The boxing rumor mill is churning once more.
Champion fighters Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., spotted shaking hands at Tuesday’s NBA game between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks, have revived hopes of a much-anticipated showdown in May.
The two men – whose simultaneous appearance at the American Airlines Arena in Miami appears to be coincidence – sat on opposite sides of the court while the game was on, but at halftime met face-to-face for the first time, The Associated Press reported.
"He gave his number to me and said we will communicate with each other," Mr. Pacquiao told the wire service.
Mr. Mayweather reportedly visited Pacquiao at the latter’s Miami hotel room after the game for a longer chat, according to GMA News, a Philippine media outlet.
Whether or not this means a fight is in the works again remains unclear. Earlier this month, Yahoo Sports reported that both sides had agreed to set the long-awaited bout for May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, and to split the purse 60/40 in favor of Mayweather.
"I want to get some movement here, with bringing Mayweather to the table so we can go out and get everything signed and get the networks together and get the thing finished," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told Yahoo Sports Jan. 13.
A little over a week later, ESPN reported that Pacquiao’s camp was making contingency plans in case the Mayweather fight fell through. A May 30 bout against welterweight fighter Amir Khan, who has trained with Pacquiao and his coach Freddie Roach, became a possibility. Russian Ruslan Provodnikov and Argentine Lucas Matthysse, both junior welterweight sluggers, were also raised as potential matches.
"Hopefully, it won't happen and we won't need this plan because Manny will be fighting Mayweather," Mr. Arum told the sports network. "But you have to plan ahead."
Pacquiao and Mayweather, both decorated champions in multiple divisions and arguably the two best fighting-age boxers alive, are no strangers to on-again, off-again negotiations; rumors of a match between them have been circulating for years. As The Christian Science Monitor noted:
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.
The May 2 bout, if it happens, could gross up to $200 million – the highest ever in boxing, according to the AP.