If you are familiar with this sport “boxing” that we write about sometimes here you are most likely A. up to speed on the wrinkles of the never-ending downward spiral created in the wake the latest collapse of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao and B. sick of it. I want to give you the option right now of sitting this one out. But because of events earlier this week in my non-cyberworld, it wasn’t something we collectively had the option to hash out in this space, either. Better that you have options than not, I say. Don’t hate me for giving you options.
In this edition of the Clarion Bee — devoted to following the biggest two names and best two fighters in the sport even when one or both of them has annoyed us half to death — we examine HBO sports chief Ross Greenburg’s clarification of what really went down; the destructive war of words that has since broken out between both sides; Pacquiao’s affection for catchweights; and Mayweather’s affection for hanging out with Don King and killer birds rather than fighting Pacquiao.
HBO Gets In The Middle
All right, so, yeah. Thanks for clarifying that Ross. Seriously — it was the right thing to do. Your credibility was at stake, so you kind of had no choice, but still. The end result is that there is no ambiguity whatsoever that the closest thing there is to an objective third party in all this said there were negotiations for the big welterweight showdown, contrary to the claims of the Mayweather camp. And don’t think they chose that word lightly. If there was any gray area in any of this, it was whether one side meant one thing by “negotiations” and the other side meant another. Greenburg wouldn’t use the word without foreknowledge of the fact that the appearance is that he would be taking Pacquiao’s side, and he wouldn’t throw the word around willy-nilly as a result. If he said there were negotiations, there were negotiations, and that means Mayweather’s side lied. I’d have to get pretty fanciful to come up with a reason HBO would manipulate this situation — they wanted to make it look like they were trying hard to make the fight so people wouldn’t bash them, maybe? Nah, I can’t think of any reason HBO wouldn’t have legitimately tried hard, because then they would have gotten bashed for that, too. And don’t tell me Greenburg prefers Top Rank to Golden Boy.
The anti-Mayweather fallout was righteously intense. Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, who is no anti-Mayweather zealot, called Mayweather “chicken” in a well-warranted, scathing takedown. It’s a fair accusation, but I’m inclined to think it’s something a bit subtler. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Top Rank Can’t Shut Up, Golden Boy Can’t Back Down (So Let’s All Ask Them More About It!)
The unfortunate side effect of all this is that Top Rank boss Bob Arum has taken this occasion to blast Golden Boy all up and down town, calling CEO Richard Schaefer a “liar,” saying Oscar De La Hoya is “not a bright guy,” etc., when earlier he’d been on relatively good behavior, saying the fight still could be made next year and so forth. Instead of an amicable-ish ending, we now have an escalation of the old Top Rank-Golden Boy Cold War, the one that petrified boxing for a few years.
Look, Golden Boy has had nothing but stupid, lying things to say about this; Arum is right. But what were they going to do, throw Mayweather — someone they nominally promote and who has made them a gajillion dollars — under the bus? Hell, Arum can’t bring himself to throw Antonio Margarito under the bus, and that guy did stuff worse than lying about whether there were negotiations. They had no choice but to keep saying stupid things as long as reporters asked them. And reporters kept asking them. All week long. Somebody’d ask Arum about it, and Arum, who never once has withheld his temper (seriously, there are toddlers with more self control), fired off an insult, then Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer would burrow down and fire back and threaten to sic lawyers on Arum. At a certain point as the week went on, the media was fueling the fight. I get that it’s the media’s job to report on a big story, but at a certain point maybe you gotta stop being part of the problem when all that’s happening is a big name-calling war.
The most pitiful exchange of all came when De La Hoya explained away his earlier claim that the fight was almost finalized by saying he was sick of people asking so he made something up to get people off his back. That kind of crap is why people don’t like that mealy-mouthed fellow sometimes. Arum in turn said that lying to the media was some grave sin, when every knows that Arum’s most famous quote is about his blase disregard for speaking the truth. Arum criticizing Golden Boy for lying to the media is like the pot calling the kettle black then using that as an excuse to committee a hate crime against the kettle.
(P.S. I’ve reported on a lot of liars in my lifetime via the day job, but I can honestly say that there is no field I’ve covered — justice, politics, intelligence, etc. — where lying was so routine and endemic as in boxing. Even the cleanest promoters lie all the time, and if you had any remaining illusions about whether Golden Boy would do things differently after their early promises of being a new kind of promoter, it is long past time you abandon those illusions.)
