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Even in the best of times, nothing is ever quite as it seems in boxing. When it comes to the unceasing political hard-balling that surrounds the biggest fight that has yet to be, every action and reaction comes with a liberal coating of chicanery.
On the surface, the would-be superfight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao was further away from resolution than ever Sunday, with the drug-testing ruckus – specifically whether and when to draw blood from the fighters – that has stalled discussions remaining unmitigated.
Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum made what he called his "final proposal," suggesting that each camp make representations to the Nevada State Athletic Commission as to why their preferred testing system should be used. Both sides would then be expected to accept the commission's final ruling on a testing format. Arum said that if the Mayweather camp doesn't agree, he would begin negotiations Monday with Paulie Malignaggi as Pacquiao's next opponent.
But Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer indicated to Yahoo! Sports that they would not accept such a proposal, meaning Arum's deadline of Monday morning would not be met.
That means Pacquiao-Malignaggi and not Pacquiao-Mayweather will happen on March 13, right?
Not so fast.
In this feud that operates in a parallel boxing universe, where truth, spin and trickery make awkward bedfellows, ultimatum can mean conciliation. Indeed, with the egos and pride involved on all sides, it could take this fight heading to the brink of collapse before it can actually get sorted out.
Everyone knows what is at stake here, from Arum to Schaefer to the fighters themselves. The magnitude of the fight, the biggest and most lucrative of both fighters' careers, means that negotiations must be made with strength and conviction.
But it is all for nothing if the whole thing goes to shreds, leaving nothing more than a black hole of lost money for both sides.
So Monday, deadline or no, this thing has a ways to run.
"We are prepared to have this handled in a way that is not us deciding or them deciding," said Arum, speaking while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "The commission meets on Jan. 19. Mayweather's people can say why they believe additional testing above what we agreed to is necessary and we can give our viewpoint.
"Let the commission decide. If they come away and decide Manny needs to be blood tested every single [expletive] day, then we will go with that. This is the way to go to give this thing legitimacy. I hope they [Team Mayweather] see reason."
Arum's concession may help swing public opinion in Pacquiao's favor. The Filipino star's arguments that he did not like needles and feared that blood testing within 30 days of the fight would drain him were met with little sympathy.
But it is Mayweather who stands to look unreasonable if he does not accept this proposal. And now we may find out once and for all whether the Pretty Boy's stance over the drug issue was more mired in deep concern that Pacquiao is a steroid cheat or mere posturing aimed at disrupting his opponent.
Either way, there are no guarantees that the Nevada commission would approve the kind of random testing that Mayweather's people want, as it would effectively be an admission that its current policies are ineffective and potentially would set an expensive precedent for future fights.
"It does not make sense for this to become a commission matter," Schaefer told Yahoo! Sports. "This is a contractual matter. The commission did not decide the weights or the purse split or how the foreign television rights would be sold.
"If this is Bob's final ultimatum, then that's what it is. That is his decision if he wants to take that position. I very much hope this fight can be made, but the reason it is at a standstill is because of the way they have handled things."
Ellerbe's response when told of Arum's offer was brief and to the point.
"Random is random," he said. "We are all intelligent people and we know what random testing is. That is what we want and it has not changed."
This to-and-fro negotiation is boxing's biggest fight right now, and it has become a bitter feud. There has to be some give and take – and with millions of dollars and countless reputations on the line, it would still be a surprise if Mayweather-Pacquiao doesn't happen, despite all the bumps in the road.
"This is boxing and it is the boxing business," HBO commentator Larry Merchant said. "Mayweather calls himself 'Money,' so it is hard to see him walking away from this much of it, especially when he thinks he is going to win.
"This would be the biggest fight that has been sabotaged because of a blood feud. No one wants to see it come to that."
- Manny Pacquiao
- Bob Arum