It was fight week for Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri, November 2014, when Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum began telling the world about secret Mayweather-Pacquiao negotiations taking place.
Was the claim true or merely a ploy to create some buzz and a glossy coat for a Macau-based fight that was probably the greatest paper mismatch ever hustled to fans via pay-per-view?
After the predictably awful Algieri farce, Arum once again began to dip into the Mayweather-Pacquiao wading pool.
On January 13, Arum spoke exclusively to long-time pro-Pacquiao blogger, Examiner.com’s Brad Cooney, and dropped a blockbuster.
“As far as we are concerned, we’ve negotiated all of the points, and we are all in accord,” Arum said, regarding the culmination of what he claimed to be weeks of talks. “Pacquiao signed off on everything, and we are ready to rumble…Everything is agreed to. People need to understand that. everything is agreed to by my guy (Pacquiao) and his (Mayweather’s) representatives. Manny has signed off, now we are just waiting for the other side to deliver Mayweather…Negotiations have been going on and as far as we are concerned they are complete.”
Doe-eyed Cooney would respond: “So Floyd just won’t sign the damn contract?”
“They can’t produce Floyd to agree,” Arum responded.
Within minutes, the slack-jawed boxing media began to pound away at their keyboards, passing along the big news. Everyone from Yahoo to Lance Pugmire at the Los Angeles Times to every blogger worth his weight in spit bucket juice was proclaiming the big news– “Negotiations are complete, Pacquiao is on board…agrees to all terms!”
“Finally,” some know-nothing frat boy boxing reporter told his social media followers, “Let’s see Mayweather get out of this one.”
Meanwhile, two weeks earlier, at the offices of Fighthype.com, a representative of Franklin Gacal, Pacquiao’s long-time attorney and Chief of Staff, reportedly reached out to the site owner Ben Thompson for Floyd Mayweather’s direct contact information.
“In Vegas from the 30th-Jan 3rd and would love a chance to sit with MM [Money Mayweather] and bring the truth back to MP [Manny Pacquiao], so MP will know it has been Koncz and Bob blocking all along,” the message read.
Allegedly, information was being gathered and a case prepared to take to Manny directly, claiming that he has been misled about Arum’s and his manager Michael Koncz’s true efforts to sign the mega-fight.
Asked by The Boxing Tribune whether this message was confirmed as having come from Gacal’s people, Thompson acknowledged that it was and also provided visual proof of an ongoing phone relationship with Gacal.
So, Pacquiao’s own Chief of Staff, who has in the recent past suggested that Arum step aside in order to facilitate the making of the Mayweather fight, seemed to be unaware of any serious talks that had been going on, according to Arum, for more than a month already.
But Thompson is regarded by many of the marks in the media as the “pro-Mayweather” guy, right? The only reporter with Mayweather’s number on auto-dial. Therefore, this bit of the puzzle was never acknowledged by the mainstream boxing media. They just kept parroting the words of Arum and ignoring that everything known about these alleged talks was coming directly from Arum’s mouth, only.
Arum continued to crow, talking to Nick Groke of the Denver Post. “We have done everything within our power to get this thing done– and it is done.
“Get on the internet,” Arum directly addressed the fans, “and besiege Mayweather with just these words: SIGN THE CONTRACT, SIGN THE CONTRACT…”
A wave of #SignTheContract buzz would hit social media, aimed at Mayweather.
“Signing what? No contract has been drafted yet,” head of Showtime Sports Stephen Espinoza replied via social media when swarmed with questions regarding the “done deal” and Mayweather’s failure to sign. “What the hell is everyone signing???”
The following day, Espinoza replied more formally to the issue via media interview.
“Floyd isn’t holding anything up,” Espinoza told Fighthype.com. “No one is waiting on Floyd to rubber stamp or sign anything. Arum isn’t being truthful on this and he knows it. There is no contract that is awaiting Floyd’s signature and Bob Arum knows that…We’ve made what I call significant progress, but there’s still open issues which have to be resolved. So there’s no agreement or closed deal or contract or anybody signing off on anything. Neither CBS or Showtime or Haymon, or even HBO really for that matter, have yet agreed on the old terms. We’re trying to resolve open issues…”
Even Arum buddy and big bossman of CBS, Les Moonves acknowledged the incomplete status of negotiations when asked by a TMZ street interviewer on a video dated January 21– more than one full week after Arum told the world that everything had been settled and only Mayweather remained noncommittal.
“We’re hoping this fight happens,” Moonves told TMZ, “we hope so…”
What is known about this entire situation is that talks, at some level, are going on. That has been acknowledged by Mayweather, Arum, and Espinoza. There has been no indication of how far along these talks have progressed or if any real bones of contention between both sides have been resolved. We could be talking about an informal, “let’s get the ball rolling” to a sleeves-rolled-up, “let’s hammer this out” effort. Nobody knows, other than the parties actually involved.
It’s clear, though, that things are far from settled and that a lot more work has to go into these talks before a deal can be finalized.
