Someone ought to write a book about the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao saga
The start of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas was a few minutes away, and as was often the case at major fights, I was seated next to my good friend, Tim Dahlberg of The Associated Press.
Tim and I had sat next to each other or right near each other at hundreds of fights, and nearly all of the major ones of the last 25 years.
This night, though, was different. We were more like wide-eyed rookies than grizzled veterans of the fight game on that night.
This fight might have been the most significant in boxing since March 8, 1971, when Muhammad Ali faced Joe Frazier in what became known as “The Fight of the Century.”
The significance of the event was not lost on either of us. We realized that this was probably the most significant
fight either of us had ever covered, because this one took more than five years to make.
It started in November 2009, not long after Pacquiao stunned the boxing world by stopping the great Miguel Cotto in 12 one-sided rounds. It was clear at that point that the two finest boxers in the world were Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, in whichever order you wanted to put them. They were head and shoulders above the rest of the field, and each had a large, passionate following. Even in 2009, when it seemed the upper limit for a boxing purse was about $50 million, it was plain that these two were going to shatter all sorts of records.
Talks to make the fight dragged on for years. When Pacquiao was preparing to fight Chris Algieri in Macau, China, in 2014, I was seated in the press room, alone with promoter Bob Arum. We began to talk about the fight and he said there was a very real possibility that the fight could happen. And he explained to me about the waiter who introduced Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach and CBS president Les Moonves, and how Moonves was working hard to get the fight done.
Roach would later confirm Arum’s story.
It wasn’t, though, until the men met in Miami at an NBA game that there was a breakthrough in talks. After that impromptu meeting, a deal seemed inevitable and about three weeks later, it was finalized.
Even after the fight was signed, there was trouble. A spat over the tickets made for some tense moments about 10 days before the bout.
The fight itself never lived up to the billing. Mayweather was brilliant and easily outboxed Pacquiao, who later claimed he injured his shoulder in training camp.
The fight might have been different — might have are the operative words there — had it taken place in 2010 and not 2015.
The real story, though, never has been told. What went on in those on-and-off negotiations for five-plus years is the stuff of a best-seller, if not an adaptation into a movie.
The problem is, it may be impossible to learn what truly happened. Al Haymon, who negotiated on Mayweather’s side, doesn’t speak to the media, and without his cooperation, the full story is never going to be known.
It would be a hell of a story if it ever came out.
We can only hope.