The prospect of Manny Pacquiao fighting in the UAE increased yesterday and his promoters confirmed they will reluctantly look for another opponent after the deadline for a deal with Floyd Mayweather Jr passed without a word from the American boxer's camp. In the latest twist in the protracted negotiations for the most tantalising match in boxing, Bob Arum, the Top Rank promoter who represents Pacquiao, said Mayweather's team had not responded to a contract proposal.
Pacquiao will fight in November, probably against Miguel Cotto or Antonio Margarito, and Abu Dhabi is a potential venue for either fight, according to Arum. Pacquiao, the seven-weight world champion and current WBO welterweight title holder, had already agreed to Mayweather's demands for Olympic-style drug testing in the build-up to any proposed bout, as well as an equitable split of the earnings - projected to be worth in excess of US$40 million (Dh146.9m).
A meeting between the men considered the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport would likely be the richest fight in boxing history. "Floyd, for whatever reason, and I'm sure he has some valid reason, didn't want to commit," Arum said. Arum was careful not to criticise Mayweather, saying the fighter who calls himself "Money" could take the lucrative offer at any point in the next week or so, but he confirmed he now plans to open discussions with Cotto or Margarito.
The "Pac Man" is unlikely to have trouble reaching a deal with either opponent because Cotto and Margarito are also promoted by Top Rank. Discussions were held in Abu Dhabi last week, Pacquiao's camp said, about a November fight being staged here in the emirate. Michael Koncz, Pacquiao's adviser, and Todd du Boef and Arum of Top Rank said they met a lawyer and a spokesperson for the royal family on Wednesday to make a final proposal. They say they are expecting a decision from the Abu Dhabi side tomorrow.
Pacquiao stopped Cotto in November to win the WBO welterweight title in a fairly one-sided fight, but Arum said the rematch would be at super welterweight, the higher weight where Cotto rejuvenated his career by claiming the WBA title at Yankee Stadium last month. Should the match come to fruition, it would give the Filipino fight king the chance to claim a historic eight world titles in as many weight classes. Pacquiao and Cotto would most likely meet at Cowboys Stadium, in Dallas, in Las Vegas or in Abu Dhabi.
The Top Rank team favour a fight with Margarito, the hard-hitting Mexican-American, in Las Vegas. But that bout would hinge on Margarito obtaining a licence to fight at the MGM Grand, which is considered unlikely because Margarito's suspension in California has not been lifted. He was caught using illegal hand wraps in a January 2009 bout, making him unable to fight anywhere in the US without an exemption.
Abu Dhabi or Monterrey, Mexico, are the alternate venues for a Margarito fight. Arum scoffed at the notion of matching Pacquiao against Paul Williams, Timothy Bradley or other lesser-known fighters who might be more deserving of a shot at the world's best boxers, calling them "free riders" on Pacquiao's financial muscle. "Paul Williams is a tremendous fighter, really a great fighter, but he's never been promoted correctly," Arum said. "He doesn't have any following. He can't sell a ticket."
Although he has not spoken to Mayweather, who boasts a record of 41 victories without defeat, Arum believes the five-weight champion may be reluctant to agree to a match with Pacquiao because of the legal woes of Roger Mayweather, his uncle and longtime trainer. Roger Mayweather will go on trial in Las Vegas next month on assault charges stemming from an altercation with a female boxer last year. "The fight that we want to do is Mayweather. We haven't said anything different, we haven't acted differently, but Manny has to fight in November. We're going to proceed with all deliberate speed, but if in the interim Floyd decides that, despite the Roger situation, that he wants to fight Manny, absolutely, that's the fight we want.
"[Pacquiao-Mayweather] is dead when we conclude a deal for Manny's fight in November. Then we're contractually bound to that fight, and we would look to do a deal with Floyd for next year. If Floyd emerged and said he wanted to do the fight [in November], then there would be nothing opposed to doing the fight." Arum said he could not wait any longer to start the time-consuming process of putting together a fight for Pacquiao, whose personal schedule has tightened since his election to congress this year in his native Philippines.
* With agencies