Emanuel Steward Tells BBC Egos Preventing Mayweather-Pacquiao Clash; Recalls How Leonard-Hearns Super-Fight Was “Made On A Handshake In About 30 Minutes”

By James Slater: Legendary Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward sounded like a worried man when speaking with BBC Sport this week. The master of Kronk said, in an interview with the world service, that boxing has changed drastically from the glory days of yesteryear: a time when the best fought the best.

Steward spoke about how “there are too many egos today,” and that “it’s more of a business now and it’s hurting boxing.” Steward began by lamenting the fact that there are no potential classics to be made in the sport’s former glamour division: the heavyweight division.

“Unless some drastic changes come about, I don’t like the way things are looking for boxing,” Emanuel said. “There’s not one dream heavyweight fight- you’ve got Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko and nobody else. That’s not good. What made that era [the 1980s] great was that they fought each other. They could have played politics but they were true warriors.”

Steward wasn’t talking about the 1980’s heavyweights necessarily (although back in that decade we had far more heavyweight drama - most of it provided by Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson - than we do today) - he was actually referring to the lower weights. Today, Emanuel says, the general public are only interested in one fight when it comes to a genuine super-fight; this one being between “two little guys - Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.”

Yet, as Emmanuel and all the rest of us know, this fight is just not getting made. And it needn’t be the way it is. The top trainer explained how one of the greatest, biggest and most-demanded fights in all of boxing, in Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns I, was made so easily.

“I could see something building so I called Mike Trainer (Leonard’s manager) and I said, ‘Mike, it looks like the public wants to see Ray and Tommy fight and he said, ‘why don’t we meet today?’ I jumped on a plane and we met at an airport coffee shop. Mike said ‘what are you looking at for Tommy?’ I said ‘I want five million for Tommy.’ He said ‘have you lost your mind?’ How much do you think Ray should get? And I said $8 million.

“They were all shocked, they thought I was going to ask for more for Tommy. They stepped out for a minute, came back and said ‘pal, you’ve got a deal.’ I shook hands and flew back to Detroit on the exact same plane I’d arrived on. That’s how quick the deal was made. One of the biggest fights in history was made on a quick handshake in about 30 minutes. There were no egos involved.”

Imagine the same type of scenario unfolding today with Pac-Man and “Money?” Not a chance! Nobody makes deals for Mayweather without him being present. It is of course a good thing when a fighter can control his own destiny in a way fighters from a different time could never hope to. More power to the fighters, of course. But when egos are involved, as Steward says, the public suffers because the mega-fights are seldom made today. Look around - the proof is there to see.

And to think; only if we were really, really lucky would a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight deliver half as much scintillating action as the Las Vegas Super-Fight of 1981 did. Maybe we were just plain spoilt back in those days; when the Bob Arums and the Don Kings led boxing, and guys like Steward could be relied upon by his fighters to get the big bouts made.

Article posted on 03.04.2012

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