After five years, relief and exultation for those in Money-Manny talks

After five years, relief and exultation for those in Money-Manny talks

A few days before Manny Pacquiao was to step into the ring in Cotai Arena in Macau, China, to face Chris Algieri, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum sidled up to a pair of reporters in the media center and was eager to share a secret.

He'd privately been holding talks with CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and HBO CEO Richard Plepler about taking one last crack at making a bout between Pacquiao and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.

That had proven impossible to make for the better part of five years at that point, but Arum is nothing if not persistent.

And though there were many skeptics who scoffed when the news got out, Arum got the last laugh.

Mayweather announced the fight on Friday afternoon via his social media app, Shots, tweeting a photo of the signed contract for the May 2 welterweight bout in Las Vegas. And Stephen Espinoza, the executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports, credited Moonves' involvement with getting the deal for what is expected to be the richest fight in history across the finish line.

CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves.
CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves.

"One of the main reasons why this deal got done, as opposed to deals in the past, was because Leslie Moonves was a part of the process," Espinoza said during a conference call shortly after the fight was official. "He was deeply committed to making this deal and was someone that all parties in this negotiation really respect. He was really the catalyst for seeing this through and refused to take no for an answer from any side."

Mayweather told Yahoo Sports that he was confident all along that he'd get the fight done, but not everyone shared his optimism over the last five years.

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, and Michael Koncz, Pacquiao's adviser, put in hours upon hours of hard work to get the match made. Ellerbe said that after Mayweather's victory over Marcos Maidana in September, he made it clear to his team that he wanted to face Pacquiao next.

"Of course we're all very pleased and excited to have gotten this deal done," Ellerbe said. "Floyd insisted from the very beginning that this fight had to happen. He took the initiative to go meet Manny at the basketball game and that played a big role. You also can't overlook the tireless efforts of Les Moonves. With all of that, the deal finally came together."

Nearly all sides agreed that the turning point came when the fighters met at an NBA game in Miami on Jan. 27. Pacquiao had been in Miami to act as a judge in the Miss Universe pageant on Jan. 25, but because of poor weather on the East Coast on Jan. 27, his flight to Los Angeles was scrapped. He's a friend of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra and opted to go to the game.

Mayweather, who has a home in Miami and is a big NBA fan, went to the game and at halftime, spoke with Pacquiao. Later, they met in Pacquiao's hotel room.

Floyd Mayweather (L), Manny Pacquiao (M) and Michael Koncz (R) speak at an NBA game in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 27.
Floyd Mayweather (L), Manny Pacquiao (M) and Michael Koncz (R) speak at an NBA game in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 27.

Koncz said he never once in the five years of on-again, off-again talks was confident the fight would be made. It was only after they spent time in the hotel room together that things changed, Koncz said.

"Once we met with Floyd, everything changed completely," Koncz said. "No question about it. I have to give a lot of credit to Floyd. We knew he was serious at that point and he wanted to get this thing done, and I think he saw that in us. And that got things moving."

It didn't become official until shortly after 6 p.m. ET Friday when Mayweather made his post. All sides had agreed to let Mayweather make the announcement first.

When it came, there was a lot of relief and plenty of joy on all sides. And Koncz said Pacquiao is happy for one reason other than the massive purse he'll earn.

"He's tired that fans keep asking him about when he would fight Floyd," Koncz said. "Everywhere we'd go, for years and years, the fans and all of you guys [in the media], it didn't matter, everyone asked the same question: 'When are you fighting Mayweather?' Manny is grateful the fight is done and now the fans will get to see the two best fighters in the world try to prove which of them is really the best."