Mayweather-Pacquiao: He said, he said
So the fight of the century is off, and it's all Floyd Mayweather's fault.
Like the coward Bob Arum says he is, Mayweather rejected a reasonable drug testing compromise because he's afraid to risk his undefeated record against a buzzsaw like Manny Pacquiao.
The fight of the century is off, and it's all Manny Pacquiao's fault.
Like the coward team Mayweather says he is, Pacquiao rejected a reasonable drug testing compromise because he's afraid of either testing positive or confronting the only other guy who can challenge for the pound-for-pound crown.
These are two widely divergent accounts of how final negotiations for this proposed superfight went down, so whose fault is it, anyway?
At this point, who cares?
What matters is that the most important, most intriguing and most lucrative boxing match of a generation now looks like it won't happen, disappointing both hardcore and casual fans, and dealing a body blow to a sport that had just climbed off the canvas.
A couple of posts ago a commenter questioned why we were still even discussing the sweet science, explaining that he was a former boxing fan who tuned away from the sport because for too many years the best fighters avoided each other.
I'm sure there are thousands of other fans like him, guys who tuned out because they grew tired of waiting for a rematch between Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins, or for a pair of heavyweights worth watching, or for Mayweather to confront someone who could test the limits of his mind-boggling skill.
This pound-for-pound showdown between the two biggest names in the sport was supposed to draw those fans back to the boxing flock, while rewarding the hardcore for standing by the sport, and proving to the world that the inter-promotional bickering that had derailed boxing in the past was just that -- the past.
Turns out it's still the present, and the gifts Team Pacquiao and Team Mayweather have given sports fans are the familiar feelings that always accompany superfights that don't happen.
The shattering of a fragile trust as boxing fans feel duped for believing the fight could actually take place.
The awkward attempts to explain to non-boxing fans that the sport really isn't as crooked as it seems.
The disappointment of another failed negotiation hardening in to indifference toward fighters and promoters who ignore fans' demands.
Really, does anyone care who these two will face as alternatives?
Unless you're a blood relative or the worst kind of boxing addict, the answer is probably no.
These two need to realize that if they want to smash pay-per-view records and vault themselves from mere Hall of Famers to Sugar Ray Robinson-level legends they need each other. Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier, Ray Leonard needed Thomas Hearns and Floyd Mayweather needs Manny Pacquiao (and vice-versa).
Amid the duelling accusations it's tough to discern which fighter hasn't figured it out yet, but if Mayweather truly didn't want this fight he should have stayed retired. Fans could live with the Juan Manuel Marquez mismatch as a Pacquiao tuneup, but nobody wants to see him fight Saul Alvarez or Rick Ross.
And if Pacquiao really isn't scared of Mayweather or drug testing he needs to prove it and start acting like a fighter.
Now, any judgement of a fighter's character comes with a huge qualifier, since anyone who laces on gloves and fights for a living displays a level of courage people like me will never comprehend, much less possess.
Nevertheless, a fighter doesn't run to his lawyer when someone defames him, the way Pacquiao did last week.
You think Muhammad Ali's relentless racial taunts didn't defame Joe Frazier?
Labeling Frazier and Uncle Tom was a deliberate (and successful) attempt to demean him among African-American fans.
And calling him a gorilla was the lowest form of race-baiting -- one black man dehumanizing another for white people's entertainment -- and on the scale of public insults outranks by far Floyd Mayweather Sr.'s ramblings about steroids.
But Frazier didn't file a lawsuit, or demand an apology as a condition for accepting a fight. He settled this defamation claim where a fighter should -- in the ring.
The bigger point here is that when record amounts of money and Hall of Fame legacies are at stake, great fighters make sure great fights happen, regardless of details, purse splits, insults and gamesmanship. And if Mayweather and Pacquiao can't get over themselves and get into the ring this spring, the entire sport suffers.
Some of my hardcore boxing fan friends are more patient than I am, pointing out that Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler ignored each other for half a decade before finally meeting in 1987.
The difference here is that even while Leonard was retired, boxing had a much larger market share than it does now, and Hagler had a few superfights to keep folks interested until Leonard finally came back to the ring.
Boxing is healthier now than it was in, say, 2005, but still doesn't have much to offer the mainstream if Mayweather-Pacquiao falls through.
And Hagler and Leonard were both in their 20s when they started stalling on their showdown, and in their early 30s when they finally fought, past their primes for sure but still young enough to make an exciting fight.
Mayweather and Pacquiao, meanwhile, are both in their early 30s already and can't afford to delay this fight indefinitely. Wait five years and all you offer fans is a "superfight" between two old guys. That won't fly in the ring or in the octagon, and it's not what the public wants or deserves.
But the last few weeks have taught us that this isn't about public demand or the health of the sport. It's about two fighters with huge egos and who would rather win at the negotiating table than in the ring.