LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao was upstairs in the bedroom of his suite at the MGM Grand over the weekend, catching a nap after a long day of giving a deposition in a defamation lawsuit he filed in 2010 against fellow superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
A little after 5 p.m., his dinner of steak, rice and asparagus was delivered, where it sat, untouched, for nearly 90 minutes. Finally, Pacquiao slowly, sleepily made his way down the stairs. He greeted me with a wan smile and headed to the dining room table. He bowed his head in silent prayer, then poured steak sauce over his food.
He didn't dig in immediately, and was almost like a child forced by his parents to stay at the table until he cleared his plate. He ran his fork aimlessly through the rice, not seeming particularly hungry or eager to talk.
It wasn't until the subject of a potential bout with Mayweather came up – the topic that no one fails to raise with him – that he seemed to awaken. Suddenly, Pacquiao shook the sleep from his eyes to defend himself against an incessant Mayweather campaign that has painted him as a reluctant warrior.
In the weeks before Mayweather announced Jan. 31 that he would fight Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden on May 5, Mayweather waged a public campaign for a bout with Pacquiao. He posted on Twitter and spoke at news conferences, using every opportunity to make it seem that Pacquiao was avoiding the big match.
Mayweather, it was suggested to Pacquiao, is winning the public relations contest handily, at least in the U.S. At that, Pacquiao looked up from his plate and put down his fork. His eyes widened and he leaned forward, staring intently across the table.
"He talks, he says all this, but you know what: He doesn't want the fight," Pacquiao firmly told Yahoo! Sports in an exclusive interview. "I want the fight. I'm the one who has wanted this fight all along."
Not long after he was granted a conditional boxing license by the Nevada Athletic Commission to fight Cotto, Mayweather made a big deal of Pacquiao turning down a $40 million guarantee to fight him.
But Pacquiao said that was simply a bluff, a public relations stunt that didn't bear any semblance to reality.
"He offered me $40 million, and no pay-per-view [money]," Pacquiao said, breaking into a laugh. "No pay-per-view. Can you believe that? Would you do that? Come on. What would he say if I offered him $50 million – not $40 million, $50 million – and said 'No pay-per-view. Take this money and be happy, but no pay-per-view.' He wouldn't do it, either."
The fight, if it ever happens, would pit the two best fighters and the two biggest draws in the sport against one another. It would likely generate more than $160 million in pay-per-view revenue in the U.S. alone.
Mayweather phoned Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz in the Philippines on Jan. 19 and asked to speak to Pacquiao. Mayweather then told Pacquiao he'd offer him $40 million, which Mayweather later told the media "is far more than he's ever made."
Pacquiao said he wanted to fight, but that $40 million flat wasn't nearly fair.
"I told him, 'OK, 50-50 [with the money] and I'll agree to everything else,' " Pacquiao said. "I told him I would agree to all of the other things he was demanding. Everything. Even the blood testing he wanted, I would do it. But it had to be 50-50."
Pacquiao said he told Koncz to offer Mayweather a guarantee of $50 million with the rest of the revenue being split, with 55 percent going to the winner and 45 percent going to the loser.
There was no response from Mayweather's side, Pacquiao said.
"Manny authorized me to do that and I went forward with it, but it went nowhere," Koncz said. "That was it."
Mayweather's manager, Leonard Ellerbe, denied such an offer was made and suggested it was a stunt dreamed up by Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum.
Ellerbe said, "Pacquiao is lying" about the offer and said the conversation with Mayweather lasted only two minutes.
"What Manny Pacquiao has to understand, and I don't think he understands this part, is that if the fight ever comes off, he'll never make the kind of money that Floyd makes," Ellerbe said. "That's simply because of the structure of his terrible deal with his promoter.
"[Pacquiao] is a guy who doesn't know what he makes fight to fight. He has no idea of where the revenue comes from. There's no way he's going to come up with something like that [offer] off the top of his dome."
Pacquiao said that once Mayweather came to an agreement to fight Cotto, he chose Bradley over Juan Manuel Marquez because he thought it would be better business.
Pacquiao and Marquez have fought three times, most recently Nov. 12, with Pacquiao winning the last two after the first was a draw. Arum said after the Nov. 12 match, which many believe Marquez deserved to win, that he'd probably arrange a rematch.
As Pacquiao considered his options for his next fight, he thought it would be best to put distance between the fights.
"Would you want to see the same movie again?" he said.
The movie may not have been the same had Pacquiao been at his best for Marquez. Pacquiao said Saturday that he "underestimated" Marquez and that he didn't do plyometrics training.
Pacquiao and Marquez fought to a draw at featherweight in 2004, then Pacquiao won a split decision in a super featherweight bout in 2008. Marquez had only moved up to lightweight since then, while Pacquiao became a full-fledged welterweight.
In Marquez's only fight above lightweight prior to meeting Pacquiao on Nov. 12, he was routed at welterweight by Mayweather. It was clear in the Mayweather fight that he was too small for the division.
That clearly didn't escape Pacquiao's notice.
"I underestimated him," Pacquiao said. "I thought he was small, and that I would have no problems. It was a mistake. I shouldn't have underestimated him."
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- Manny Pacquiao