After Floyd Mayweather Jr. put a pasting on Henry Bruseles in January, in preparation for an Arturo Gatti fight which didn't even last as long as the tune-up, he spent a little extra time in South Florida, enjoying warm ocean breezes, the lovely women of the American Riviera, perhaps a bit of the spicy Miami Beach nightlife,
The latter came in the form of a visit to Don King's office.
That may not be so significant, if not for the fact it marks one more visit than the pound-for-pound king has made to his own promoter Bob Arum's office in recent history – if anyone's keeping score – and because of the impression the meeting left on King.
“He sat in my office and told me he's going to be free of this guy, he's going to become a pay-per-view fighter, all this,” King recalled Friday. “As I listened to him talk about Bob Arum, I realized those two truly have a dislike for each other.”
That isn't exactly a news flash, although it is the first acknowledgment that Mayweather has taken the liberty, to whatever limited extent possible, of negotiating outside his relationship with Arum, if not outside their contractual limits.
Less than seven months after that meeting, King spent part of Friday morning speculating about how Mayweather never intended to fight Winky Wright, that the prohibitive 14-pound increase to face the junior middleweight champion was nothing more than a negotiating ploy, that undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah is ready and willing to face Mayweather, and that November is just fine with DKP, “without any equivocation about it.”
Well, there are underlying issues in any willingness of King and/or Arum to do business with King and/or Arum, aren't there? Of course. King is stung by this week's stunning loss of the Vitali Klitschko-Hasim Rahman purse bid to Arum, who regarded the heavyweight fight as undervalued, snatched it up for pay-per-view, and in the process gave some competition protection to his franchise player Mayweather by obtaining broad scheduling flexibility over November's two biggest fights. Now, the November 12 pay-per-view date ticketed for Mayweather can go to Klitschko-Rahman instead, Arum said Friday. That also gives Mayweather some freedom, rather than locking him into a negotiating window based in part on a delayed broadcast of his November 12 pay-per-view fight filling out a November 19 HBO card featuring Klitschko-Rahman.
From Arum's perspective, Mayweather could fill any other date that month – November 5 on HBO or pay-per-view, November 19 on HBO with the delayed broadcast of the heavyweight fight supporting, or November 26 on pay-per-view – which also allows him more negotiating freedom in what has become a narrowing window of opportunity to finalize details for Mayweather to fight that month.
King said November is not a problem with Judah, if Mayweather and Arum are willing to talk. King acknowledged that when he spoke with Arum about Judah-Mayweather last week, he agreed to wait until 2006, because Arum said he was still discussing Winky Wright-Mayweather with Gary Shaw.
When Wright-Mayweather talks fell through, King took up the offensive.
As of Friday, King was doing his talking through the media. He said he had not called Arum because his rival is vacationing.
“Lonesome Bob is in Paris right now. He loves Paris in the springtime. So, of course, he goes there in the summer,” King jabbed. “Since the talks with Wright fell through, I've been expecting him to call, but the phone has not rung.”
The process of picking up the phone may be the biggest impediment to negotiations. The Sweet Science had no problem reaching Arum Friday.
“The phone works here; I can take calls,” Arum said. “King hasn't called.”
King dismissed Mayweather's June 25 domination of Gatti as completely as he dismissed the Wright-Mayweather proposal.
“Gatti is a club fighter,” King said. “He wasn't in Mayweather's class going in. Everybody knew it. So Floyd did what was expected. Now, the next logical thing is to move up to welterweight, where there is an undisputed champion with all three belts, expressing a willingness to fight. Why would you even think about jumping over him?”
There could be a number of answers for that one, though getting Mayweather's name in the media seems the most plausible. Anyone who finds Wright-Mayweather inherently attractive probably wonders aloud whether USC can beat the San Francisco 49ers, and counts Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs among their favorite memories. Fillies have won the Kentucky Derby too, but that doesn't make entering one a great idea in general application.
Shaw said it was a great idea for Mayweather to fight Wright. But then, he also promotes Wright.
“If Mayweather loses, he was trying the impossible anyway,” Shaw said. “But if Winky should lose the fight, it makes Mayweather a god, and Winky's two wins over Shane Mosley and one win over Felix Trinidad mean nothing. If Mayweather wins, I don't know what he's worth. He'd be on the cover of every magazine.”
While the Wright fight is at the wrong time for Mayweather, King argues with some validity that the Judah fight is far more reasonable for him – even though he, like Shaw, promotes the other guy.
“I feel so confident about the fight that I can almost give Floyd whatever he wants,” King said, predicting wildly that Judah-Mayweather would do – ahem – 1 million pay-per-view buys (think Austin Powers). “But that's up to Floyd. There are two ways to say no to a fight. You can just say no, which is one way. Or you can price yourself out of the fight and say no that way.”
Arum may have backdoored King with the Klitschko-Rahman purse bid, but King took the same route in his visit this year with Mayweather, and with far greater subtlety.
Mayweather has some right to negotiate beyond Arum, with whom he has been under contract since turning pro in 1996. Arum has first-offer rights. Mayweather can shop after hearing that offer, but must allow Arum to match if he finds a better offer. That goes on in perpetuity, until Arum someday refuses to match an outside offer, at which point Mayweather could become an unrestricted free agent. HBO, of course, is tied into the multi-pronged contracts as well.
Arum and King rarely do business and the Felix Trinidad-Oscar De La Hoya outcome still rankles Arum. “I think,” King said, “that Lonesome Bob has his fears and apprehensions,” about doing business together.
Arum also will not be pleased to learn King and Mayweather met this year, even if it did not violate any contractual terms. There long has been an underlying suspicion that King had a quiet interest in Mayweather, bolstered by the overriding reality that Mayweather has a loud interest in escaping Arum, but the covert meeting prompted questions about how much backdooring is going on. Oh, and that $9 million offer Mayweather purportedly received and declined to fight Winky Wright – where did that figure come from, who floated it, through whom, and how did it get into the Tampa Tribune, even though neither side says anything remotely approaching that figure was offered?
Funny how King always seems to be around at times like these, dangling just the right fight. Judah-Mayweather is a natural fight between natural enemies. But we're not talking the fighters now.
“This fight can be made with or without him,” King said of Arum.