Boxing's war of the words

It was just your normal Monday luncheon at The Times. Lots of coats and ties. People who make the news, invited to break bread with people who report the news.

Then Floyd Mayweather Sr. said something about being the smartest boxing trainer and Freddie Roach reminded him that he was in the Hall of Fame, not Floyd Sr.

From calm came chaos.

Ah, boxing. The sweet science of the unrehearsed, the lovely art of the antisocial.

This was to be an informational get-together about the May 2 boxing match between stars Ricky Hatton of Britain and Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines. They will trade blows at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and each has been guaranteed $12 million of the estimated $60-million gross take.

Mayweather trains Hatton, Roach trains Pacquiao. The fighters are fine. The trainers can't stand each other.

And so, in a room called a pavilion and named for a former publisher, a room blessed over the years with the presence of presidents and kings, where news decisions and editorial policy affecting millions were formulated, Mayweather and Roach did some verbal street fighting. The tablecloth needed graffiti.

It was delightful. It is boxing. Nothing is real and everything is fun; or, depending on your sense of humor, at least bizarre. Although probably not intentional, the months of buildup for a fight serve to deflect attention from the moment of reality, when two men climb into a ring and try to punch each other to death. And sometimes do.

Amid the flying verbal jabs from Mayweather and Roach, we learned much.

Pacquiao says he expects "more action" than there was during his recent mugging of an aging Oscar De La Hoya. Hatton says he expects a "very tough fight," and added "I don't see any reason why I should back away."

Expect a war. Both will come forward. Both will take two punches for the chance to throw three. Neither will be satisfied with a stick-and-jab fight, where the decision is left in the hands of three people sitting ringside, calculating whose defense was best.

Pacquiao, currently labeled as the sport's best "pound-for-pound boxer," will go in as the favorite, probably around 2-1. Roach said Hatton would last three rounds. That, of course, infuriated Mayweather, who went on a tirade about blindfolding himself, tying one hand behind his back and taking out Roach.

We learned that the fighters' split is 50-50 from the night's proceeds, but that Pacquiao will get slightly more as part of a deal between his promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, and Hatton's, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy. They will take less to give Pacquiao, the star attraction, a bit more.

We learned that when Hatton fights in Las Vegas, records are established for beer consumption. Paul Revere was right. The British are coming! The British are coming! Also, Hatton brings an additional pay-per-view market that gobbles up the telecast for European viewing in the middle of the night.

We learned that this fight does not tout any title, that the wave of the future is to avoid the alphabet-soup sanctioning deals. You're out of luck WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF. You, too, NBA, NFL, HBO, MSNBC, PBA. Whatever.

"We could pay a sanctioning fee for this one of about $1 million," Arum said, as Schaefer nodded agreement, "and then we could pay for hotel suites and limos for all the people they bring to the fight."

Or not.

Ultimately, the luncheon was a river, flowing in several directions. Among the barbs from Mayweather and Roach, sports journalism's answer to Woodward and Bernstein grilled the fighters.

"Wanna see what they're made of," said T.J. Simers, who asked Pacquiao when he was going to quit and Hatton if he was smarter than Pacquiao.

In anticipation of the British fan invasion of Vegas for the fight, somebody asked one of Hatton's people the difference between British boxing fans and British soccer hooligans.

"Not much," he said.

Mayweather kept comparing Roach to bugs of the same name and Roach asked him to get new material. Arum tried to discuss the essence of the upcoming fight by quoting from a Rudyard Kipling poem. Simers rolled his eyes.

Eventually, Mayweather and Roach departed on different elevators.

Each said he would get off if Simers got on.


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