COMMENTARY | It's debatable as to who would've won the dream fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, but there's no question as to who won the public relations war between the two superstars.
Top Rank Promotions and their head honcho, Bob Arum, absolutely owned their opposition at Team Mayweather in the back and forth war of words during nearly three years of media-aimed posturing.
Rumors were floated out as truth and non-stories became headline-grabbers as Arum completely owned the scoop-hungry boxing media. Public perception was shaped by the aged promoter's stories of fantastic money offers allegedly coming from mysterious, unnamed financial backers, thwarted by Mayweather's refusal to fight. Half-substantiated stories of Pacquiao's willingness to make any and all concessions to make the fight were printed as absolute fact. Arum even had the Hall of Fame audacity to issue a well-publicized contract signing deadline to Mayweather in 2010, later admitting to never having even met with anyone from Team Mayweather about a possible bout.
There's no doubt about it, Arum hit first, hit hardest, and usually got the last shot as well. Mayweather, without the business and public relations acumen of his former promoter, took a beating in the media. As a result, many fans still carry with them the idea that Mayweather-Pacquiao never happened because Floyd was simply "scared." No matter what happens from here on out, this perception will stick, regardless of what really happened.
Golden Boy Promotions' CEO, Richard Schaefer has apparently learned a lesson or two from the Floyd-Manny fiasco before taking on the difficult task of securing a junior featherweight title unification bout with Nonito Donaire for his fighter, Abner Mares.
Preliminary talks had been going on between representatives of both Donaire and Mares, but they weren't really going anywhere. Arum was reluctant to loan out his fighter, Donaire, and was insisting on having full promotional control of the bout. And, to make matters worse, the money he was willing to invest just wasn't realistic if he had any real interest in making the fight-- reportedly a flat $1 million that Mares, his management, and Golden Boy would have to divvy up.
The preliminary offer, described by Schaefer as "low ball," was not worth seriously considering for such a large fight. Perhaps, that was the point. A rejected money offer from Top Rank to Team Mares would clear Team Donaire of any blame associated with not making the fight and would free them to explore other bouts. This might not have been the case in this particular instance, but the strategy has been used many times by many management-types in the past. It's an old school way of saving face while saving hide.
Whatever the case, Schaefer and Golden Boy went directly to the public and issued the much-talked-about $3 million counteroffer for Top Rank to step aside and green light the proposed bout.
With this deal, Donaire would likely double his previous career-high purse. Top Rank would be risking one of their marquee fighters in a tough match-up, but would essentially be taking free money just for going along with the deal. Golden Boy, as the lead promoter, would be absorbing all the cost of putting on the show and making all the effort to actually handle the event particulars.
Schaefer has gone on record as saying that his company is not asking for any options on Donaire, nor are they looking to take any shots at Top Rank. They are even willing to guarantee that Donaire could come out second during the ring walks and get top billing on the fight poster, if it comes down to such minute details. Recently, another potential roadblock was removed as Schaefer was reportedly fine with Arum's "HBO-only" condition.
Only time will tell whether this is actually a fight that Arum wants for his guy. Smaller fights for Donaire offer more security and a bout with Top Rank's Guillermo Rigondeaux would provide almost as much street cred for Nonito while allowing Arum to retain full control of the event.
Sadly, it's quite possible that Donaire-Mares will go the way of Pacquiao-Mayweather.
But, by taking the initiative and forcing the negotiations into the public arena, Golden Boy has created a win-win scenario for themselves. If the fight doesn't get made, Mares gets all the credit for at least trying to make the bout while Arum and Donaire would take some serious shots to their public image.
There's little question that Donaire, who is one of the most talented fighters in the sport and the 2012 Fighter of the Year, would be willing to take the risk of a Mares fight. The question is whether Arum's plans for Donaire preclude any such risk-taking behavior.
Meanwhile, unlike the relative novices within Team Mayweather, Golden Boy has managed to back the master media manipulator into a corner and, this time, there's no easy way out.
Rumors that Top Rank has turned down the $3 million offer are just that-- Rumors. Until something binding is issued via public statement, hope is still alive. But, given Arum's history of keeping fights "in house" and under his control, fans shouldn't be too optimistic about Donaire-Mares happening anytime soon.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Dan Rafael, Golden Boy offers $3M for fight, ESPN