This Way To Nowhere: The Pacquiao-Mayweather Mess

US Route 66 leading towards Albuquerque, with the Sandia Mountains in the background, circa 1940. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

When Bob Arum arranged a 3:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time conference call on Saturday to announce that Floyd Mayweather had missed an “exclusivity” deadline, he brought boxing vaudeville into the 21st century with a wink and a nod.

The operator sounded like some ghostly remnant of the 1950s. A sputtering Michael Marley was promptly shot down by Arum, Steve Carp was apparently drinking a Big Gulp through a crazy straw, and tenacious Greg Leon was given the dial tone by the curmudgeonly Arum, who griped “Can we get another caller?” One reporter was actually surfing the web while on the line with Arum. “You’ve got mail” was heard in the background as Arum droned on. Halfway through the conference call, Arum sounded like he needed a Red Bull or two. Meanwhile, the rest of the boxing community needed a Mylanta/Ambien combination hotshot after it was learned that one of the biggest moneymaking fights in history was all but kaput.

In the end, more questions than answers surround the absurd Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations non-saga.

And an unusual negotiation it was. Arum claims that he never spoke to anyone who represented Mayweather. No one. Instead, HBO honcho Ross Greenburg played go-between and delivered folded up notes to Al Haymon, who then relayed these messages to both Mayweather and, presumably, Golden Boy Promotions. The Pony Express or a heliograph seem like better ways to communicate than what this motley crew of self-regarding businessmen supposedly patched together.

Are we supposed to believe that Arum spoke to Greenburg and that Greenburg relayed these conversations to Haymon and that Haymon, in turn, apprised Mayweather? And that, somewhere along the way, Richard Schaefer was kept in the loop? Perhaps with an occasional message in a bottle? Haymon may be a licensed manager, but there is no way he can broker a $150-$200 million extravaganza to the satisfaction of a boxer by himself. Plain and simple.

And now we hear from Leonard Ellerbe that there were never any negotiations, proving that Surrealism is still alive and kicking even if Dali and Andre Breton are dead. True, Ellerbe offered this nugget of wisdom to David Mayo in June: “Who are they negotiating with, themselves?” But Team Mayweather rarely disputed the fact that some sort of negotiating was taking place. When Arum kept breaking the alleged gag order (as if their were a gag, real or imagined, that could shut this ligner up), no one from the Mayweather side disputed anything he said.

“Here are the facts,” said Ellerbe on Monday. “Al Haymon, Richard Schaefer and myself speak to each other on a regular basis, and the truth is, no negotiations have ever taken place. Nor was there ever a deal agreed upon by Team Mayweather or Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao on November 13. Either Ross Greenburg or Bob Arum is not telling the truth, but history tells us who is lying.”

The only losers in this whole mess, of course, are the fans and the sport itself. General sports fans, especially, will be thrown for a loop–yet again–by a sport that produces farces more often than Noel Coward or the Marx Brothers ever did. Pacquiao is also, to an extent, damaged, because a man who did not shy away from fighting Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Erik Morales will now have to settle for a lesser challenge and a smaller purse. The possibility of a backlash for facing Margarito remains, although boxing fans are usually not a discriminate bunch. Indeed, many of them even think “Solo Boxeo” is worth watching.

As for Mayweather, it simply appears that he is not interested in fighting Pacquiao. “I’m not interested in rushing to do anything,” Mayweather told The Associated Press. No one has to worry about the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, in the poisonous boxing air for nearly a year now, being rushed. In fact, it looks like it will be all but impossible for this bout to be made.

Consider these subplots: Haymon hates Arum, Mayweather hates Arum, Arum hates them back, Mayweather thinks Pacquiao is on steroids, Oscar De La Hoya, who got beat up by two of the participants in the negotiations, is despised by Mayweather and Arum and suffers from foot-in-mouth disease, lawsuits are in the air, Golden Boy Promotions gets a cut of every Pacquiao fight due to binding arbitration a few years ago, Roger Mayweather is facing the hoosegow again, both camps are now calling each other liars, Pacquiao has a busy schedule because he is a congressman, and the so-called boxing press will say anything to see their Alexa ratings spike.

This brings up another issue: the deluge of misinformation that rushed forth out of the mouths of personal trainers, body guards, uncles, retired fighters, and rappers was compounded by third-rate websites with their “reliable sources.” And who were these “reliable sources?” Some folks in this game think that if they can wrangle a quote from the janitor of a boxing gym that they qualify as reincarnations of Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell.

In this case, no doubt, the reliable sources were a croupier at the Bellagio and a customer at one of the hair salons the Mayweather family owns.

If these third-rate websites—ones that purport to break news but actually just, you know, make shit up—did not post nonsense with sole purpose of boosting traffic, maybe reputable entities would have had a chance to be heard above the din of lies and some sense could have been made of the story over time. Right now, the only reliable sources of information on big news stories are Dan Rafael at ESPN.com and Lem Satterfield at Fanhouse.

One particular website, ringsiderejects.com, specializes in fabricating fights involving big names–including Mike Tyson–and then running down actual reporters, like Dan Rafael, for pooh-poohing their campfire stories. You all know which websites sat around with their “reliable sources” and their “exclusives” and their premature Mayweather-Pacquiao ejaculations. Are you going to keep giving them penny-clicks? No? Then you ought to tell them–along with all involved in this fiasco–to make a left on Street of No Return and follow Lost Highway until they hit the crossroads to Nowheresville. After all, this is where boxing fans spend most of their time. Maybe they could use some company down there.

*****

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Tags: Al Haymon Bob Arum Floyd Mayweather Jr. GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS HBO Leonard Ellerbe Manny Pacquiao Ross Greenburg

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