There is something very different about the predicament that Manny Pacquiao and Bob Arum find themselves in these days as it relates to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
On the surface, this whole situation feels like one we’ve lived through many times over the course of the last two years. Pacquiao and Mayweather say they want to fight. Some strange bump in the road appears. The fight begins to look increasingly less likely. Pacquiao and Arum express doubt about the fight’s future. Mayweather suddenly gets very overly-aggressive. Mayweather insults Pacquiao. Fans and boxing writers begin to take sides. A fight never happens.
Now lather, rinse and repeat that process about a five more times every six months.
That’s what things felt like when Pacquiao versus Mayweather was on, then off, then on, then off again for the millionth time this past week.
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In reality, though – it’s different this time around.
Over the past two years Pacquiao and Arum have had the benefit of public perception being on their side. Sure token Mayweather fans are sprinkled around the boxing community, but they don’t come out in nearly the droves that Pacquiao’s devoted followers do. They can’t drive a narrative the way their counterparts can, and they certainly can’t be counted on to push a pro-Mayweather agenda in the media.
Keeping the higher ground throughout these negotiations and inevitable failures was always crucial to Pacquiao. He thrives off the public loving him – he can’t handle them speaking out against him.
But that’s precisely what’s happening now.
It all started after that fight versus Juan Manuel Marquez back on November 12 of last year. Because so many non-diehard Pacquiao fans felt as though he wrongfully won that match, the Filipino champion began to lose some of the goodwill he had built up among the casual boxing fans. Sure, you could very easily make the case that he deserved the win against Marquez – but it didn’t feel that way to a lot of people who viewed the fight.
Pacquiao recognized that and, in an effort to win the masses back, he began to seriously try to make a fight versus Mayweather happen. He knew that the people wanted it, and he wanted to give the people what they wanted. He made sacrifice after sacrifice, he maintained a positive attitude, and he clearly secretly pined away at the opportunity to finally square off against his undefeated arch rival.
Unfortunately, a major Bob Arum-shaped hurdle went and got in the way.
Arum, of course, never wanted Pacquiao to fight Mayweather because of the way it hinders his own personal bottom line – and he’s clearly done an admirable job of deterring this fight from happening up to this point. Pacquiao, understandably used to following Arum’s lead, hasn’t fought back too hard against his promoter’s clear desire to not fight Mayweather.
Problem is, now the public isn’t on his side anymore. They’re not really on Mayweather’s side either, per se; but they’re clearly tired of all the nonsense and excuses. And because the public isn’t backing Pacquiao, this current predicament is much different than it has been in the past. It may look the same on the outside, but it feels very different on the inside.
At this point, Pacquiao and Arum realize they have no choice. They have to agree to fight Mayweather. Who knows, maybe the undefeated champion is bluffing right now. Maybe when they agree to a fight their nemesis, as he has many times in the past, he will find another excuse to avoid making this bout a reality.
But they have to agree to this fight and find out.
They simply have no choice.