Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Will The Superfight Ever Happen?

As Mayweather prepares for his May 5th clash with Cotto, a look at why superfight with Manny Pacquiao hasn't yet happened

Mayweather vs Cotto fight on May 5th but what about Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao? Muhammad Ali's epic clash with the late great Joe Frazier in 1975 will long be remembered for bookmarking the greatest era in 20th century boxing. For these two iconic talisman of the sport, the Thrilla in Manila cemented Frazier's reputation as a giant among men; Ali's as the greatest of all time. It also marked the inception of Pay Per View sports technology, giving viewers across the globe a simultaneous screening of events. Thrilla gave rise to the phrase 'The world is watching' and as the third and final chapter in boxing€™s greatest trilogy came to a close, it highlighted Ali and Frazier's mutually exclusive dependency in securing their own, and each other€™s legacy. Just 3 years after the dust had settled and only a stone€™s throw away from the Filipino Capital, another boxing hall of famer was born; 33 years later, Manny Pacquiao has reached the global superstar status that few dream of and even fewer can hope to achieve. A glittering professional career spanning 17 years boasts 6 world titles across an unsurpassed 8 weight divisions. Pacquiao has fought every great name in world boxing. All except one. Across the pond in the United States lies the other half of the 21st century's Thrilla in Manila. An imperious adversary if ever there was; Floyd Mayweather boasts 42 undefeated fights with 7 world titles over 5 weight divisions. Owed to arguably the greatest defence in boxing history, the Compubox stats calculator has Mayweather as the least hit fighter of all 4,000 combatants in the history of its books. Not one man has managed to knock him down, let alone out. With the quickest reflexes in the business and sniper like accuracy, Mayweather hits and makes his opponents miss with unparalleled ease. While he lacks the firepower of the Pacman, few would argue he needs it. The fight itself is a scintillating prospect, not only for the fans, but for TV networks, promoters and the lagging US economy alike. The problem is, questions over whether the fight will actually happen has taken as many pundits to unpick as the question of who would win the fight itself. Many have asked why the two greatest fighters of their generation would not face each other in front of a global audience, to determine once and for all who is the pound for pound king. Of course for Mayweather or Pacquiao, holding 13 world titles between them hardly warrants any further justification of their in-ring credentials. But it would seem, as with Ali and Frazier, ones reputation in historical memory cannot be truly cemented without the other. Mayweather's status as the greatest fighter of his generation has only been called into question in the last 5 years; Pacquiao's demolition of opponents who Mayweather had taken longer to finish gave rise to a wave of public thought that if anyone could beat Floyd, it might be Manny. For Pacquiao, his legacy will be left as that of a world class great and, if he were to beat Floyd, would cement himself forever as 'The man who beat the man'. The first obstacle to bear in mind when arranging any boxing match is of course the contract. Outsiders view boxing as a sport, insiders as a business; any contract is a financial negotiation process and is only as diplomatic as either party intends it. In their first attempt to seal the deal, Mayweather chose to be resoundingly undiplomatic. Adding a stipulation to the contract that both he and Pacquiao be subject to Olympic style random blood and urine testing seemed, ostensibly, a reasonable ask in that all Olympic sports have a similar system in place. However, amateur boxing is an Olympic sport, professional boxing is not and asking Pacquiao to be party to this stipulation carried the inference and indirect accusation that the Mayweather camp suspected him of using performance enhancing substances. Few were in doubt as to whether this was a legitimate clause to promote fair play or a deliberate attempt to get under the skin of the team at the Wild Card gym. Whichever it was, only the Mayweather camp know for sure, but if their intention was to deter Pacquiao then they succeeded; his refusal on grounds that he doesn't respond well to having blood taken raised only minor suspicion, instead garnering a consensus that he is a man who doesn't like to play the subservient pawn in Mayweather's chess match. It was argued that Mayweather anticipated this reaction, using it to duck out of a fight he never really wanted in the first place. Whilst his attitude has seen him fall foul of the law numerous times in recent years, few can argue with Pretty Boy Floyd's talent inside the ring. His return to the sport in 2009 following an 18 month lay off saw him systematically out-box the pound for pound world number 2 at the time, Juan Manuel Marquez. Over 12 rounds Mayweather landed a staggering 59% of his punches; he was hit by only 12% of Marquez's. These lopsided statistics are amplified further when considering Marquez has earned a draw and two knife-edge losses against Pacquiao. Marquez landed on average over twice the number of total punches on Pacquiao than he managed against Mayweather, and in return Pacquiao's thrown to landed percentage on Marquez was not only 30% lower than Mayweathers, but it was also lower than Marquez in their most recent clash. By final bell there was overwhelming consensus including Pacquiao's training partner Amir Khan (who was part of the ringside commentary team), that the Pacman had been well beaten. Regardless, Pacquiao edged the decision, sparking a wave of uproar and calls of a a fix across the boxing press. Even the sportsmanlike Marquez questioned the decision: 'what do I need to do before the judges give me the fight...The fans know it, everybody knows it, I won that fight'. Unfortunately for Marquez, the fight going in his favour was simply not in the long term financial interests of those up top. For Pacquiao vs Mayweather is by far more lucrative a deal than any in history, but it all hinges on both men