For a while, this holiday season in sports looked as if it would be remembered as a lump of coal in our stocking.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but that’s a little tough when the news is all about Tiger perhaps getting clubbed for too much clubbing, Ron Artest confessing to drinking on the job and USC looking for conquests in places other than the Rose Bowl or the BCS title game.
All that, and Teemu Selanne has a broken hand.
But then, there is the gift that keeps on giving. Boxing.
The word is that a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight will, indeed, be coming our way. And soon, probably March 13.
This was supposed to be the most difficult negotiations since George Mitchell got the Irish to stop shooting at each other. Belfast versus Dublin would have nothing on talks for Pacquiao versus Mayweather. At least that was the prevailing sentiment.
Pacquiao is boxing’s red-hot star of the moment, Mayweather the unbeaten incumbent, who only let Pacquiao into the superstar club by taking 21 months off. Who would get 51% of the action? Whose name would go first on the marquees? And who would negotiate the bridge between Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum and Mayweather’s manager Al Hayman, who like each other like a seat on a cactus plant?
The argument was that there was so much money at stake, and so much prestige for the sport of boxing, that no amount of ego, personal dislike or normal boxing greed could stand in the way of this fight happening.
Sure enough. The word came Friday that the deal is almost done. That information comes out of the Philippines, where Top Rank’s Arum traveled to meet with Pacquiao and outline some of the details. The Philippine press reported that Arum said Pacquiao is on board with just about all the details and that only a few i’s and t’s need to be dotted and crossed. Granted, it’s not coming from TMZ, but it seems fairly reliable.
Usually, this is the stage in these kinds of negotiations where somebody throws a legal pad across the board room and stomps out. But Mayweather’s side, represented by middleman Richard Schaefer, the chief executive of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, left indications Friday that any remaining potholes can be navigated.
Schaefer, choosing his words carefully, said, “From the beginning, I made it clear that the next time anybody would hear from me on this topic, it would be for one of two reasons: that a contract is signed or that negotiations have broken off.”
So, we didn’t hear from him, but we heard a lot. In boxing, where you always have chaos, the absence of it usually translates to ringing cash registers.
The elements of Pacquiao-Mayweather have so much intrigue that they cannot help but take the sport to another level. There is an Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Hagler feel to it.
Under the inspired guidance of trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao has progressed into a boxing lightning bolt. His opponents seem to have little idea where the hits come from, or how. All they know is their face is raw and their knees are Jell-o. Pacquiao’s punches have much more power now and the angles are a studied strategy, as designed by Roach. Pacquiao has gone from a 106-pounder to a 145-pounder and actually gained speed along with power on that journey.
Mayweather is just good. Has been for a long time. He is the only current big-name boxer, with the possible exception of Shane Mosley, who has similar hand and foot speed to Pacquiao. He is like trying to hit a jackrabbit. Mayweather is more seasoned, at age 33 by fight time, and almost two years older than Pacquiao. Mayweather has been in more big fights than Pacquiao, although fewer of them with a 40-0 record to Pacquiao’s 50-3-2. He was a superstar when Pacquiao was struggling to become a star.
As if the clash of skills isn’t enough to make this one into a truly international sports event, the clash of personalities sells it even more.
Pacquiao is the Robin Hood of the Philippines, although he doesn’t take from the rich to give to the poor. He is the rich, and he frequently hands out food and money to those in his country who aren’t. When he is done boxing, he says he wants to become an elected congressman, so he can help his people from an official position of authority. When he talks, Pacquiao is soft spoken and self-effacing, always going out of his way to give credit to others.
Mayweather, on the other hand, may have come out of the womb talking trash. He likes the image of fast cars and a Las Vegas nightclub life. He has yet to find a superlative he didn’t like when it comes to describing his boxing skills.
He has another side, but one that he doesn’t promote. Five years ago, he found out that a former Olympic teammate of his, a heavyweight named Nate Jones, who won a bronze medal in Atlanta in 1996, was down on his luck. He called Jones, invited him to come to his training camp to help, and Jones has been there ever since.
This is a boxing match that will generate headlines for months. The pay-per-view take will certainly threaten the record 2.4 million buys of the De La Hoya and Mayweather bout in 2007. Las Vegas has already started posting odds and calls it a pick-'em.
So, we have something huge to look forward to in sports. We don’t know where, and we aren’t certain of when, but here’s hoping they wrap this up, ribbons and bows, in time to put it under our tree.
Thanks, boxing. We needed this. Deck the halls.
latimes.com /sports Arum: Pacquiao agrees to terms Though no deal is signed, the promotor says late Friday that the boxer is set to fight Mayweather on March 13. Kimbo Slice is back for more After suffering an embarrassing first-round loss, he’s on the Ultimate Fighting card tonight in Las Vegas.