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The Fight Corner: Smooth sailing toward a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao rematch

The Fight Corner: Smooth sailing toward a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao rematch
Manny Pacquiao, left, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. after their fight in 2015 (Isaac Brekken / Associated Press)

Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our first boxing/MMA newsletter. We will come to your inbox weekly. Let’s get right to the news.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has initiated conversations with his powerful manager Al Haymon after Mayweather’s weekend face-to-face meeting with Manny Pacquiao in Tokyo.

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“Things are definitely moving,” said an official familiar with the situation who was unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

Sean Gibbons, the veteran boxing manager who chatted with Mayweather and Pacquiao while shooting video of the Saturday session at a rave in Japan, said there’s no question that the interest in making the rematch of the richest fight in history is real.

“I’m big on timing and a things-happen-for-a-reason person, and them running into each other in Japan just makes it obvious this needs to happen again,” Gibbons said.

Calling the reclusive Haymon “the man behind the curtain,” Gibbons said Mayweather spent “a few hours” on the phone with Haymon after seeing Pacquiao to jump-start the negotiating and planning process.

Gibbons said he wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a news conference for the fighters by next month, and, after Mayweather said on the video that he wants to fight in December, dates on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 are being eyed, Gibbons said.

“I’d say it happening is an ‘8’ on a level of 1 to 10,” Gibbons said. “After all of the uncertainty of the first fight — all the B.S. — people are seeking closure. We get a chance for that here. No matter what some say, there’s a desire to see this again. People love sequels.”

Mayweather defeated Pacquiao by unanimous decision in May 2015 in a bout that generated a record 4.6 million pay-per-view buys. The eight-division champion Pacquiao said afterward that he suffered a serious shoulder injury in training camp and had to have surgery after the bout.

This time, a healed Pacquiao is coming off his first knockout victory in nine years after decking then-World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse in Malaysia in July. Gibbons said he saw Pacquiao relaxing shirtless later that night, “and he already has a six-pack” of a toned stomach.

“I got the belt,” Pacquiao told Mayweather in their recorded interaction.

Gibbons, formerly with Pacquiao’s longtime but now former promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank, has known Mayweather for more than 20 years, and said he told Mayweather, “It took Manny too long to take your advice,” and also leave Arum for a bigger financial cut of a super-fight like this.

“These guys can come back and do the biggest pay-per-view and gate of the year without being on either of the biggest fight days of the year in May or September,” Gibbons said. “Floyd showed it last August [against Conor McGregor]: if you’ve got the right fight, the date is irrelevant.”

Turn the page

For those wanting a fresh face in boxing, check out junior-welterweight Regis Prograis, who starts the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound quarterfinals Oct. 27 versus former champion Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KOs).

Prograis (22-0, 19 knockouts) will fight in his hometown of New Orleans on the DAZN-streamed bout.

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The 29-year-old is an old soul who reads voluminously about fights of long ago and watches classic matches.

“Those men were tough, way tougher … if people don’t know him, I read Joe Gans’ book — the first black champion — [lightweight] Joe Gans fought 42 rounds in Nevada and they didn’t let him rehydrate,” Prograis said during a Saturday interview in Las Vegas. “I can’t even imagine that.

“I feel sports now has softened up. You can’t play football the way you used to. Jack Dempsey had six teeth knocked out. He got back up. To me, those men were different.

“I want to prepare myself. I like to physically fight. I want to hurt my opponents. I know if I hurt them, they won’t see the final bell.”

Another to watch

Mexico’s super-featherweight world champion Miguel Berchelt (34-1, 30 KOs) will gain the exposure of ESPN-Plus on Nov. 3 when he meets World Boxing Council mandatory opponent Miguel Roman in El Paso.

Berchelt, 26, told The Times he intends to “be the best 130-pound fighter in the world and then go to 135 and be the best there,” referencing the lightweight division that includes champions Mikey Garcia and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

“They’re great champions, but I’m one, too, and I have the power to knock them out,” Berchelt said.

Should he defeat Roman, Berchelt is next being pointed by promoters toward new World Boxing Organization 130-pound champion Masayuki Ito.

Roach in the corner

Bellator MMA prospect Aaron Pico will appear on the undercard of the stacked Sept. 29 card in San Jose that features the Rory MacDonald-Gegard Mousasi fight of champions.

Leading Pico to the octagon and leading his corner will be famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach of Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club.

Pico has a desire to box professionally, too, but his prospects are considered so strong in MMA that other pursuits are expected to be on hold for a while.

Until next time

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