Ever since Sergio Martinez made it clear he was willing to do anything to fight Manny Pacquiao, the biggest question on everyone’s mind has been: Why are Pacquiao and Bob Arum ignoring him?
Could it be that Pacquiao and Arum see Martinez as too big of a threat to Pacquiao’s superhuman status? After all, despite his lackadaisical performance last week versus Darren Baker, Martinez has widely been recognized as the No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Would Pacquiao rather fight overmatched opponents like Timothy Bradley, all the while tap-dancing a potential bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and collect paydays than fight a real, legitimate challenger?
Or is this an issue of money?
Do Pacquiao and Arum not see Martinez as a big enough draw to deserve a fight with the Filipino champion? Is Martinez's strange career rise and career-long inability to generate much interest from fans disconcerting to two people who value garnering big payday fights to the degree that Pacquiao and Arum do?
Could it be a combination of the two factors?
Because Pacquiao and Arum have refused to officially comment on the status of a potential Pacquiao versus Martinez superfight, we have to piece together bits and pieces of the puzzle based on recent events.
Although Arum is careful to never actually acknowledge Martinez as a potential candidate to fight his golden goose, he has spoken recently on the chances of Martinez getting a shot at Antonio Margarito or Miguel Cotto – two fighters under the Top Rank umbrella. In these conversations with various reporters Arum has made it clear that he’s not a particularly big fan of Martinez’s promoter Lou DiBella or, for that matter, how DiBella has handled his main attraction.
Simply put – Arum believes that neither Martinez nor his team is able to bring in legitimate, bigtime draws. And, for now, the Top Rank boss is right in his assertion. Take Martinez’s knockout victory over Baker for example. There were barely more than 4,500 people to see that. The fact that a fighter widely regarded as the No. 3 pound-for-pounder in the world can’t fill a 15,000-seat arena is mighty telling.
It’s not like DiBella doesn’t have the connections. HBO and Martinez have had a very cordial, solid relationship. They respect Martinez, and that respect is reciprocated. The problem is, by virtue of Arum’s shrewd business savvy, he’s established a whole stable of fighters that are essentially the only ones that could really challange Martinez and, in turn, present an interesting match that would generate a lot of fanfare.
“The issue with Arum and letting one of his guys fight Sergio is over,” DiBella recently said, as recounted by Rich Mancuso. “I don’t know what it is. Sergio and Cotto, or Margarito would be a great fight. Arum won’t budge so we have to move on.”
And on the issue of Martinez not generating much interest, DiBella offered a fairly general dismissal:
“There are any, number of factors for the slim crowd.”
Of course, DiBella was much calmer in that interview than he was prior to Martinez versus Baker, when Michael Marley told him about how Arum publicly stated that he had mismanaged Martinez’s otherwise impressive career.
"Everything Dana White has ever said about Arum is true. It makes me so angry that people do this in our business, it's why this business is so self-destructive," DiBella told the veteran reporter.
"So Sergio is having to fight second tier opponents, guys that people don't know," DiBella said. "But whose fault is that. You expect Sergio to draw 15,000 or 10,000 people with these kind of opponents?
"This fight in Atlantic City on Saturday with (Darren) Barker, we'll have a $500,000 gate despite going up against the Yankees and the Phillies in playoff games and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish holiday. We're set up for 5,000 people and the arena will be largely full but not a sellout. Bob's done a good job with Pacquiao, yeah, but people knew Manny in America before he was with Bob. There's a lot more Filipinos in this country than Argentineans also."
The best part, though, was no doubt this:
"All this is to disguise how we won't let his Big Three, Pacquiao, Cotto or Margarito, get near Sergio. Sergio would knock out Cotto and he would beat Margarito now also. We've called Bob's bluff with Sergio. Yet he's the same In House Bob, who chases and steals other people's fighters like he's doing with Tim Bradley.
"He gets guys like Bradley convinced they won't fight Pacquiao unless they're in house, promoted by Bob," DiBella said.
The truth of the matter is, Martinez has earned a shot at Pacquiao in the ring, but not outside of it. Sad as it is to say, the business side of things is just as, if not moreso important than what happens in the actual fights and, in terms of bringing in the fans – Martinez brings zilch to the table.
Of course, that’s not the primary reason Pacquiao and Arum are ignoring him, though. They’re ignoring him because it’s all risk, no reward. Martinez has a very legitimate shot at beating Pacquiao, and beating him handily – even at 150 pounds. Which in turn poses this question: why would Pacquiao risk losing for a paltry payday against Martinez, when he could generate the same kind of payday against a far more substandard opponent in Bradley?
Why aren’t Pacquiao and Arum addressing Martinez publicly?
Because they let their money talk for them.