Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer was desperately trying to reignite talks Friday to salvage the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight even as Pacquiao's chief adviser said the Filipino superstar is "hours away" from signing a contract to fight Joshua Clottey.
Since the start of negotiations for a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight began in mid-November, Mayweather demanded random, Olympic-style drug testing administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which would have meant that both fighters were subject to random blood and urine testing up to and including the day before the proposed March 13 fight. Pacquiao rejected the offer, agreeing to unlimited urine tests but demanding that any blood tests be cut off no later than 30 days before the fight.
The sides had quickly agreed on most points in the negotiations and the drug-testing dispute has been the only sticking point in the last month in an attempt to make the bout between the men widely regarded as the top two fighters in the world.
The highly anticipated bout seemed to be going down the drain Friday afternoon as Pacquiao adviser Mike Koncz told Yahoo! Sports by telephone from the Philippines that "we've moved on and are getting ready to sign a contract to fight Clottey."
Schaefer, whose company is representing Mayweather in the talks, said Friday he isn't sure Pacquiao is aware that Mayweather agreed to cut off testing 14 days before the fight and to have it administered by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Bruce Binkow, the chief marketing officer of Golden Boy Promotions, on Dec. 30 offered a 14-day cutoff as a compromise via instant message to Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who replied on Dec. 31 that "14 is no good."
Schaefer said he believes the fight can be salvaged over the weekend and the first step is making certain that Pacquiao is aware of Mayweather's 14-day offer. "There are reports [on the Internet] that Manny is not aware of this and we want to make certain that he knows what Floyd has agreed to do," Schaefer said.
However, Koncz said he was informed of the offer by promoter Bob Arum and that he brought it directly to Pacquiao, who would not even consider it. Koncz said Pacquiao was very firm in his decision.
"Bob called and told us about the 14 days and I brought that to Manny and he said, 'I told you, we're not agreeing to that,' and that was pretty much it," Koncz said.
Schaefer called Mayweather's offer "a very fair, very reasonable compromise solution" and said Mayweather is still eager to fight Pacquiao on March 13. Both Schaefer and Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe have denied speaking to any potential other opponents, though Mayweather has been linked through numerous published reports with Paulie Malignaggi.
"We've focused solely on getting a fight done with Manny Pacquiao and that's it," Ellerbe said.
But Arum said he contacted MGM Grand officials about staging a Pacquiao-Clottey fight in its arena on that date and said he was told the MGM was holding it for a Mayweather-Malignaggi fight. Arum said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is sending his private plane to Las Vegas on Saturday to pick up he and duBoef to bring them to Dallas, where they will attend the Cowboys' playoff game with the Philadelphia Eagles and discuss staging the March 13 bout in Cowboys Stadium.
Schaefer, though, said he hoped he could revive talks over the weekend because he feels a deal is reachable. Arum scoffed at the talk and said no one from Mayweather's side had contacted anyone from Top Rank on Friday with the idea of reopening talks.
It is too important for the sport, Schaefer said, to exhaust all possibilities before moving on to other options.
"It would be a disservice to boxing to consider any other names when we still have a few days where we could come to a deal," Schaefer said. "We still do have a few days here and I'm hopeful it won't take Manny Pacquiao a few days to respond. We're ready to split this in the middle and other than this, everything else is ready to go."
Ellerbe said the drug-testing procedure will be a part of every fight Mayweather is involved in for the rest of his career.
That will likely make it impossible to resurrect talks for a fight with Pacquiao in the fall. Koncz said Pacquiao made several major concessions, such as agreeing for the fight to be called "Mayweather-Pacquiao" in the U.S. instead of the other way around, that he won't make if negotiations are reopened for a fight later in the year.
"Manny would be willing to fight Mayweather, but the tenor of negotiations would be a lot different in the future," Koncz said. "Manny was very accommodating before, because he wanted to get this fight done and to satisfy the fans, who wanted it very much. Billing is important to Manny, but he gave that up to accommodate Mayweather's ego because [Manny] wants to go out as the best fighter there ever was and, clearly, Mayweather is one of the best.
"But given what happened, Manny won't make those concessions if they come back to us."
Dr. Don H. Catlin, the head of the Los Angeles-based non-profit Anti-Doping Research, Inc., said a 24-day cutoff for blood testing is not sufficient to prevent abuse. One of the concerns with such a long blood-testing cutoff prior to the date of competition would be the potential use of Erythropoietin, or EPO.
But Catlin said that wouldn't be the only concern if there were a 24-day cutoff imposed.
"If you have a 24-day window that's free, with no testing, you can take whatever you want and you're not going to get caught, end of story," Catlin said. "[Urine testing] does matter, yes, but they're not going to catch everything by urine testing alone. What you would do is to take Mircera [a type of EPO], which is available and which is not easy to detect in urine and away you go. You need a blood test."
Arum said he understands that commissions may request additional testing of Pacquiao in the future because of the controversy raised during talks for a Mayweather fight, but he said neither he nor Pacquiao would have an issue with it.
Arum said an athletic commission would treat the fighters properly. Pacquiao believes he'll be weakened by giving blood too close to an event. And while there is no medical evidence to back his claim, it could harm him psychologically.
"It's the commission and if you have confidence in the commission, you will agree to abide by whatever they request," Arum said. "But you know they'll take the phobia of the fighters, and so forth, into account whenever they order what tests they deem appropriate."