So Many Weights, So Many Catchweights For Pacquiao
Raise your hand if you’re impressed about the likelihood of Pacquiao fighting Margarito at a catchweight of 150 pounds. Man, I’m not anti-catchweight entirely, but it does diminish the accomplishment of winning belts in so many different divisions when you do it serially. Is there any other way to look at it? One of the things that’s impressive about moving up in weight is, you know, moving up in weight. If you keep winning belts below those weight limits, it’s simply not as big a deal. There’s a reason weight classes are seven pounds apart from junior welterweight to junior middleweight; otherwise, if it was every three to four pounds, everyone would have a far easier course to eight titles in eight divisions because there’d be an extra couple divisions sandwiched in there from 140 to 154. And, by the way, that Pacquiao-Margarito is as undeserving a title fight as there is — one guy has never fought in the division, and one guy has only fought in the division once since losing to Daniel Santos in 2004, and it was an unimpressive win over an unimpressive opponent at that.
The “where” of this all is still up in the air. Will it be Abu Dhabi? Atlantic City? Arum is playing his usual throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. I don’t think he’s right in assuming that the mere reapplication for a license for Margarito will placate Las Vegas. Yes, the Nevada commission said it wanted him to reapply in California, but I gathered it was because they thought California — which stripped Margarito of his license — should be the state to decide whether he should get that license back.
Mayweather, Accused Of Being An Unscrupulous Chicken, Unwisely Hangs Around With Chickens And Those Accused Of Unscrupulosity
The only thing we’ve seen of Mayweather himself is him cavorting at cockfights (or so it would appear) and with Don King. So let me get this straight: You blow off all of boxing fandom, prompting some to call you a lying chicken, and you go live it up rather publicly with actual chickens then mingle with a promoter whose name is synonomous with shady behavior? Time to buy a better public relations team with all that money of yours, Floyd.
As I said before, I’m not sure it’s exactly right to call Mayweather a coward. Certainly, he’s insecure about keeping his perfect record, and that has led him to spend the better part of eight years not fighting the best opposition. He’s always shown that if he can make a lot of money taking on a lesser challenge or make the most money taking on a greater challenge, he’ll grab the former. That’s a form of cowardice for an athlete. And it’s all the more galling because he made a big to-do about some “hit list” he generated for his unretirement to take out all the top boxers, and twice now he’s found a way not to fight the best of them.
Me, I think his refusal to fight Pacquiao is about something roughly as offensive: He simply can’t bring himself to care about anything meaningful. Mayweather’s never made any bones about how boxing is nothing more than a means to an end (including, recently, in a well-done July 26 New Yorker piece). He doesn’t care about the sport; he cares about being a celebrity, and the sport helps him do that. He obviously doesn’t care about the boxing fans who have enriched him over the years. Even diehard Mayweather fans want to see Mayweather-Pacquiao, and many Mayweather fans have criticized Mayweather for the first time as a result of all this. Hell, he’d almost rather mock boxing fans by pointing out that he has more money than them, something he’s done explicitly time and time again.
Mayweather does care about money, and about being famous. I like money, too, and I suppose fame feels good, having experienced a considerably more limited version of by, say, speaking on national television in my day job. But I also care about honoring my craft. I care about the people who got me to where I am. I care about challenging myself. I care about all those things more than I care about money, that’s for sure. If Mayweather can’t be bothered to care about even a couple of those kinds of things I just mentioned, and rather would devote all his energy to only the most shallow pursuits, I’d far prefer he go away. There’s always a little meter in my head when I think of Mayweather, with a needle that bounces back and forth between “good for boxing” and “bad for boxing,” although usually it’s somewhere near the middle even when Mayweather is doing things that are good for boxing because a lot of his b.s. diminishes his good deeds. But right now, the needle is jammed all the way over to the “bad for boxing” side. We sometimes think we’re better off with a boxer leaving than staying, only later to look back wistfully and realize we had it pretty swell, like with, say, a Lennox Lewis. I don’t think that’s the case here.
There is nothing redeeming about Mayweather right now. All he’s done is help tease boxing to the verge of a triumphant moment, then, for lack of want, has played a major role in it crashing back down. Just look at the dreary landscape I’ve described here — it’s not even the whole picture about how bad things have gotten in 2010. You can’t blame it all on one person. But if you’re looking for the primary catalyst, you can most definitely point your finger at Mayweather.