Mayweather vs Pacquiao: Chess Not Checkers!

Manny PacquiaoBy P.H. Burbridge - It never ceases to amaze me what fighters, their promoters, trainers and advisors expect us to believe. If you paid attention to everything these people said in the press or the many off handed comments you would go absolutely crazy trying to figure out what was actually going on. Trust me don’t spend too much time breathing significance into the various statements floating in cyber space because agendas and individual motivations are difficult to read unless you’re actually on the inside. Negotiating through the press has always been a staple of professional boxing but in recent years it has become nauseatingly key in the failure of many a deal. Truthfully, we never really know the actual facts or the extenuating circumstances of a proposed deal but trust me in some cases even if we did it’s safe to say that it still wouldn’t make too much sense to us. I correspond with a number of very well known scribes whose names you would immediately recognize who actively enjoy the inside scoop when it comes to the finer details of some pretty high profile deals. So, I’m privy to a lot of interesting bits and pieces which I can tell you always leaves me scratching my head wondering how and why people operate the way they do. The pettiness, the grudges, the ulterior motives, the full on manipulation and the out right deceit simply dominates the process. Sure you can probably say that about all professional sports but not to the degree that exists in professional boxing. In some cases, you simply can’t apply logic to these things. Also, in most cases, there’s a back story that impacts discussions..

Many times the fighters themselves don’t have a particular gripe one way or the other but their managers do, their trainers do, their promoters do, their advisors do and for that reason they concoct and twist details to support THEIR agenda and advise their guy under the guise of looking out for HIS best interests. You’ve got people getting THEIR pay back for unfavorable past dealings and it has nothing to do with the fighters and many times it hinders the deal in play. The reason there’s a perception that some of the individuals who comprise a fighters supporting cast are leeches is because well, they’re leeches…Some fighters are treated like children and others act like children but almost all are being manipulated in one way or the other.

The business of boxing is like no other on the planet. There’s no moral authority that governs the sport and there’s nothing on the horizon that would lead us to believe anything is going to change any time soon. So, here we are once again all worked up and no fight. Where do we start? Bob Arum!! It actually ends with Bob as well….He is very, VERY clever! Did you think a master planner like Arum actually believed or would even try to facilitate a deal of this magnitude without making direct contact with the other party? Through a series of conversations with Ross Greenburg at HBO? Not likely…Arum has been accused of many things but no one can accuse him of being dumb. When you’re still around after 40 years in the business and really still at the forefront it speaks to your ability to shape perceptions. It speaks to your ability to navigate the shark tank.

So, what was the real purpose of that press conference? What did Arum really hope to accomplish by putting on such a spectacle? And, why was he so understanding of Floyd not to stepping forward at the magic hour? He was awfully subdued even offering possible explanations and lecturing the press not to be too hard on Floyd. It almost felt like it did when he represented Mayweather. The prevalent theory amongst many scribes which I also subscribe to is that Arum actually wants to push this fight back because of the 50/50 win/lose nature of the match up. He’s been around a long time and has seen many a great fighter lose so he knows anything is possible. The reality is that there is no other fighter in the Top Rank stable who comes any where near Manny Pacquiao in terms of popularity i.e. PPV buy rates and should he come out of that fight with an “L” it would dramatically impact Top Rank’s annual revenue. I’m not saying that Bob thinks Manny will lose I’m saying he’s playing the percentages here which dictates that they capitalize NOW. Oh, I believe Arum truly does want the Mayweather fight but not before he can slip in another TOP RANK controlled event. An event that is reasonably acceptable to fans and doesn’t jeopardize the BIG pay off against Mayweather. In the final analysis, it probably makes more sense for Pacquiao too whether he agrees or disagrees with the premise. So, in order to avoid making it look too obvious Arum first had to express to the fight public that THEY tried everything in their power to get Mayweather signed, sealed and delivered. He needed to set the stage for his next statement which was “we TRIED everything and had to move on to the next guy!” You notice Arum never closed the door on a Mayweather fight. He knows that‘s still the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow so he’s playing a very shrewd game here to achieve that end. I know it may not seem that way to us in our disappointment but this without question is the best possible outcome for Top Rank and Manny.

The sham of a “deadline” at the stroke of midnight is almost too cheesy to fathom even for Arum but it was completely necessary for the purposes of moving the fan mindset in the direction he needed us to move in. There had to be the overall impression and public acknowledgement that a concerted effort was made to make the fight everybody wants to see or risk of a possible backlash. If Arum attempted to make a fight with Top Rank’s Miguel Cotto or Antonio Margarito BEFORE trying to make the Mayweather fight fans would have crucified him and Manny. AND, the fans might not throw their support behind one of those match ups under those circumstances. BUT, if Top Rank went through (at least in the public’s mind) the process of trying to make the fight happen and Floyd either said “No” which based on the way it was presented was practically guaranteed or in this case simply didn’t acknowledge it then the fans could more easily accept the possibility of those other fights.

Touché, Bob….Touché!

Those of you who are stuck in an alternate universe and believe this whole failed “negotiation” is an indication of how Floyd feels or how Manny feels you’re missing the larger picture. There is a method to Arum’s madness here and in this case it’s perfectly logical. Manny has a schedule he likes to adhere to which means he wants to fight “X” amount of times a year so from his perspective he was perfectly fine fighting Mayweather in November or anybody else for that matter. He wants to fight this year. Floyd does not and in his case he has a number of outside issues that dictate he take a bit of a break. (e.g. Roger’s legal situation) Plus as he’s gotten older and his purses have reached ridiculous highs so Mayweather doesn’t feel rushed to do anything. He feels he’s earned the right to bask in the glow of big Mosley win so that’s what he’s doing.

Mayweather never said he was going to fight again this year and we all know he wouldn’t allow anyone to dictate anything to him at this point. The man thinks of himself as bigger than the sport. No title belts required, etc…

All this is well understood by Arum. He knew Floyd wouldn’t agree so it created exactly the dynamic he needed to make one of those other fights.

I have to say, I may not like the end result but I have to take my hat off to Arum for doing it. It’s damn clever.

And another reminder that this is chess not checkers!

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 22.07.2010

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