(AP)–There’s always something to sell in boxing, some angle to make you pay.
The latest from Manny Pacquiao is he’s willing to do everything but pick up Floyd Mayweather Jr. and drive him to the arena to make the megafight boxing has been waiting way too long for.
Pacquiao says Mr. Money can have more money, and get top billing. He can watch him take his steroid tests, and even choose the food at the prefight press conference if he wants.
“He can even wear my trunks if it gets him in the ring with me,” Pacquiao said. “I want to fight Floyd Mayweather next.”
Unfortunately for boxing fans, Pacquiao is not fighting Mayweather next. He’s meeting Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time, a fight so unattractive that he needs to talk about Mayweather to get anyone to pay attention to it.
That’s not entirely Pacman’s fault. Actually, most of it is Mayweather’s fault for refusing to step up for the fight that would likely define his career.
His nonsensical rants about steroids and patriotism whenever Pacquiao’s name is brought up are just that. His strange reluctance to prove his boast that he is the best fighter in the world brings into doubt just how legitimate that boast is.
Still, he remains the biggest draw in boxing, something he proves every fight with his big pay-per-view numbers. The mere mention of his name sells tickets, though it’s anyone’s guess when he will fight again after serving more than two months in jail this summer.
It’s been nearly four years since Pacquiao gave Oscar De La Hoya such a beating that he sent him into retirement, a fight that started the buzz about a Pacquiao-Mayweather match. It seemed sure to happen, and it seemed sure to be the richest fight ever, with both boxers pocketing at least $40 million.
My guess now is Mayweather and Pacquiao will never meet in the ring, even now when Pacquiao is offering to take 45 percent of the purse to 55 percent for Mayweather. I’ve felt that way for some time, and the feeling was reinforced when Mayweather went apoplectic when I dared to ask him before his fight against Miguel Cotto in May why he wasn’t fighting Pacquiao instead.
That doesn’t mean Pacquiao can’t use his erstwhile rival to sell some tickets of his own. And that’s all he’s really doing by calling out Mayweather now when he’s got another fighter in front of him.
I’ve been ringside for all three of Pacquiao’s fights with Marquez, and they’ve all been good, close fights that could have gone either way. Their styles guarantee a competitive fight, and if you liked the first 36 rounds you’ll probably dig the credit card out to pay for another 12.
But do I want to see them fight for a fourth time on Dec. 8? Not particularly.
But that is the fight promoter Bob Arum gave us when he told Timothy Bradley he wasn’t a big enough attraction for a second fight with Pacquiao, even though he won the first in a highly controversial decision. Arum believes that Hispanic fight fans will help Pacquiao-Marquez IV do more than the 850,000 pay-per-views for Bradley in June.
There’s a sense, though, that Pacquiao is fading, even though he appeared to dominate Bradley before backing off in the final rounds of their fight. He has been fighting professionally now for 17 years, and the difficulty he had getting motivated for his last two fights is a sure sign that he’s inching closer to the end of his lucrative career.
Beating Marquez for a third time in four fights won’t prove anything other than Pacquiao can still earn a big payday. Losing to him will mean two defeats in a row for Pacman, and almost certainly scuttle any chance of a Mayweather fight.
Mayweather has been uncharacteristically quiet since his release from jail in Las Vegas, where he was serving a sentence on a domestic abuse charge. He hasn’t revealed what his plans are, though it’s clear he won’t be fighting the rest of the year.
Assuming Pacquiao beats Marquez—and that’s a big assumption—the earliest the two could meet would be in the spring, most likely the first week of May. That’s also the last legitimate date for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight to mean anything, and if it passes, a chance to make boxing history will pass along with it.
Pacquiao’s offer to take less money does put the onus of making the fight squarely on Mayweather. He’s running out of excuses not to fight Pacquiao, and both his legacy and reputation will suffer if he doesn’t.
Any serious talk about a possible fight, though, will have to wait until Pacquiao fights Marquez.
Until then any offer Pacquiao makes is nothing more than a sales job for Dec. 8.