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Pacquiao Quietly Goes About Being a Real Fighter

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

By Bill Tibbs

Boxing is a sport that can survive and thrive for a long time on the strength of a series of bouts - or even a single bout - if the recipe is right. The public interest can be electrified and galvanized to the point that the sport becomes “must see” sports viewing. Whether in series or one-offs, bouts like Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard and on a smaller scale, Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward captured the viewing audience and attention well outside the fanatical boxing core to reach the mainstream masses.
These epic fights absolutely reenergized the sport, breathing new life into the game, generating a new, excited and larger boxing audience. Hall of Fame promoter and Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum (discussing middleweight great Hagler vs. Leonard) once described what you get when you put the right two fighters and the right two personalities in the ring as “box office magic.” A match-up between Floyd Mayweather, 45-0 (26), and Manny Pacquiao, 56-5-2 (38), would certainly bring two of the sport’s most popular and charismatic figures together at long last. After Pacquiao defeated previously unbeaten champion Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley last Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to reclaim the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title, talk quickly turned to a Mayweather bout in the post-fight press conference.

Initially, it seemed like Pacquiao was resistant to any demands Floyd brought to the table, going back a few years when talk of the two pairing up first began. Pacquiao, then as hot a ticket seller in the sport as could be and justifiably number one many fans’ pound-for-pound lists, felt he shouldn’t be dictated to. Now 35, with a couple losses on his dossier since those initial discussions (including getting knocked out ice-cold three fights ago by possible future opponent Juan Manuel Marquez), he seems to realize the window is closing. Also, as far as a time frame is concerned, Mayweather talks about shutting down his own Hall of Fame-bound career when his current contact with the Showtime network concludes. Mayweather, who has remained unbeaten and still looks exceptional, if not outright untouchable at age 37, still feels he unequivocally has the right to dictate the terms of the bout - and as the unbeaten, PPV king...maybe he does.
Pacquiao appears ready and willing to enter negotiations in good faith through Arum to make the fight happen. Pacquiao had balked at Mayweather’s initial demands regarding drug testing and the purse split. However, as time has moved on, Pacquiao seems to be willing to relent, or at least negotiate, on almost every reasonable demand the vastly talented, Flint, Michigan native Mayweather is making. While money and purse split, always the key components in any bout, could be a tough issue at the negotiation table, Pacquiao seems more than willing to do whatever it takes to get Floyd in the ring. “Pac-Man” has seemingly agreed to all requests by Mayweather but now Floyd seems uninterested in a bout with Pacquiao. For Mayweather, a fighter whose image is predicated on the theme of “money,” the biggest grossing bout is apparently available to them and yet they seem no closer to the first bell than they did a few years ago. Seemingly, Mayweather, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, manager Al Haymon or anyone else making the final call (and at the end of the day, one would assume that will always be Mayweather) is not giving the go-ahead to pursue the bout with Manny as long as Bob Arum is involved.
Pacquiao has been fiercely and admirably loyal to his team, which includes trainer Freddie Roach firmly entrenched in his corner and Arum and Top Rank handling the business in the boardroom. In recent interviews Pacquiao, demonstrating incredible strength of character and a sense of loyalty all too rare in the sport, stated that if he had to choose between Arum and the bout, “the fight won’t happen.” Golden Boy demanding that Arum be removed from the equation just seems like the latest stall tactic. The only issue before was drug testing, Pacquiao has seemed to agree to any and all demands on that request yet Team Mayweather still seems resistant to setting up the fight.
After last Saturday’s win, Pacquiao just seems happy to be back on the winning track and ready to tackle the next challenge in front of him. He just fought Bradley, who entered the bout having toppled very tough challenges in Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez and Russian tough guy Ruslan Provodnikov in his two previous bouts. And if all reports are accurate (and Marquez gets by Mike Alvarado in his next bout), “Pac-Man” will again face off against Marquez in bout number five.
And, let’s not forget the last time they fought. Pacquiao walked into a counter right that anesthetised him in the sixth round. But Manny Pacquiao fights. That’s what he does. He wins and he keeps going. He loses and he keeps going. He gets knocked out cold and he keeps going. That’s what real fighters do. He is a modern-era, throwback fighter if there ever was one. Manny will get in the ring with anyone, preferably the best available opponent out there, anytime.
Arum spent a frustrating week incensed over the amount of posters all over the MGM venue promoting the upcoming Mayweather-Marcos Maidana bout during fight week for his client. But at the post-fight presser, Bob stated that all Mayweather’s people had to do was “pick up the friggin’ phone” to get the negotiations started on a fight with Manny. Pacquiao addressed the question about a possible bout by saying, “If he wants to fight, the fight will be on.” The great fighters of the past - the real fighters - fought the best available at every opportunity they could. Mayweather is a phenomenal talent who will sell tickets and draw attention to his events regardless of who he fights. Floyd is an astute businessman who always has the big picture in mind.
Perhaps Floyd, who does hint his professional end is near, is sitting quietly while he waits for his last bout, saving the Pacquiao extravaganza as his swansong classic. Let’s hope Floyd decides to do what a fighter at his level is supposed to do: fight the best available opponent fight fans are demanding in the fight everyone really wants to see him in. Time will tell.
Questions and comments can be sent to Bill Tibbs at
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