Days Later, We’re None The Wiser On What Happened With Floyd Mayweather And Manny Pacquiao — And Worse Off

The camp of Floyd Mayweather — including Mayweather himself — has now weighed in on their view on what happened with the potential Manny Pacquiao welterweight megafight, and it’s not very illuminating. Incriminating, more than anything. But we still don’t have the whole story.

As I said over the weekend, though, missing the whole story doesn’t mean we don’t know the fallout. And it’s possible I underestimated that fallout. There are some boxing writers who would rather find the silver lining; there are some who’d like to ignore the fallout altogether, preferring to look at what is happening in boxing rather than what isn’t. I’m not that kind of boxing writer, because like it or not, Mayweather-Pacquiao is THE story in boxing — and the fact that it isn’t happening IS what’s happening in boxing.

Reading The Tea Leaves

The first answer from Mayweather, on Sunday, was far from satisfactory.

“I’m not interested in rushing to do anything.”


“I’m not really thinking about boxing right now. I’m just relaxing. I fought about 60 days ago, so I’m just enjoying myself, enjoying life, enjoying my family and enjoying my vacation.”


“Like I said, I’m just supporting my family and relaxing. That’s what I’m doing right now.”

This said nothing about his view on the purported negotiations. It was the kind of thing to make you wonder whether he was flat dodging the topic, but of course it’s not clear what questions he was answering. You’d think, though, that even if the question wasn’t direct enough, he’d take the occasion to rebut everything that had been said about him by Pacquiao and his promoter, Bob Arum, if it was rebuttable. And besides, there’s no rule in boxing that says you can’t enjoy your family and relax if there are a mere six months between your last fight and your next (<—sarcasm).

Then, today, Mayweather’s team offered a statement through adviser Leonard Ellerbe:

“Here are the facts. [Mayweather manager] Al Haymon, [Golden Boy Promotions CEO] Richard Schaefer and myself speak to each other on a regular basis, and 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 Nov. 13. Either [HBO boxing chief] Ross Greenburg or Bob Arum is not telling the truth, but history tells us who is lying.”

Also mystifying, that, particularly why it took weeks for the Mayweather side to break the so-called “gag order” about negotiations when the other side ran rampant with claims about what was happening. At the very least, the Mayweather camp should have responded by the end of the weekend, and probably no later than Saturday — the day after the Arum deadline for a signed deal — so as to avoid the damage to Mayweather’s reputation.

As it is, it looks on the surface like Mayweather’s team is responding with the most vehement denial they can muster after a weekend of getting beaten up in the press. And despite Ellerbe’s justifiable swipe at Arum’s history of lying, the Mayweather camp is equally notorious for inventing things out of thin air.

But there are some significant unknowns here, some of which I’ve pointed out already but require some elaboration, based on the comments on this earlier post.

I have yet to see anybody quoting Greenburg — or even unnamed sources who can say what Greenburg was doing — explaining the extent of his role in all this. The only thing we know about Greenburg’s role comes from Arum. When asked about it by ESPN, Greenburg offered a “no comment.” Nor do we know anything about whether Greenburg was chatting with Haymon, outside of Arum’s claims, because Haymon has never talked to the press and naturally he hasn’t spoken up.

Rick Reeno pointed to some fishiness in the Ellerbe statement here. I’ll try to answer him.

1. I agree with him on this one — to repeat myself, even if they were just being extra-nice about the so-called gag order, the Mayweather side should have responded Saturday.

2. It’s entirely possible that Golden Boy would be adhering to a gag order even if there were no negotiations. To talk about whether there were negotiations or not would be, in a way, confirmation of some details about negotiations.

3. I think it’s just as likely that Oscar De La Hoya was talking out of his ass as it is that he knew what he was talking about when he said a deal was within reach. Remember, according even to Arum, Golden Boy Promotions wasn’t involved in the negotiations, and De La Hoya’s level of involvement with the company had come into question very recently.

Is it possible that both sides are telling a version of the truth? Incredibly, yes. I know, I know, one side said there were negotiations and the other didn’t, but not to get Clintonian here, I think it depends on what your definition of “negotiations” is.

Michael Marley — who’s right more often than not — wrote this of Arum:

The nearly age 79 promoter remains in his ridiculous Manny Pacquiao stance, trying to convince the media and the public that an honest, and I hesitate to use that word concerning boxing, good faith effort was made to turn a Floyd Mayweather-Pacman super bout into a Nov. 13 reality. Fact is, from all the evidence I have seen and heard, the huge effort from the Pacman side was a few demands which were delivered to middeman and HBO boxing bossman Ross Greenburg for his relay to Mayweather shotcaller Al Haymon. Nothing more to it, nada, zippo, zilch.

Even with that explanation, someone’s lying about some aspects of this. Arum said the two sides had a deal, and all that was necessary was for Mayweather to sign. Ellerbe said there was no such deal. Both can’t be true, or even shades of true. And if you know which is true, you’re one of the following people: Arum; Greenburg; Haymon; Ellerbe. Two of those people ain’t talking, and the others lack credibility entirely.

