Boxing is flunking this test
What began as a giggle has become a groan.
The sport of boxing, the master of such things, has once again tangled the lines on its parachute. The next sound you hear could be the Pacquiao-Mayweather mega-fight crashing to the ground and disintegrating.
This was to be the fight of the century, even though the century will only be 10 years and 10 weeks old on the scheduled date of March 13. It was to be the best against the best, former pound-for-pound king against current pound-for-pound king. The NFL has its Super Bowl. This would be boxing’s.
Enter all those things that keep boxing writers employed and boxing fans bewildered: Greed, jealousy, ego, stupidity. If you are familiar with the Ten Commandments, there are rules against lying, cheating, stealing and coveting. Boxing just Xeroxed those and advised all in the sport to do the opposite.
It has been a daily soap opera. The fight was to be at boxing’s current mecca, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Then, with only i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed, the Floyd Mayweather Jr. camp demanded extensive blood testing, not normal pre-fight procedure. By direct statement and implication, they said they were doing so because Manny Pacquiao’s recent success came from his use of steroids.
For a while, the back-and-forth over when, where and how much testing would be put in the contract was worth a giggle. It seemed like little more than hype to hype the hype, some early pay-per-view selling for a fight that could do a record 3 million buys. Soon, it became clear that Pacquiao didn’t see it that way, didn’t just shrug like others who have fought the Mayweather clan and swallowed baloney sandwiches along the way.
The pride of the Philippines was angry, and he said so. There was no smoking gun, no document saying -- even hinting -- that he had ever taken performance-enhancing drugs of any kind. There was no newspaper story, no Mitchell Report, no papers fetched out of Victor Conte’s trash bin at BALCO. There was only Floyd Mayweather Sr. and uncle Roger Mayweather, Floyd Jr.'s trainer, yukking it up to writers and broadcasters about their presumption of Pacquiao’s steroid use. The basis of that seemed to be Pacquiao’s muscular look and rise from a 106-pounder years ago to a fighter fairly comfortable at 147 now.
Soon, somebody stupidly decided to press this issue and Mayweather himself, along with best friend and manager Leonard Ellerbe and promoters Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy, were dragged along for the Kool-Aid drinking. All four should have known better. All four are smarter than that.
Floyd Sr. and Uncle Roger are not. Their forte is trash-talking and braggadocio.
To put it gently, both had
fight careers long enough to have resulted in ongoing fogginess.
It really got ugly when Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who also took a lot of punches over the years but seems to have retained better clarity, said, in perhaps the sports put-down quote of the year, “This is all coming from Floyd Mayweather Sr., a disgruntled trainer who couldn’t prepare his fighter [Ricky Hatton] to last past the second round against Manny. Just because he’s a convicted drug dealer doesn’t make him a drug expert.”
Currently, there is an abundance of flawed premises:
* This fight has to take place because there is so much money at stake. Also, so much prestige for the sport.
That is logical. Boxing is not. It may be the only human pursuit, outside of war and divorce, where anger trumps greed.
* A delay will be OK and all will be forgotten, even if this takes place later in the year.
Any delay past May 1 means that boxing has so badly tripped over itself, right at a time when it had nicely weathered the threat of mixed martial arts fighting, that it has suffered a long-term setback. And if it tries to sell us a couple of interim fights (Mayweather versus Ricky Hatton’s brother or Pacquiao versus Yuri Foreman or Paulie Malignaggi), the public and press ought to just stay home.
As Dick Vitale would say, “Boycott, baby.”
* Pacquiao can’t turn this one down because he needs to prove he’s the best, plus the money will help both his congressional campaign in the Philippines and his ongoing philanthropy.
Pacquiao doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody. Nor does Mayweather. They are both great fighters. That’s not going to change, no matter what does or doesn’t happen or what is or isn’t said. The public wants the fight, because the public has long been brainwashed into thinking that every sport needs to end with a Super Bowl. The public will be fine without. Not so boxing, which might just go back to being a nightly one-liner for Jay Leno, right after his Detroit Lions jokes.
As for the money, Pacquiao has filed a defamation lawsuit. It lays out the causes nicely. O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles has the case and lawyers at that firm must be crawling over each other over for a chance to get Pretty Boy Sr. and Uncle Roger on the witness stand. Pacquiao could make as much or more without ever taking a punch.
* If they do somehow come to an agreement and the fight is on, there will be so much vitriol that the lead-up to the bout will be unbearable.
Not in this sport, where people sue and counter-sue all the time. They slander one another in the afternoon and have dinner together at night. Mortal enemies on Monday are best friends Tuesday.
The outcome here will be fascinating. This is a new year. Boxing has been on a roll. But it also is an old con game with little sense of calendar.