It’s also pretty clear that Arum has not been truthful as to the status of said negotiations. As a matter of fact, while the veteran promoter was talking about a “done deal,” it was being reported that executives from HBO and Showtime had just sat down to have an informal discussion of logistics regarding how to handle the broadcast and broadcast rights if the fight should happen– a discussion, by the way, that was reportedly not very fruitful at all.
But, despite all the growing evidence pointing to an intentional misrepresentation of facts, Team Pacquiao doubled down on the rhetoric, issuing a January 31 deadline for Mayweather to sign the contract– a contract, once again, that isn’t even close to being drafted.
The media also doubled down on their rhetoric, casting blame and assigning guilt over an issue based entirely on the word of Bob Arum.
The situation is reminiscent of the debacle in the summer of 2010, when Arum issued a deadline for Mayweather to sign the contract to face Pacquiao and would even put a countdown clock on the Top Rank website– only to later admit that he had never actually spoken to anyone from Mayweather’s side during the whole countdown and that, in reality, there was no actual contract to sign even if Mayweather had wanted to honor the deadline.
In that instance, Pacquiao would move on to fight Antonio Margarito, signing the contract very shortly after the Mayweather “deadline.” Some say that the Margarito fight was always the plan and the deadline angle was used to soften the blow as many felt the Mexican to be an unfit and undeserving opponent following his guilt in the “Plaster Gate” handwraps scandal in 2009.
However, now, it boggles the mind as to what would be the reason behind Arum intentionally stepping out of alleged hush-hush meetings to make false public statements that could jeopardize the whole process.
Again, this is reminiscent of another moment in the early stages of this five-year Mayweather-Pacquiao drama.
Back in early 2010, when Golden Boy and Top Rank brought in an independent arbitrator to help resolve the issue of random blood testing, Arum would violate the terms of the arbitrator-imposed gag order and take his rhetoric directly to the media, intentionally ramrodding any further attempts to achieve progress. By going public with his side of the issue, he forced both parties to withdraw from the boardroom and dig their heels in the sand in order to save face. This led to a level of open hostility between camps and fan bases never before seen in the sport. From that point forward, the soil had been salted and nothing would grow.
Could it be that Arum and crew are intentionally trying to sabotage talks?
“It makes you wonder. When you hear these types of misrepresentations,” Espinoza told Boxingscene. “Someone who wants to make a deal doesn’t go out and publicly misrepresent the status of the negotiations. Maybe Floyd and [Alex] Ariza are right – maybe Bob Arum is going to be the reason this fight doesn’t happen. If he continues to misrepresent and mischaracterize the status of the negotiations, he may end up killing the deal.”
Arum has done quite well pushing the Pacquiao product for five years against “in house” competition without the risk of a Mayweather. Now, with big money still on the table in Macau, where he has a handshake deal with Ed Tracy, president and chief executive of Sands China (in charge of overseeing the Venetian Macau), to deliver at least two of Manny’s next four fights to the Asian gaming capital, the need for risk aversion is greater than ever.
And although the one-shot purse for a Mayweather fight will be huge, it’s not in Arum’s best business interest to risk cashing out on Pacquiao just yet. The Filipino icon is the key figure in establishing a long-term, healthy boxing business in Macau, where the money is ever-flowing, the taxes are nil, and regulation is a wink of the eye.
It’s not unreasonable to pass up on a $100 million single fight purse when a loss could risk a possible billion dollar Asia-based empire for Arum and company.
But, in order for Pacquiao to maintain his good guy, warrior aura while Mayweather is still around and thriving, he has to be portrayed as forever in pursuit of the bad guy. Pacquiao could certainly beat Mayweather in a one-on-one encounter, but why take the risk when the illusion of perpetual pursuit delivers the same favorable public relations that a win would produce…without any of the risk?
Maybe Arum unintentionally got the Mayweather-Pacquiao ball rolling once again in an effort to distract from the Pacquiao-Algieri farce and is pulling back now that things are getting “real.”
Maybe this strategic talk of the heroic Pacquiao awaiting response from the villainous Mayweather was designed to coincide with the release of Manny Pacquiao’s documentary, “Manny.” After all, the timing would be impeccable if Team Pacquiao wanted to utilize the publicity generated to help promote the film.
Maybe Arum has a more benevolent reason for doing what he has done. Could it be a negotiating ploy? But even if this were the case, Arum has to know that the arrogant, truculent Mayweather will instinctively pull back when issued an ultimatum or deadline– especially after so many years of open hostilities between the two.
To the boxing media, though, this seems to be an easy call, begging for no such questions to be asked.
Why bother digging into an issue and asking questions when you can simply point fingers and slurp up traffic from sexy headlines?
Pacquiao, good; Mayweather, bad.
That’s all you need to know.
And when Arum, or any promoter for that matter, wants you to print something, they’ll let you know what and when. In the meantime, just be the good, useful idiots that you are and put together your ratings panels and pat yourselves on the back for being “scribes.”
If Mayweather-Pacquiao does come together, it will be a modern sports miracle. One accomplished via the gritty hard work of those businessmen negotiating behind the scenes and despite the failings of just about everyone within the actual framework of the sport and its media.
You can email Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to him via CB radio, where his handle is “NotWoodsy”. Paul is a full member of the Burger King Kids’ Club, a born iconoclast, and an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church.