MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The big fight is on in Blues City this week and it's already been a knockdown, drag-out affair.
The bell for the middleweight title fight between Jermain Taylor and Cory Spinks isn’t set to ring until Saturday night, but the bloody battle for the right to become Taylor's next opponent has begun in earnest.
Unbeaten super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe and his promoter, Frank Warren, have launched a campaign to land a match with Taylor. Calzaghe has an aversion to flying, but wants the fight so badly he's traveling to New York on Friday to appear on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" to publicly make the case for a match with Taylor.
Edison Miranda loudly and demonstratively pleaded his case at a raucous news conference in the lobby of the FedEx Forum on Thursday, even though he's got a significant fight of his own Saturday.
Miranda, who fights unbeaten Kelly Pavlik on Saturday's undercard for the right to become Taylor's mandatory challenger, taunted Taylor mercilessly, frequently slapping the podium for emphasis.
Taylor was literally frothing at the mouth when he stepped to the podium and, uncharacteristically, began shouting threats at Miranda, Spinks and Pavlik.
"Jermain was just being himself there," veteran trainer Emanuel Steward said. "I had to hold him by his coattails so he wouldn't go after that boy. I've been around a long time and I've had a lot of different kinds of guys, but Jermain Taylor is without a doubt the meanest guy I've ever trained."
He was ready to fight Thursday, whether it would have been Spinks, Miranda, Pavlik or Calzaghe.
Taylor said he'd be willing to fight Calzaghe in the U.K., where Warren says he can attract a crowd of around 50,000 that would do a live paid gate in excess of $5 million.
HBO is offering a license fee of $5 million for the fight.
Jay Larkin, the former Showtime executive who has been negotiating with HBO and the fighters on Warren's behalf, said he offered Taylor a $4.5 million guarantee and promoter Lou DiBella a $750,000 guarantee. Larkin said he would supplement the guarantees with a 50-50 share of all ticket revenue in excess of $5 million that Taylor and DiBella could split however they choose.
"The fight's pretty much a slam dunk to do $6 million (at the gate in the U.K.)," Larkin said. "If the gate hits $7 million, they're ahead of what they asked for and if it does $8 million, $9 million or $10 million, they've hit the lottery."
Larkin said ticket prices at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff would be scaled so that a crowd of 54,000 would generate a gate of $7.6 million. If it did 70,000, as Larkin says is reasonable, it would be a $9.59 million gate.
He said there is more than enough money to satisfy all parties. The problem, he says, is that the negotiations have all been one-sided.
The Calzaghe side, Larkin said, has made all the offers while DiBella has just kept saying no.
"The only thing they're not getting is a $6 million guarantee to fight here," Larkin said. "But if you are so opposed to fighting in the U.K., where it is obviously a huge fight, then make us an offer. Offer us a sandwich, offer us anything. But we haven't gotten a thing from them."
In boxing, it's always about the money. But there are a couple of boxing points that are also in the way of making the bout.
Steward's not crazy about seeing Taylor go to Wales to fight Calzaghe because it would mean facing a fourth straight left-hander, following Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma and Spinks.
Ozell Nelson, Taylor's amateur coach, doesn't like the bout because of the difficulty Americans seem to have winning in Europe. He pointed out how quickly Calzaghe's fight with Peter Manfredo Jr. was stopped on April 7 in Cardiff.
"Just a couple of little pitty-pat punches in a flurry and they jumped in there and stopped it," Nelson said.
And DiBella doesn't like the fight because he doesn't want to have to rely on someone else's accounting of ticket sales and wants the money to be guaranteed, if, as he puts it, he's being asked to fight the lion in the lion's den.
A source close to Manfredo told Yahoo! Sports that it took more than three weeks for Manfredo to receive his guarantee and that he has yet to receive his share of the gate proceeds.
The Calzaghe-Manfredo bout did a live gate of slightly more than $3 million on an attendance of 35,000. Manfredo was guaranteed 10 percent of all ticket sales over 18,000.
But Larkin said the contract didn't have a timeframe in which Manfredo needed to be paid.
"Let's face it, Lou's a pretty sophisticated lawyer who was educated at Harvard and he knows contracts," Larkin said. "If he's worried about being paid, put it in the contract and he will be paid according to the terms of the contract, I can promise you."
DiBella sneered at Calzaghe's offer to fight Taylor in Taylor's hometown of Little Rock, Ark., for $6 million.
He said the figures that Warren is releasing are figures for the entire promotion.
"Remember, the promoter has to get paid and so does the fighter," DiBella said. "They've never made an offer that would allow Jermain to make $5 million. So for Joe to say, 'I'll take a purse of six (million),' well, believe me, so would Jermain."
Taylor sat on a dais with three men who all want to take his title. Spinks will get the chance to do it on Saturday and Miranda and Pavlik are fighting for the opportunity.
Pavlik promoter Bob Arum said he'd be willing to finance a Taylor-Pavlik card himself on pay-per-view, believing it will be too difficult to get it done with HBO.
Miranda tried to trash talk his way into a Taylor fight, which clearly got the champion angry.
"I don't do all this talking and pounding on the table, I just walk straight up to you and punch you in the mouth," Taylor said. "You want to fight? OK, let's do it. I'll fight anyone. I always have and I always will."
Spinks, who as usual had little to say on Thursday, watched Taylor's rant with a detached bemusement.
Spinks, who doesn't have to worry about any negotiations at this stage, offered some unsolicited advice to those who are looking to make other fights.
"You have to win your fights before you go making other fights," Spinks said. "Don't get caught looking at someone else because you'll lose track of who's right in front of you."