If this seems like an awful lot of analysis for a whole lot of unknowns, it’s because I think it’s important. There are going to be recriminations flying about this for months and months and months, with everyone blaming someone or the other. Most of it is going to be from people who made up their mind well before knowing all the details; some people will think Pacquiao is telling the truth no matter what, and some people will think Mayweather is, because some people don’t care about the truth — they care about taking sides. But for the people who like using evidence to figure things out, sorting this all out is no trivial exercise.

Based on what’s available to us now, I’m more suspicious of Mayweather’s side than I am Pacquiao’s side. You jump to your own conclusions. Just know that nobody knows jack, and, dear Pacquiao fans who say I lack “balls” for not picking sides: It’s actually you who have your lips stitched, “Human Centipede”-style, to Pacquiao — and your decision is based on that, not the indisputable facts, which are in short supply.

More Fallout

On the micro level, this fight falling through affects the fighters and their teams. Boxing writers galore have put forth some estimations of the various PR strategies of both sides, with some noting that Mayweather got a lot of publicity for doing nothing and Arum got a lot of publicity for Pacquiao’s next fight. It’s true they got publicity, but it is 100 percent the wrong kind. That old trope that all publicity is good publicity is totally false, or else assorted corrupt congressmen would still be in office and Mel Gibson’s career would be in great shape after his series of misogynist, racist phone rants.

The only kind of publicity Mayweather appears to be getting is the kind that brands him a coward or liar or someone who at the very least isn’t at all responsive to the wishes of boxing fans, including some of his own who have turned on him. The main kind of publicity Arum is getting is related to criticism of trying to match Pacquiao with Antonio Margarito, a confirmed glove-loader who’s banned from fighting in the United States, and Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao wrecked in a fight last year — neither fights that much of anyone (with only one exception I can think of) wants. Indeed, it’s called renewed attention to the increasingly loathsome Arum habit of matching his fighters in-house only these days. The boxing press has unanimously condemned this practice. This is bad press.

There are some, admittedly a minority, who’d rather give no press to this, or ignore it, or downplay it, chief among them Doug Fischer.

I don’t care to write the same cookie-cutter column about what a shame it is the giant millionaire egos that were involved in the negotiations couldn’t get it done — again. I’d rather focus on the potential future stars of the sport and good up-coming fights, such as the light heavyweight matchups Glen Johnson vs. Tavoris Cloud and Chad Dawson vs. Jean Pascal.

Fischer can do with his mailbag what he wants. But I think he’s selling the sport short. Johnson-Cloud and Dawson-Pascal are good fights, but focusing on those fights to the complete exclusion of criticizing Mayweather-Pacquiao for falling through is like someone offering you a million dollars then taking it away and you being grateful when they give you $5 instead. Most importantly, criticizing boxing when it deserves it is about the only leverage boxing writers have. It may or may not make a difference. But to turn a blind eye to boxing’s ills isn’t the answer, either. Fischer’s approach amounts to tacit approval of whatever boxing gives us, no matter how bad, because there are always going to be some fights better than others even in a shallow pool.

(While I’m bashing writers I admire — and I certainly admire Fischer almost all of the time — I’ve got to let David Mayo have it for criticizing “bloggers” who call him a “homer” for Mayweather. I don’t know who he’s talking about, as I’ve certainly never accused him of such a thing in the past that I can recall, but I answer in two parts. First, universal contempt for bloggers is so 2005; I’ve certainly used it to do all right for myself, if you look at the little column over to the left on the home page, and I know people who make a living off it and have their own kind of impact. Second, Mayo probably shouldn’t call attention to whether he’s a “homer” or not. He defends Mayweather about 95 percent of the time. I’m sure that has nothing to do with Mayo writing for a Michigan paper, and everything to do with the fact that Mayweather is, in fact, right 95 percent of the time.)

The ramifications of Mayweather-Pacquiao falling through again are potentially enormous.

Michael Rosenthal might be on to something when he writes:

This reminds me of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, which wiped out the World Series that year. Angry fans vowed to boycott their beloved sport the following season rather than line the pockets of players and owners who had betrayed them. Only time and the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race healed the wounds. Boxing is facing a similar situation. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. could put their differences aside and make the fight everyone is dying to see but have failed to do so twice. And the fans are livid. Maybe Mayweather doesn’t want to face the prospect of fighting without his trainer. Maybe they still can’t agree on blood testing. The fans don’t care. They just want to see the fight. The fact they can’t bolsters the perception that boxing is a dying sport. And it’s only killing itself.

But Rosenthal’s not alone in that comparison. The normally odious Jake Rossen made a similar point.

And then there’s this scathing Time piece:

Arum said the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight could still happen this year if Mayweather suddenly emerged, but it would be more likely that it happens next year, if ever. But interest in the mega-fight might evaporate if the men drag it out much longer, testing the patience of beleaguered and disappearing boxing fans. And the greatest fight ever might just turn into the biggest farce in the sport’s history.

I don’t think that’s too much of an exaggeration. As single incidents shaping public perception of boxing go, it’s at least the worst since the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield ear bite incident that the Time writer also brought up. And I think it’s up there as one of the worst things that could happen to boxing in its history, because it’s no small matter for boxing to piss away potentially the biggest fight (financially) ever and one of the most significant in two or three decades. If Mayweather-Pacquiao happens next year, it will go some way toward consolation. But as I’ve said, I don’t see any reason to think it’ll happen. And considerable damage has already been done in the meantime.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.