Is boxing better off for failed Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations?
Shane Mosley went from facing Andre Berto in a big fight to facing Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a huge event and being interviewed by Tiki Barber last Friday at the Super Bowl media center. Photo / Aaron Sprecher – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
“Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.”
That line is from the Oscar-nominated film Up In The Air, in which George Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, travels the country firing people and delivering a carefully rehearsed load of bull about how hitting rock bottom gives you a chance to soar higher than ever before. The thing is, even though Bingham’s statement of optimism and hope is mostly disingenuous, sometimes getting canned really does turn out to be a good thing.
In more general terms, sometimes disastrous developments can pave the way for great things to happen.
For many fight fans, the roof caved in when Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, the biggest event in the sport by far, fell apart in January with 99 percent of the contractual details ironed out. And when the month’s only major fight, Shane Mosley vs. Andre Berto, was canceled on short notice a few days later, that was the equivalent of buckets of rain pouring through that caved-in roof.
But the combination of those two negative events has given us Mayweather vs. Mosley on May 1. Plus we have Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey on March 13. And we have the hope of the winners fighting in the fall, which means maybe, just maybe, Pacquiao-Mayweather happens in 2010 after all. Or perhaps instead, Pacquiao-Mosley, the most promising action fight of the bunch, will come our way.
So we’ll either get everything we ever wanted and more, or we’ll settle for getting almost everything we ever wanted. Considering the original plan was Pacquiao-Mayweather, followed by a likely letdown the rest of the year because nothing else could possibly compare, it’s hard not to feel as if we’re better off as a result of the infamous drug-testing dispute.
“It is unbelievable that we were able to really turn things around,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, whose company represents both Mayweather and Mosley. “The whole boxing world was down and depressed. I saw it from sponsors, I saw it from TV networks, I saw it from the venues, I saw it from the writers. Everybody was depressed following the collapse of the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. But now, I can just feel it when I talk to the media, when I talk to fight fans, when I talk to people in the industry, they are all really energized. And that’s what this fight has done, Mayweather and Mosley, it really has re-energized the sport.
“Now we’re picking up the momentum that we had in the sport of boxing in 2009. Even though it looked very dark, and there were a lot of clouds, I’m really proud of the way we turned it around. It took a lot of hard work and time, but the ultimate achievement is to bring fights like this to the fans, and I’m really excited.”
Schaefer said the last two months or so – from Thanksgiving week when Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations began until last week when Mayweather put his name on the contract to fight Mosley – were the busiest and most stressful stretch of his tenure with Golden Boy. He was one of many people who sacrificed time with his family over the holidays to work on Pacquiao-Mayweather. Now, those sacrifices don’t look like a complete waste.
That’s owed largely to the fact that Mosley, who had spent the past year as the odd man out in the superfight discussions, has always been willing to fight anyone. He made the necessary concessions – including undergoing whatever drug testing Mayweather requests – to get the undefeated former pound-for-pound king in the ring. Meanwhile, many have speculated that Mayweather is taking this fight only because he backed himself into a corner and has no other options to make big money and save his reputation. But even if that’s the case, so what? The bottom line is that he’s taking the fight. Both fighters are taking a massive risk and the fans will reap the rewards.
The million-dollar question (or, more accurately, the $150-million question) is whether those rewards will extend into the fall with the fight that remains the most significant that can possibly be made. First Pacquiao needs to beat Clottey. Then Mayweather needs to beat Mosley. Then Pacquiao and Mayweather need to resolve the drug-testing issues that they couldn’t resolve last month.
That’s a lot of variables. Veteran boxing broadcaster Rich Marotta warns us not to view the glass as half-full just yet.
“I’m certainly excited about Mayweather against Mosley, but not as excited as I would have been for Pacquiao and Mayweather, which I thought was the fight in boxing, the right fight at the right time,” Marotta said. “So I can’t say boxing is better off yet. Sometimes, as we all know, the best fights just never get made. I’m still waiting for Lennox Lewis vs. Riddick Bowe. Too many things can go wrong to prevent Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Mosley can beat Mayweather. Pacquiao can get cut against Clottey. He can retire and become a congressman or the president of the Philippines.
