Manny Pacquiao filed a defamation suit against Floyd Mayweather and his handlers this afternoon, following through on last week's promise to take team Mayweather to court over insinuations that the current pound-for-pound champion takes performance enhancing drugs.
The move is the latest, most serious turn in a nasty back-and-forth between the world's two top boxers, and threatens to derail a bout that would be the richest (a record $50 million purse) and most significant of each man's career.
Final negotiations for the proposed March 13 superfight between the world's two top boxers broke down last week, when Pacquiao continued to refuse to agree to Olympic-style random drug testing. Mayweather's negatiating team, headed by Golden Boy Promotions executive RIchard Schaefer, insisted on more stringent testing as a condition of making the bout, while Pacquiao maintains that the standard state commission testing is adequate.
While the state of Nevada, where the bout would likely take place, requires urine tests before and after the bout, the Olympic-style testing Mayweather wants allows for random blood and urine testing at any time from the agreement to fight until the night of the bout.
In his 12-page statement of claim (available here) Pacquiao, a world champ in seven divisions and the world's top pound-for-pound fighter, alleges that Mayweather's desire to institute tougher testing protocols is part of a three-month campaign to destroy Pacquiao's reputation.
The claim -- which also names Schaefer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., trainer Roger Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya -- says all five men are "motivated by ill-will, spite, malice, revenge and envy."
Pacquaio's lawsuit doesn't ask for a set amount of damages, but does request that team Mayweather pay damages, punitive fees and legal costs in connection with a litany of transgressions, including:
* A September interview with the Grand Rapids Press in which Mayweather Sr. accuses Pacquaio of doping.
* An October radio interview in which Mayweather was asked about Pacquiao's physical development and answered in part that the "Philippines got the best enhancing drugs."
None of the allegations have yet been proven in court.
A week after the biggest impasse in negotiations for the proposed superfight became public, the emphatically underscores how close this bout is to falling through.
Pacquiao had maintained that he would take a blood test, but not within 30 days of the fight. But earlier this week his own promoter, Bob Arum, reminded him and the sports public that Pacquiao had taken a blood test 24 days before destroying Ricky Hatton.
Still neither Schaefer nor Pacquiao attorney Daniel Petrocelli thinks the lawsuit means the fight is off. Petrocelli says the suit is simply an necessary measure against the negative press his client has endured since Mayweather Sr. first accused him of doping, and Schaefer thinks the two camps can still reach a deal.
"The fact is Floyd Mayweather is ready, willing and able to fight Manny Pacquiao," Schaefer told ESPN.com. "(Golden Boy marketing manager) Bruce Binkow has told me that conversations are ongoing with Todd duBoef from Top Rank to find a solution to get this fight done, and just because there is a lawsuit, Todd has not represented to Bruce that they should stop talking."