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Who Is Responsible for the Pacquiao-Mayweather Cancellation?

The blame for the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather mega-fight must fall at Mayweather’s feet

The biggest boxing event of our era is off. Crestfallen fans now scramble to make sense of this fiasco, attempting to figure out how two men can walk away from the richest fight of their lives.

While situations such as this are seldom black and white, this writer feels the blame should be laid on the doorstep of Floyd Mayweather. The fight was on the verge of being signed. How to divide the money, the common hanging point in a superfight negotiation, had been hashed out. Then, suddenly, the issue of drug testing comes up. If not for that, the fight would be signed right now and we would be covering press conferences instead of this sad aftermath of a failed negotiation.

At the end of the day, the fighters themselves must take responsibility for career transgressions. While both Mayweather and Pacquiao’s management played a role in this, any fallout reflects on the fighters. We don’t look back to the early 90’s and say Rock Newman avoided Lennox Lewis, we say Riddick Bowe avoided him. The fighters themselves must ultimately take responsibility for their career trajectories.

Here are some reasons why Floyd must accept responsibility for this failed negotiation:

The Powerlessness of Suspicions

I have suspicions. They live in my head and I have no evidence. If I had evidence, they wouldn’t be suspicions, they would be facts. Should any importance be given to my suspicions? Absolutely not. Why? They are unsupported thoughts.

My suspicions impose zero responsibility on those I suspect to prove me wrong.

Imagine the precedent this would set. Anybody suspected of something should have to prove otherwise? Even if I had people who agreed with me, suspicion is suspicion. Facts are facts. The grand-canyon sized gulf between suspicion and fact seems to have been lost on a great number of boxing fans that blame Pacquiao for this fight falling apart.

If I suspect guilt on the part of a person, does the burden of proof shift to the accused? In what part of the world does this practice exist? Not in Vegas. A person could choose to ignore my suspicions, and I would be no closer to establishing his guilt. I would also have no right to be offended. Nobody owes me an explanation based simply on suspicions or assumptions devoid of evidence.

A few years ago, someone stole some pieces of jewelry from me. My neighbor’s son is a drug addict. I suspected he might have stolen the jewelry. I decided to let it go. But if I demanded to search his room, and he declined, would that alone justify me thinking he was guilty? If he ignored my accusations, would I have a right to then assume he did it? The answer must be no. At the end of the day, all I had were my suspicions, which add up to precisely nothing.

The only times suspicions carry any weight are when those in power hold them. If my boss who suspects I am stealing office supplies asks to see my bag, I might feel compelled to acquiesce to his demands. He is, after all, my boss. If a colleague made the same request, my response would not be so accommodating.

In other words…

Floyd Has no Authority

Mayweather attempted to become the first participant of a sport to simultaneously play the role of a commissioner. The amount of fans who have not gotten their heads around this is startling. Floyd Mayweather has no right to make any such drug testing demands. Like every other fighter, he is subject to the rules of the commission he fights under.

This fight is not happening because Manny didn’t cater to all of Mayweather’s demands. Lost in this is the fact that Manny did agree to the most thorough drug testing given to a pro fighter in the history of boxing. But it wasn’t enough to meet the demands that had no right to be made in the first place.

Imagine a world of sports where participants can call shots based on suspicions. What if a baseball team suspected another team of using corked bats? Before the game, they demand that all bats be confiscated and put through a battery of tests to determine their legitimacy. When the accused team tells them to forget it, what should happen? The answer is nothing. They had no right to levy demands in the first place. That’s what Bud Selig is there for. Let him officiate the sport and let the participants play. The line must remain clear.

Floyd’s Role of Anti-Drug Crusader

It simply does not ring true. While he has criticized those in the past caught for steroid use, a little trash talk is not enough to become a respected voice on the topic. In 40 fights, he has never made such demands on any other opponent. During an 18-month retirement—he didn’t make a peep about drug testing. Then at the precipice of signing for his biggest fight, he throws out the drug testing issue. Like a rock.

If Floyd were as genuine about his concern about performance enhancing drugs as he wants everyone to believe, why did he not broach the subject at any point in his 13-year pro career? Why did he not once contact the proper authorities and make an effort to change drug-testing policy? He waited to be on the cusp of signing for his landmark fight to bring up the issue of drug testing?

I would applaud Floyd’s concerns if he didn’t use them solely to stonewall the biggest fight of this generation.

Floyd’s Flippancy over His Legacy

When the signature boxing talent of the time says, “Legacy don’t pay bills,” then I guess we should expect his aversion to fighting top fighters. After wins at 130 and 135 over Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, his M.O. seems to be to skirt the challenges of worthy and dangerous opponents. Over four years ago, he entered the welterweight division. His entrance came just before the explosion of talent making 147 the best division in the game. He mopped up the remnants of the inglorious Spinks-Judah-Baldomir era.

Since that era, such standout fighters as Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Andre Berto, and Manny Pacquiao have risen to the top of the division. These guys can now be called division mainstays, and Floyd has yet to face any of them. In a relatively brief time in the division, Pacquiao’s resume at 147 is already more compelling than Floyd’s. If he beats Clottey, it will be even more so.