remaining unbeaten in the run up. If the judges had given the decision Marquez's way, the financial value of Mayweather vs Pacquiao would significantly decrease. And that is what this all boils down to; Money. In his latest win over WBC Welterweight champion Victor Ortiz, Floyd Mayweather made $40m. Ortiz, albeit the belt holder before the fight, took a comparatively smaller share at $2.5m. This was Ortiz biggest payday by a stretch and in terms of PPV sales he would be hard pushed to draw figures of that order against anyone other than the self-proclaimed pay per view king. In fact, so lucrative are Mayweather's box office revenues that his 90 day jail sentence for domestic violence, due to commence at the beginning of this year, has been postponed until June 1st in order that he may prepare for a clash with Miguel Cotto this weekend which is estimated to inject over $100m into the stagnant Las Vegas economy. The maturation of PPV technology over the last three decades has facilitated the growing revenue streams from super fights and large sports events. Its evolution has correlated with an increase in the numbers of those receiving satellite television meaning that the Pay Per View global audience today is 20-30 times larger than when it first began. Over 100,000 people tuned in to watch Ali's 14th Round knockout of Frazier in 1975 - priced at $10 each - PPV revenue broke the million dollar mark on its first ever broadcast. This year, the combined figures from BSkyB and the National Cable Television Association in America points to an ownership of satellite Television upwards of 150 million people. Of their last 5 respective fights, Pacquiao has drawn a total audience of 5.89 million box office viewers; Mayweather a staggering 7.02 million. Individually, the largest of all these was Mayweather vs Oscar De La Hoya in 2007, setting a record of 2.4 million buys. When Pacquiao fought De la Hoya 12 months later, he only managed half this figure. Without question, when Pacquiao faces the best, his buying figures are sky high, but when facing lesser opponents, they drop dramatically; his win over Joshua Clottey received only 700,000 buys and in contrast Mayweathers figures, regardless of the opponent, have consistently doubled this number. Reasonable projections could see a dream matchup between these two superstars reach upwards of 4 million buys. Typically, revenue from a major fight is carved up in percentages with the distributor (for example HBO PPV) taking a standard 10% off the top, leaving a 45-45 split for the promoter and cable companies. Therefore, if a fight costs $50 in the US, you can safely assume a promoter will take clear of £22.50 per household view. In a best case projection assuming 4 million buys, plus other revenue streams including live gate and casino site fees, the fight could easily generate upwards of $160m for the promoter alone. Even if Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions took $30m, allowing for expenses, both Pacquiao and Mayweather could take home $60m each. Even with such a mutually lucrative offer on the table, Mayweather approached the second set of negotiations with perhaps even less respect towards Pacquiao than the first. His announcement over social media site Facebook saw Floyd inform fans he had booked an arena for May 5th without any consultation with Pacquiao or Freddie Roaches team. Roach confirmed that Mayweather then approached them with a guaranteed offer of $40m as part of a flat fee, all in deal. Mayweather stated in an interview that he had offered Pacquiao $40m, however the team at the Wild Card Gym soon realised that the trickle-in effect of worldwide revenue could equate to Mayweather pocketing up to $80m. Pacquiao€™s team declined, instead offering Mayweather a 45-45 split, with the winner taking the remaining 10%. According to Roach, Mayweather backed out, entering into successful negotiations with current WBA (super) lightweight world champion Miguel Cotto this Saturday night. All of a sudden it would seem that Mayweathers chess match has hit a stale mate. It is of great disappointment that the Mayweather vs Pacquiao debate has spiralled out of focus, becoming barely recognisable amidst a sea of tawdry back and forths between two camps trying desperately to decipher what it will take to make this fight happen. For those in the anti Mayweather camp who believe a 50-50 deal is fair, it is worth taking into account that as much as Mayweather has to gain from this fight, he also has the most to lose. An unbeaten record that stands threatened not only by his age, but his greatest opponent yet, is not a risk that €˜Money€™ Mayweather can afford to take without substantial reward. For Pacquiao, failed negotiations will leave his legacy with plenty of icing, but no cherry. Even with an unfavourable 30-70 split, he still stands to make an astronomical sum from this fight, more than he ever has in his career. And for the fans, the superfight of our generation - the modern Thrilla in Manila - or the biggest let down of 21st century boxing, hangs in the balance. Many of the old guard will say that boxing is not what it used to be. In the 70's, it was inconceivable that Frazier or Ali would dream of avoiding the clash that would define their legacies. For it was that moment, their moment, where the thousands of hours and multiple dreams of success could finally be realised under the bright lights, in front of all whom admired their tireless work. For Mayweather and Pacquiao, it would therefore seem an absolute no-brainer that the opportunity in front of them is everything it was for Smokin' Joe and Cassius Clay, multiplied twenty fold by the wonders of Pay Per View for both their purses and their fan bases alike. For all that these two have achieved in the sport, they now stand at the end of their glittering careers shoulder to shoulder, in front of a podium wide enough for only one to perch. Beneath it reads 'Undisputed pound for pound king', a title that no money can buy. And for man either man to claim it? Well, they have one final, mutual test. Each other.
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Chris Lloyd is a Sports TV Presenter/Journalist. His showreel can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/34082437