The news that Manny Pacquiao has agreed to a deal to fight Floyd Mayweather in May has boxing fans buzzing again after waiting nearly six years to watch the two best boxers in the world go toe-to-toe.
Boxing promoter Bob Arum announced yesterday that Pacquiao has agreed to the terms of the fight that will take place at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, according to a Yahoo! Sports article. The fight is expected to bring in a $40 million return for the live-gate audience alone. That is nearly double the previous record for live-gate figures, which was from Mayweather’s 2013 bout against Canelo Alvarez.
Boxing as a sport today does not occupy the lofty pedestal it rested on during the first half of the 20th century, and a lack of marquee names after Mike Tyson's reign in the early 1990s has all but forced the sport onto the back burner of Americans' collective minds.
Arum claimed in that Yahoo! Sports story that Mayweather’s representatives have not accepted the terms of the deal, and nothing has been officially confirmed by anyone in Mayweather’s camp. Multiple attempts to match Pacquiao and Mayweather in the ring have been approached since 2009, but for one reason or another, a deal could never be worked out.
In 2010, for instance, a fight was in the works, but Pacquiao backed out over Mayweather’s demand for last minute drug testing up to the day of the fight. Another fight almost happened in 2011, and in 2012 Mayweather personally called Pacquiao and offered him a flat $40 million to fight him if Mayweather could keep all the pay-per-view revenue. If the scheduled May 2 fight occurs Mayweather stands to earn $120 million.
The constant haggling has left some fans doubtful that the fight will ever take place.
Boxing’s popularity has rapidly declined since the 1990s: A 2013 Gallup Poll put boxing as Americans’ ninth favorite sport to watch behind golf and auto racing. One reason for the disinterest may be that talented boxers are gravitating towards mixed-martial arts leagues such as the UFC, according to The Bleacher Report. Also there is always a significant portion of the population who are repulsed by combat sports and high-profile deaths in the ring like Duk Koo Kim at the hands of Ray Mancini in 1982 only threw more gas on the fire.
The sport today also lacks the big names that once captivated the American public’s attention: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, going all the way back to Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano in the 1940s and 1950s.
And this is precisely why Arum and others in the boxing world have been working for six years to put Mayweather in the ring with Pacquiao. They are by far and away the biggest names in sport and both stand to cash in, should they they go through with the fight. The terms of the fight call for a 60-40 split of all revenue with Mayweather taking the majority, according to Yahoo.
Both athletes are at the tail end of their careers. Mayweather, 37, has been plagued with a number of scandals involving alleged drug use and spent 90 days in jail in 2011 for his second domestic violence charge, while Pacquiao, a year younger, has been criticized over his involvement in politics, music, and other sports in his native Philippines.
Still, Mayweather has topped Forbes’ list of highest paid athletes for the last three years and remains undefeated in his 47 career bouts. He came out of a 21-month retirement in 2009. Around that time Pacquiao had made a name for himself with an 11-match win streak against notable boxers, and he is currently at 57-2-2 in his career.
"I'm not going to put a deadline on there. I'm just going to hope that everybody does the right thing and we get this concluded," Arum told Yahoo. "It would be really sad if we went through this stuff again like we did before."