed date has. Bowe-Lewis was the biggest fight not to happen in its day but it was never the sort of hands down biggest fight in the sport this is.
In terms of public appeal and star stature, this fight in its time is comparable to the most significant clashes of boxing’s many eras. Greb-Walker. Louis-Schmeling II. Frazier-Ali I. Leonard-Hearns I. Whitaker-Chavez. Trinidad-De La Hoya.
Please, God, make it stop.
Fight or don’t fight. That isn’t the question. That is the demand at this point.
So far, public demand hasn’t meant a damn thing. Every generation has matches that don’t happen. It is rare for THE (all caps for a reason) fight to fall through the cracks. The argument has been made, recently and more than once in recent years, that profit margins make a difference. Pacquiao and Mayweather make so much apart there really isn’t that strong an economic incentive to force the fight.
It’s a fair argument. However, it’s also fair to recall that boxing, despite its carnival attributes, is still a sport. Great competitors like to compete and be compensated. The desire for the former makes room to negotiate the latter.
It’s enough at this point to wonder if they both WANT the fight as competitors.
Sure, Mayweather announcing a date and site (May 5, MGM Grand) before any talks could even start was the height of arrogance. It could just be a power play with no eye on a serious fight. Still, the reluctance to make the fight at critical points by the Pacquiao side is impossible to ignore at this point. Pacquiao, because of his greater rise up the scale, historical accomplishments, more humble public persona, and crowd-pleasing style, hasn’t taken as much flack for the failure as Mayweather.
It’s time now for that to stop.
The fight fell apart in early 2010, allegedly over testing procedures for performance enhancing drugs. Mayweather’s side conceded on multiple negotiation points and was even willing to haggle over cut-off dates for testing which, with blood and urine, is designed to play through the clock.
It was the Pacquiao side that walked away.
The walk killed the fight when it seemed closest. It is that side now which doesn’t seem to be willing to move hard towards the fight. ESPN’s Dan Rafael tweeted (there’s that social media again rearing its funky head) that, if Team Pacquiao doesn’t think Mayweather will take the fight for May 5, they should call his bluff and see what happens.
The cards are still in hand.
There are reasons being bandied about by Arum to delay but May 5 is as good as any day and there is no reason it can’t happen then. Maybe it’s bigger another day, but we’re talking about gaps between massive and massive. If the issue is making the most money, show the stones Super Middleweights Lucian Bute and Carl Froch appear on the verge of showing and sign a two-fight deal.
Hey, a little dreaming never hurt.
It’s 2012. Pacquiao is 33 years old. Mayweather will be 35 in February. Neither is at their absolute peak anymore. They were much closer in 2010. The chance to see the best possible version of both men in a ring together has already passed. But…
As long as both men keep winning, as long as both keep the upset bug at bay, they are still THE fight.
Make the fight or shut the hell up already.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com