Let’s stop talking about Pacquiao-Mayweather

Ryan Songalia

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Let’s stop talking about Pacquiao-Mayweather
Pacquiao and Mayweather have behaved in a manner tantamount to mocking the public as fans continue to have their hopes of a fight announcement crushed

MANILA, Philippines – Boxing fans are angry, and I don’t blame them. The public has every right to be upset after six years of waiting for Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather to set aside their egos and make the only fight that matters to the average person on the street. 

The tipping point, where the fans revolted en masse at being teased into boxing blue balls once more, came early Sunday Manila time, when reputable fight writer Gareth Davies of the UK-based Telegraph cited a source in Pacquiao’s camp saying that the fighters had agreed on a $250 million pot and that Pacquiao had “completed his contractual negotiations.” 

Showtime sports executive Stephen Espinoza threw cold water on those claims immediately – as he has often done – and joked that Pacquiao had signed an “imaginary contract” as the real contract had yet to be finished. Espinoza is outspoken and confrontational, but a liar he is not. 

Some fans have begun to say that they no longer care about the fight and wouldn’t want to watch it. They’re lying, but they’re also tired of being made a fool of for so long. Each false confirmation has left fans further embittered by an institution that is overwhelmingly more of a business than a sport.

Both sides, with their respective advisers and promoters, have engaged in a full-on public relations war since the fight first became relevant in 2009, looking to pin the blame on the other and come out looking more eager to fight.

But at this point, it no longer matters who is to blame. The only ones who really end up taking the brunt are the fans.

It’s the die-hard boxing fans who feel the letdown most, like Dónal Burleigh, who tweeted to me: “I hope #PacquiaoMayweather is announced soon. I’m almost constantly checking Twitter for updates.”

Matters have become more inflamed over the past month, even as the two engage in what appears to be the most earnest round of negotiations to date.

The initial reports were encouraging as both parties agreed on most of the major sticking points: a 60/40 purse split, random performance-enhancing drugs testing, plus the date and venue. 

Since then, the two have behaved in a manner tantamount to mocking the public.

Pacquiao has repeatedly stated that he has signed a fight contract and is waiting on Mayweather’s signature. At the same time, his promoter, Bob Arum, has admitted on several occasions that an agreement is still being solidified. How can there be a contract to sign for a deal that has yet to be agreed upon?

And now for Mayweather, who at one point during the 2010 round of talks denied that negotiations had even occurred, only to have then-HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg (who had been acting as mediator) confirm that they had taken place.

The sport’s current pound-for-pound best fighter and undisputed king of the box office has used his social media channels to taunt the public, showing his apparent lack of urgency in making the fight by posting photos of himself on vacation in Jamaica with the accompanying message “I’m just going to continue to travel and explore the world on my private jet.”

Then, after the two met face-to-face for the first time on January 28 at a Miami Heat basketball game and spoke privately in Pacquiao’s hotel room, Mayweather’s camp clandestinely recorded video of the private conversation, which made the encounter appear to be nothing more than an attempt to garner public opinion on his side.

At this point, it would’ve been better if the two simply came to blows right there at center court of the American Airlines Arena. At least then the fans would’ve gotten what they wanted. 

The fight promises to be the most financially lucrative in the history of the sport despite both having scored just one knockout between them in the last five years. 

They’ve got the people’s money, what more do they want? 

The media hasn’t helped matters either by reporting on negotiations (I’m guilty of this as well). The mad dash to edge out competition and be the first to break what would be the biggest sporting news of the decade comes from the core of what drives every serious reporter.  

But times have changed, and Mayweather no longer has to go to a reporter to announce a fight. Mayweather can easily reach the public through his 5.58 million followers on Twitter, and has begun breaking news on the Instagram-like app Shots, in which he is an investor.

Kudos to New York Daily News reporter Mitch Abramson for going to the only source who can confirm the fight, Mayweather himself. Abramson approached Mayweather at the NBA Dunk Contest on Sunday Manila time in Brooklyn to ask about the fight.

Mayweather responded: “Is this a boxing match? I’m at an all star event. Please respect my privacy. I don’t want to answer any questions.”

In trying to beat the others to the break, the media has ended up with egg on their faces from unnamed sources who say the fight is close. It isn’t because they’re bad reporters, but because fight confirmation will come on Mayweather’s terms and no one else’s.

That’s why, from this point forward, I vow to not report on the negotiations until a fight is announced, either between Pacquiao and Mayweather or whomever they choose to fight instead. I challenge the rest of the media to do the same as well.

The fans are tired of hearing about how “close” the fight is to being made, and they no longer care if there are two issues or 4 issues or 250 million issues left to be resolved.

The fight will either happen or it won’t, but to contribute to another fan letdown is a disservice to readers.

Let’s instead focus on the hungry fighters in the sport who could use the attention, like Gennady Golovkin or Naoya Inoue, whose recent in-ring performances have served to distract us from the 50 shades of bullshit going on outside of it. 

So on Monday morning, when I watch the NBA All-Star game, it won’t be because I believe the fight will be announced at tip-off. I’m going to watch because I want to see the best athletes of a sport actually face one another. – Rappler.com

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at ryan.songalia@rappler.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.

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