When critics used to trot out the reasons for boxing’s decline, the word “greed” inevitably made the list. They were wrong. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist in boxing. But boxing is the only sport I know of where irrational emotion and excessive pride regularly trump greed.
That’s what seems to have happened when Floyd Mayweather, Jr.-Manny Pacquiao collapsed Wednesday evening, apparently irrevocably, for its tentative March date. There were credible predictions that the fight, expected to be the richest ever, would make as much as $200 million total. Everything was agreed to, save one item: Mayweather’s demand for random blood testing for drugs. If both sides are to be believed (no small leap of faith), Pacquiao’s side agreed to random blood testing at any point up to 24 days from the fight, with a test after; Mayweather’s proposed a 14-day cut-off.
Ten days. Ten days. That’s how minute the difference was between making and not making a fight that would have etched history in all kinds of ways, had it happened. Motives in boxing are complex, opaque. The best explanation I can think of is that somebody, maybe everybody, was catering to his ego more than his wallet.
Because it doesn’t stop at -$200 million. The imaginary winner of Mayweather-Pacquiao — maybe even the loser — is now out whatever massively increased baseline price he could have commanded in his next fight by virtue of having come out ahead in the fight more people would have viewed on pay-per-view than any fight ever.
But there is one way in which boxing ruined itself with greed by letting Mayweather-Pacquiao fall to the wayside. By each party catering to their own selfish whims, they robbed boxing fans of the fight everyone wanted to see, a match between the two best fighters of the past decade, its two biggest stars, its two best fighters of today aligning for a rare potential showdown in the same welterweight division.
These are men who so prefer to indulge their own basest desires that they would rather send a giant “f-you” to their customers than set those base desires aside for a moment. They don’t care what harm comes to the sport that earned them their livings, whether boxing pisses away every bit of momentum it had gained since 2007, when everyone began to realize it was a good idea to regularly have the best fighters fighting each other, to give their customers what they wanted. Immediate gratification of short-term urges is more important than anything. Anything.
How… small. Like 10 days.
I’m not kidding. I’m so despondent, I can hardly write about this sport at all right now. This was the best I could do for the night, and I had far grander plans. This would be a good moment for me as a boxing writer to “rise to the occasion,” but I can’t muster it. I can’t even be passionate in my anger toward everyone who failed us. I invested a lot in the idea that boxing had finally “gotten it,” at least in the most meaningful way — giving fights we wanted, more often than not. I feel so naive, so stupid for caring or believing.