Manny was 147, Marquez 143 at the Friday weigh-in. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)
LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao sat on a sofa surrounded by a gaggle of sportswriters earlier this week and for perhaps the longest period of time in years The Name did not come up.
Pacquiao talked at length about the long and winding road he has walked with Juan Manuel Marquez, one that will lead them both into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night for the fourth time with the differences between them yet to be convincingly ironed out.
He talked of a religious rebirth, of past transgressions, of Marquez’ possible use of performance enhancing drugs and the rumors swirling around them both in that regard, of the need for Marquez to change the counter punching style that has so confounded Pacquiao and the hope that this time the bout will end in a knockout, not another disputed decision.
Through all of this The Name never came up. Finally, Associated Press columnist Tim Dahlberg could take it no longer. He uttered it.
“Is this the longest you’ve gone (at a press briefing) without the name Floyd Mayweather coming up?’’ he asked.
Pacquiao laughed, nodding his head in affirmation. It wasn’t a nervous laugh but it should have been because underneath the question was a disturbing fact: nobody really cares any more if the two of them fight or not.
If eventually they do, the fight will still do big business. It may become the biggest pay-per-view sale in boxing history and would pack the house in Las Vegas or, if the two fighters are really smart, someplace like Cowboys Stadium in Texas where there are many more seats than on The Strip and no state income tax or unions to run up costs.
But if it does happen, which remains a long shot, it will also be like stale bread: something you’ll eat if you’re starving but the taste for it will be gone.
“That’s not going to happen,” growled Pacquiao’s ever truculent promoter, Bob Arum, this week, when asked about the possibility of the two finally squaring off in what was once seen as a future of boxing type of fight.
“Al Haymon (Mayweather’s manager) is just dangling Mayweather,” meaning Haymon is using Mayweather’s celebrity to drive business in the way Arum and Don King often did in the past with their top attractions.
In the midst of Pacquiao-Marquez IV week, Mayweather’s long-time advisor and confidante, Leonard Ellerbee, let it be known that the long absent Mayweather will return to the ring May 4, 2013, Cinco de Mayo weekend. He added that for the first time in several years Mayweather intends to box twice in 2013, leaving an unexpressed hint that the second fight could possibly be a September showdown with the man everyone once wanted to see him fight so badly but all that pronouncement really did was guarantee for fight fans at least one and possibly two weekends next year when it will be forced to choose between a Mayweather fight and one promoted by Arum because both Arum and Golden Boy Promotions, who still represent Mayweather in such matters for a fee, have contractual obligations to advertisers to stage shows on the two biggest Mexican holiday weekends of the year.
This has created conflict in the past, including earlier this year when the two sides resorted to schoolyard name calling and petulant arguments over who had what date first and who reserved what arena before the other and which one told cable operators they wanted to go on a certain date.
What this led to is what it has led to in the past: the fans got screwed. Welcome to big-time sports in the 21st Century.
Mayweather’s return to boxing will be welcomed to be sure because any event he is involved with becomes a big one. He has not fought since last May, forgoing a second fight after serving a brief jail sentence on domestic violence changes following that fight, instead spending his public time fighting with his former BBF, 50 Cent.
Fifty and he were supposed to partner in a new promotional company, an expansion of what both once called their family-like relationship. Well, it ended up being the Family Feud, the two splitting after Mayweather came out of jail.
Now Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) not only has his own promotional company headlined by power punching Cuban exile Yuriokis Gamboa but a partnership with Arum, whom Mayweather hates with the kind of rage reserved normally only for someone who kills your dog or hurts your kids.
After bout of Twitter warfare between them over Mayweather’s reluctance to invest any of his own money in this joint promotional venture, they split. Fifty, who made his mark as a rapper but made his money out of an investment stake he held in Vitaminwater that was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007 for a reported number in the billions, not the millions, claims he still “loves him like a brother.’’
Perhaps so but sometimes brothers fight harder than others even when the possibility exists that had Mayweather relented and agreed to fight Pacquiao in Dubai a year ago, there might have been a $180 million pot to split.
Of course, it would have involved the sticky fingers of Arum, which Mayweather simply could not abide and so boxing stumbles along without its version of the Super Bowl.
As for Mayweather, according to Fifty: “He's in the cycle that a lot of big fighters go through: get the money, spend the money and then fight again for some more money."
Yet he and Pacquiao are in another cycle familiar to boxers, one that has thus far gone beneath the radar. To put it simply, both are slipping. At 36 and boxing infrequently, Mayweather has become a more flat-footed, less elusive target while Pacquiao hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2009.
Although he clearly beat Tim Bradley in his last outing even though the decision went the other way, Pacquiao did not do the kind of damage he used to and the fight before that he got a win he didn’t deserve over Marquez, who controlled the fight all night.
As for Mayweather, all one has to do is look back at his last performance. It was a struggle for him like never before to defeat Miguel Cotto. One fight later, Cotto was slapped silly by a kid named Austin Trout. Why didn’t Mayweather do that? Because he no longer can.
What this means is if Pacquiao-Mayweather ever does happen, which grows more unlikely by the day, it will be a fight between two shadows of what each once was. That might actually make it a more competitive and enjoyable match but it won’t reflect the best of either of them.
What seemed telling in all this was Mayweather’s ex-best bud claiming the theory that Mayweather would not face Pacquiao because he feared a loss on his record had some truth behind them.
“It’s all confidence when it comes to Floyd and his confidence wouldn't be there," said Fifty. "He kind of hand picks who he fights instead of taking the tough fights."
That isn’t what he was saying when they were sharing private jets and gambling debts but so it goes in boxing. Friends come and friends go. So does the money, the absence of the latter usually being directly related to the disappearance of the former.
Regardless of that, Floyd Mayweather is apparently back in boxing on 2013 but not likely in a shared space with Manny Pacquiao. What he doesn’t know yet and Pacquiao is only beginning to realize this week is that not many people really care that much anymore if they ever do.
Would you pay to see Manny Pacquiao vs Saul Alvarez?