Anticipation is something that has always been a part of the sports world.
Whether it’s a big rivalry game, the debut of a star prospect, or the last time a fading legend takes the stage, anticipation brings sports fans in sometimes even to events they wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to.
In the boxing world the biggest anticipation for the last five years has been over the potential mega fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, widely considered the two best pound-for-pound fighters of their generation.
In 2009 all aspects of the potential fight grew the hype around it. In the ring it was Pacquiao’s meteoric rise to becoming one of the most recognizable faces in all sports along with Mayweather’s mastery of the sport keeping his record unbeaten, albeit with some controversy. Outside the ring the potential fight was seen as being able to break all types of gate records along with par-per-view buys including the record 2.4 million buys that Mayweather shares with Oscar De La Hoya in their 2007 bout.
Since then though many factors have stood in the way of making the fight and in the process has caused the boxing fan base to take sides as to who to blame.
Fans that are partisan to Pacquiao make the case that Mayweather is simply afraid of the Filipino fighter and the threat that he poses of his unbeaten record. They cite the fact that his record has been the main aspect of Mayweather’s brand along with the growing list of demands that he has made for making the bout.
Fans that are partisan to Mayweather make the case that Pacquiao’s rise to prominence may have allegedly been aided by steroid use. They cite that Pacquiao was reportedly reluctant about the PED testing in the initial negotiations for the fight along with his lack of knockout victories since 2009.
Adding to this fire has been the cold relationship between Mayweather, his manager Al Haymon, and his former promoter Bob Arum. It has long been stated by Arum that he believes Haymon’s influence led to the bitter split between Mayweather and Arum’s Top Rank Promotions in 2006. As such Arum has made it a point to do as little business with Haymon as possible. In return Mayweather has worked exclusively with Arum’s main competitor in Golden Boy Promotions which was headed by De La Hoya, another former Arum fighter with a mixed relationship. The environment this created has been a major factor of the boxing ‘Cold War’ that still persists to this day.
As much as the prospect of seeing Mayweather and Pacquiao in the ring together grew dimmer as the years went by the hype around it didn’t die out. The whispers of the fight has followed both men even as Mayweather signed an exclusive six-fight lucrative contract with premium cable network Showtime in 2012.
Now in 2015 the prospect of the fight actually happening, and thus the hype, is at its brightest. This is mainly for financial reasons.
One reason the both Mayweather and Pacquiao have been able to maneuver around each other for years is that each were able to reach the unofficial benchmark for a PPV to be successful of 1 million buys with their star power alone. That has stopped being the case.
In 2014 Mayweather failed to reach the 1 million mark in his two fights against Marcos Maidana. The first fight was surprisingly close enough that it caused Mayweather to do a rematch for only the second tome in his career. The second fight, a de facto PPV debut of a boxing card being run by his promotional company, reportedly did less than the first as the official numbers were not released. It is estimated that the first fight did 850,000-900,000 PPV buys while the second fight is estimated 750,000-800,000 buys.
In Pacquiao’s case the PPV fall has been much steeper and goes further back. After his shocking knockout loss to nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 he fought once in 2013 against Brandon Rios. The fight was viewed as a ‘get well’ bout with Pacquiao winning easily by decision. in April 2014 he fought a rematch against Timothy Bradley and got an unanimous decision victory. In November 2014 he fought an unheralded opponent in Chris Algieri and knocked him down six times in another decision win. None of these three fights were close to the 1 million buy mark with only the Bradley getting past 500,000 buys. The drop has been steep enough to have Top Rank in large focus on having Pacquiao fight in Macau, China to cover some of the losses.
Adding to their decline in PPV buys another factor has come into play in raising the prospect of a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight particularly affecting Mayweather. That is a challenge to his fight date supremacy.
Since leaving Top Rank Mayweather has fought almost exclusively in the beginning of May and September. Those dates are important to the large Mexican boxing fan base. Mayweather, due to his name, has gone unchallenged when it came to having those dates, that is until now.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, a previous Mayweather opponent, and Golden Boy’s most prized fighter has made it clear that he intends this year on May 2. His likely opponent looks to be Miguel Cotto, another former Mayweather foe.
A fight between Alvarez and Cotto has enough clout to push a Mayweather fight out of that date given the logistics involved. PPV normally will not have two large events in the same sport on the same date even if it involves two networks like HBO and Showtime. Golden Boy for their part would also be stretched between showing support for Alvarez and whoever Mayweather picks as his opponent.
This is one reason Mayweather has been not pushing back hard against the hype of a Pacquiao fight as he has done previously. This is seen by boxing insiders like HBO’s Max Kellerman as a tactic to push HBO’s hand into telling Alvarez, whom the network has an exclusive contract with, to pick another date for his fight with Cotto. Given the magnitude of an Alvarez-Cotto fight the only event that could push it back is Mayweather-Pacquiao.
The unfortunate part is that this may all just be a tactic.
The issue that has always plagued the prospects of a Mayweather-Pacquiao is that at the center there are three men in Mayweather, Arum, and Haymon who want complete control of a situation that requires compromise. Both sides would likely make the fight as long as it’s only on their terms.
Mayweather and Haymon want Arum to be completely cut out of the deal. They have gone so far as to demand Pacquiao leave Top Rank if he wants the fight.
Arum wants top billing and the biggest purse going to Top Rank. It has sought this by launching a shaming campaign aimed at forcing Mayweather into negotiations favoring Top Rank.
This has derailed the possibility of Mayweather-Pacquiao happening before and it can easily do it again.
So in the end the boxing world this year will likely see Mayweather face either Amir Khan or Keith Thurman, both of whom are also managed by Haymon, while Pacquiao drops weight to face either Jessie Vargas or Terrence Crawford.
Even as this reality sets in the hype for Mayweather-Pacquiao will not fade. It will simply lay dormant.
That is until Mayweather attempts to pass 49-0.