Mayweather-Pacquiao: Why it has to happen
Rather, why Pacquiao needs to smarten up and let it happen.
When word first surfaced in early December that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao planned to meet in March for all the pound-for-pound marbles, boxing purists rejoiced, casual sports fans paid attention, and this blog's comment section lit up with readers weighing in on who would triumph.
Then last week came even more news -- that Pacquiao wouldn't sign off on the fight as long as
Mayweather's camp insisted on Olympic style doping control, which allows for random urine and blood testing from the time to fight is signed until the fighters enter the ring. If Mayweather's people didn't back off of that demand, Pacquiao's team said they would pull out of the fight.
Merry Christmas, fight fans.
Over the weekend Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, offered an alternative to Olympic-style drug testing and gave Mayweather until Monday to accept. But even as that deadline passed Tuesday dawned with the news that both sides are willing to compromise on doping, and that the Nevada Commission hoped to move negotiations forward.
And, really, do any of these plot twists surprise us?
The real surprise came three weeks ago, when important details of the bout seemed to fall into place with minimal wrangling. When egos this large negotiate over an event this big, it's normal to expect one side or the other to hold out long and hard over something, whether it's the contract weight (147 pounds), the type of gloves (8oz) or the purse split (50/50).
Now it's clear that the quick toppling of those dominoes simply concealed the real deal breaker -- drug testing. Mayweather wants to go well beyond standard procedure, while Pacquiao has said he won't consent to a blood test within 30 days of a fight.
Are Mayweather's drug test demands unprecedented?
Of course they are. Up until now the Nevada Commission's testing regimen -- pre-and post-fight urine tests -- have satisied everyone.
But are they unreasonable.
Not at all. Not for the pride at stake for these two fighters, and certainly not for the $25 million (U.S.) each of them figures to earn for the bout. Pacquaio may find the prospect of additional blood tests annoying, but when they double your salary (he made a reported $13 million in his last bout), you forfeit the right to quibble over minor nuisances.
Mayweather seems to understand that.
In negotiations for this fight Pacquiao's people pressed hard on the one aspect on which they thought he would bend the rules -- the contract weight. In September Mayweather was scheduled to face Juan Manuel Marquez at 144 pounds, but weighed in at 146 and paid a $600,000 fine. So for this fight team Pacquaio insisted on a fine of $10 million per pound for any fighter (read: Mayweather) who fails to make weight.
A steep demand, for sure, but Mayweather agreed to it.
Meanwhile Mayweather's people realize that Pacquiao's densely muscled physique and unreal punching power at higher weights provide circumstantial (even if flimsy) evidence of chemical enhancement, so to make sure everyone fights fair they impose a steep demand of their own.
But instead of agreeing Pacquiao resists, and jeopardizes not just fight of a generation but his own pristine reputation, and as a bonus concedes an edge in the psychological sparring that begins long before the fighters enter the ring.
While Mayweather has shown that neither Pacquiao's demands nor the prospect of increased drug testing bother him, Pacquiao has acted irrationally.
He threatened a defamation suit against Mayweather, his father, Floyd Sr., and Golden Boy Promotions, even though only Mayweather Sr. has ever accused him of doping.
He and promoter Bob Arum have publicly considered replacing Mayweather with Paulie Malignaggi, even though the Brooklyn-based super lightweight thinks Pacquiao is on steroids and has said so on the record.
And he has maintained that having blood drawn within 30 days of the fight would weaken him, even as his own promoter unearthed video evidence of Pacquiao taking a blood test just two weeks before his May 2009 destruction of Ricky Hatton.
Now, none of this adds up to guilt, or even suspicion of doping (although these days even cheating on your wife can been seen as evidence that you're juicing).
But it's strange behaviour for a guy with nothing to hide.
It's out of character for a fighter who, until now, has only shown an interest in taking on the biggest challenges available.
And it's outright crazy behaviour for a guy who has 25 million reasons to consent to the test and make the fight happen.