“Pacquiao-Mosley would be extremely exciting, but it’s not the same as Pacquiao-Mayweather. It was the No. 1 pound-for-pound now against the No. 1 pound-for-pound prior. It was Pacquiao against a guy who had not lost. And it also had the good guy vs. bad guy element. We definitely don’t have a villain if Manny Pacquiao fights Shane Mosley.”
The good news for now is that as soon as Mayweather-Mosley was signed, Pacquiao publicly expressed a desire to fight the winner later in the year. That’s a start.
And if Mosley does derail Pacquiao-Mayweather by winning, at least Pacquiao-Mosley should be easier to negotiate because there will be no drug-testing issue in the way. On the other hand, Mayweather has a rematch clause in the contract in the event that Mosley beats him, so Pacquiao-Mosley might get bumped in favor of Mosley-Mayweather II. (Not that anyone’s complaining about that if their May 1 fight turns out to be compelling.)
But enough about fights that aren’t Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. As Marotta said, Floyd vs. Manny is still the fight.
And everyone agrees that if all of the “ifs” fall into place, Pacquiao-Mayweather in the fall becomes an even bigger fight than it would have been on March 13 (when it was already poised to be utterly gargantuan).
Having endured some disappointment on that front already, Schaefer is just taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I never look too far ahead,” Schaefer said. “Sometimes when people push too hard – the media included in that – it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes you have to let things evolve naturally.”
And sometimes that evolution can’t begin until you bottom out. That’s precisely what the sport of boxing seemed to be doing just a few short weeks ago. It turns out the worst thing we could ever have imagined might just be the best thing we could ever have asked for.
ÔÇó During our conversation, Schaefer made a very interesting observation about another negative that has arguably developed into a positive. In this down economy, network budgets have tightened up, which means they can’t afford to pay for high-priced tuneups for superstars (think Oscar De La Hoya vs. Steve Forbes or Patrick Charpentier, Mike Tyson vs. Orlin Norris, Kelly Pavlik vs. Gary Lockett, etc.). And that means those superstars don’t take any tuneups and instead go straight from one major pay-per-view event to another. “We’re seeing the best fighting the best,” Schaefer said.
ÔÇó I’ve been enjoying former Main Events public relations director Donald Tremblay’s sports blog, and his observation (scroll down to Feb. 5) about fighters like Miguel Cotto getting into promoting is an important dose of reality for a lot of folks with boxing-business aspirations.
ÔÇó I think we can add Mark Schlereth to the never-ending list of names that I love hearing Teddy Atlas attempt to pronounce. If Teddy had a lisp, that one could have really gotten ugly.
ÔÇó Now for some commentator criticism that isn’t so light-hearted: Someone needs to remind Gus Johnson that he’s a blow-by-blow man, and one who hasn’t been doing it nearly long enough to earn the right to inject his opinions into the broadcast. Where does he get off disagreeing with Al Bernstein — who has earned the right to express opinions – about whether Mayweather is better than Pacquiao? It’s one thing to be new to the sport and learning as you go; it’s another thing to let your ignorance show on national TV by insisting that Mayweather’s perfect record proves he’s the best.
ÔÇó What was worse: Open scoring ruining the last two rounds of an otherwise entertaining fight between Luis Carlos Abregu and Richard Gutierrez, or Antonio DeMarco losing a point for landing an accidental elbow against Edwin Valero? Whichever abomination you choose, just know that Jose Sulaiman is responsible for it.
ÔÇó Abregu is one of those fighters I want to see as often as possible, but I never want to see him in with a championship-caliber opponent.
ÔÇó You know, it really makes it hard for me and my fellow writers to complain about how much the judges suck when the press-row scorers on Showtime all do a far worse job than the official judges.
Eric Raskin can be reached at [email protected] You can read his articles each month in THE RING magazine.