Yet Floyd continues to claim he is the greatest of all time, even as we are approaching a decade since he has fought a prime and dangerous opponent in his own weight class. Not to say all his bouts have been easy. He should receive moderate props for beating Baldomir (the linear welterweight champion at the time), still-dangerous Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, and undefeated Ricky Hatton.

But when reflecting on the deeds of past greats and all the dangerous fights Floyd has avoided, it leaves knowledgeable fans with an empty feeling. No one is saying he should go the Sugar Ray Leonard-route and fight four Hall of Famers in a two-year stretch, but to go several years without even facing a top-five guy in your division is inexcusable for a fighter making the grandiose claims of greatness that Floyd makes.

If Floyd’s avoidance of top foes was merely a notion before, it has now become a full-fledged universal truth. Look at it this way—name one other modern top fighter with a dozen years of world title fights under his belt who has never once been an underdog? That alone speaks volumes of Floyd’s aversion to risk. He had a chance to erase two big problems in his life with one fight—his financial problems and his waning legitimacy as an all-time great. At the cusp of the signing, he sabotaged the whole thing.

Does Floyd Have Ulterior Motives?

It just might be that this is all a ruse by Camp Mayweather, and they never intended to fight Pacquiao this year. To make demands only a commission can make, Team Mayweather is either guilty of gross hubris or possibly something even more calculating. Maybe they reflected that Manny is absolutely peaking while Floyd has had one bout in over two years. By forcing the drug-testing issue, they afforded their man more time to get in the groove while smearing the reputation of his only rival for the #1 pound-for-pound spot.

In addition, they perhaps want to give Manny a little time to decline. They might figure Manny will be unable to operate at this fever pitch for much longer. While Mayweather is older, Manny has been through more in the ring, due largely to his higher caliber of opposition. Camp Mayweather might be thinking a few more fights against top welterweights will send Manny heading down the proverbial hill that awaits all boxers.

This may all seem unfathomable until one reflects on the very calculated nature of Mayweather’s brain trust. Throughout his career, he has been put in one low-risk/high reward scenario after the next against fighters with rabid followings, managing to become the #1 guy in the sport without ever facing a top five pound-for-pound entrant. It takes a certain amount of clever orchestration to manage that.

Along those same lines, we cannot ignore the reality that bad blood sells. While a huge mega-fight now, if Pacquiao-Mayweather were allowed to simmer for another year in the broth of trash talk, it would become even bigger. Perhaps this is not a reason for Floyd’s camp to cause a collapse in negotiations, but maybe it made it onto their list of overall considerations.

You never know what’s going on in people’s heads. Perhaps Camp Mayweather just threw out these accusations to ruffle the feathers of Pacquiao, and then became stuck to them. Rather than abandon the issue and lose face, they just stuck right on with it, using the above reasons as justification.

Could I Be Wrong?

A few things have crossed my mind to make me question my stance on this topic. The first being that Manny conceivably could have just said, “Screw it, I’ll take the tests.” Sure, Floyd has no right to make the demands in the first place, but Manny did agree to take some blood tests. Whether it is 14 days or 28 days, what difference does it make? It is a tiny bit suspicious. But you know where I stand on suspicions.

The bottom line is that Manny agreed to become the most tested fighter of all time. No one has ever taken even three blood tests for a pro fight before. So you can’t really say he is running from the tests. For Mayweather to be appeased, Manny must almost roll over like a dog for him. There’s pride involved here. Manny is the top draw in the game, and if you were in the same position you may very well be inclined to say “forget this guy, let’s fight someone else.” This stance wouldn’t be motivated so much by the fear of getting caught as much as it would be driven by the effrontery displayed by the Mayweather camp.

If Manny were on performance-enhancing drugs, then his motivation here would be very different. I would have almost preferred that he just refused to take blood tests altogether. The fact that he agreed to some form of it, but just not exactly the way Mayweather wanted it, makes his “refusal based on principle” perspective a little sketchier to me. It would be like if the kid I suspected stole my jewelry allowed me to search his home, but just not his closet. That’s way more suspicious than just outright denying me a search.

Again, I stress: this world we be a lot worse off if we were all governed by an “I think you’re (insert accusation here) so prove me wrong” policy.

Final Thoughts

Time will ultimately decide this matter. If Manny is later proven to have taken performance-enhancing drugs, Floyd will be vindicated. Any of the perceived mistakes some feel he has made during this negotiation will be put to rest. Whether rightfully or not, he will be given credit as one of the first to see through the BS.

If no proof ever surfaces showing Manny is guilty of what Floyd accuses him of, Floyd’s legacy will have a huge stain on it. It would decrease in value like a white cashmere sweater with a red blotch on it. It’s not as if there isn’t already a strong vibe swirling around boxing circles that Floyd has spent the bulk of his prime avoiding dangerous fights. If you add to that the troubling component that he created a fake issue to duck his signature fight, then you can kiss his legacy goodbye.

But this isn’t the future. This is right now. And as of right now, Manny has to answer only to the commissions of the places where he fights, not to Team Mayweather. To determine the public agenda of a fighter based solely on the suspicions of his biggest rival is beyond ridiculous.