Hauser: The Mayweather-Pacquiao Negotiations
Too often, boxing gives the impression that the inmates are running the asylum. That phenomenon has been on display recently in the conflicting, and sometimes absurd, public pronouncements regarding the proposed Nov. 13 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
For several months, the public was told that negotiations were proceeding pursuant to a self-imposed gag order that the participants had put in place to avoid incendiary statements that might derail the fight.
On June 10, Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya (Mayweather’s co-promoter as of late) broke the silence and told Univision that a deal for the bout was “very close.”
On June 30, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum (Pacquiao’s promoter) told SI.com that, with HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg acting as an intermediary, he and Mayweather advisor Al Haymon had reached a tentative agreement for the fight. All that was necessary, Arum said, was for Mayweather to sign off on the deal points.
Mayweather was silent on the issue. Thus, Arum set a deadline of midnight on the night of Friday, July 16. If there was no response from Mayweather by then, rather than keep Pacquiao out of the ring indefinitely, Team Pacquiao would seek another opponent.
Midnight came and went. At 12:01AM, Arum announced on a teleconference call that Mayweather had failed to respond positively or negatively to the terms that had been hammered out by Greenburg, Haymon and himself. As a result, the promoter said, he would explore other options for Pacquiao.
Then things took a turn evocative of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On July 19, Team Mayweather issued a statement from Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe denying that negotiations for Mayweather-Pacquiao had ever taken place.
“Here are the facts,” Ellerbe’s statement read. “Al Haymon, [Golden Boy CEO] Richard Schaefer and myself speak to each other on a regular basis. The truth is, no negotiations have ever taken place nor was there ever a deal agreed upon by Team Mayweather or Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao on November 13. Either Ross Greenburg or Bob Arum is not telling the truth, but history tells us who is lying.”
Of course, there’s a third possibility: that Leonard Ellerbe is not telling the truth.
So what really happened?
Greenburg was extremely eager to make Mayweather-Pacquiao a reality. Multiple sources say that, this spring, he told Arum, “‘I want to put this fight together. I can do it with Haymon.”
Later, at a June 3 tribute to Arum at the Friar’s Club in New York, Ross assured Bob, “I can get this fight.”
“I never talked to Haymon,” Arum told RingTV.com. “It was all done through Ross. Ross represented to me that he was talking to the Mayweather side through Haymon, and it was left to Haymon to deal with the rest of the Mayweather people. Based on what Ross told me, I asumed that we had a meeting of the minds on money and drug-testing. There was no done deal for a site, but the most likely site was Las Vegas. The MGM Grand wanted the fight. Steve Wynn was interested. Jerry Jones might have given us a blank check and told us to fill in the amount if we went to Dallas. But all the talk about finalizing the venue was premature.”
“Haymon never represented to Ross that Floyd had signed off on the deal,” Arum continued. “According to Ross, Haymon always said that he had to get final approval from Mayweather. But if Ross is to be believed – and I believe him here – Haymon said that he, meaning Haymon, was satisfied with the terms.”
A source at HBO with knowledge of the situation said that there was a time during negotiations when Haymon tried to use the promise of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to secure TV dates for several of his other fighters. Greenburg, according to the source, appropriately refused.
It’s unclear what role, if any, Golden Boy was to play in the promotion. “That was up to the Mayweather people,” Arum said. “Depending on the day, I got mixed signals through Ross. From time to time, Ross would tell me that Haymon was checking certain things with Schaefer. Other times, I got the impression that maybe Golden Boy was out.”
As the world knows, July 16 passed with no deal for Mayweather-Pacquiao. Then Ellerbe issued his statement denying the existence of negotiations.
Ellerbe’s claim is undermined by the reasonable assumption he read reports about the negotiations in the media yet never publicly suggested to anyone that the reports were wrong. At the very least, one would have expected him to pick up the phone, call Greenburg and ask, “What are these reports all about?”
One would also think that, if there were no negotiations, Greenburg would have called Arum to inquire about the reports.
Arum put it more bluntly, saying, “Is Ellerbe crazy? If there were no negotiations, why was everyone talking about a gag order?”
Al Haymon has refused to comment publicly on the controversy. So has Greenburg. Where Haymon is concerned, that’s par for the course. Regarding Greenburg, the view here is that Ross owes Arum the courtesy of a public statement that negotiations did, in fact, occur (the assumption here being that they did).
As for the future? Arum noted in his midnight statement, “People have asked me, ‘Does this mean the Mayweather fight is dead?’ Even though Mayweather has not responded by the deadline, the deal is dead when we reach a deal with an opponent for Manny’s fight in November. Then we are contractually bound to do that fight. In the interim, if Floyd suddenly emerged and said he wanted to do the fight, there would be nothing opposed to getting together and doing the fight. That is our position, and I hope it is as clear as I can make it.”
In that vein, one source says that Haymon met with Greenburg this past Tuesday, and told him, “Don’t worry. I have everything under control.”
Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t.
The fight will happen if Mayweather wants it. If he’s afraid of Pacquiao, it won’t.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at [email protected] His most recent book book (a novel entitled Waiting for Carver Boyd) has just been published by JR Books. Hauser says that Waiting for Carver Boyd is “the best pure boxing writing I’ve ever done.”