This is probably the make-or-break week if the heavily anticipated fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is going to be made. While it isn't impossible for talks to extend into next week and a deal still be reached, at some point or another, each fighter needs to make alternate plans in the event they don't face each other.
Mayweather plans to fight on May 2 in Las Vegas regardless of whether it's Pacquiao or someone else, such as Miguel Cotto. Pacquiao will fight on May 30, most likely against Amir Khan, if a deal can't be finalized for a Mayweather fight.
Pressure on all sides involved is intense from the media and the public. Negotiations have been ongoing on-and-off for five years, and the demand for the fight has never been higher. There is great pressure on Mayweather, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, Showtime Sports executive vice president/general manager Stephen Espinoza and adviser Al Haymon on the one side and on Pacquiao, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, HBO Sports president Ken Hershman, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum and adviser Michael Koncz on the other.
Have no doubt that if a deal is not reached, an angry public will never be fooled again, and the failure to make the fight will harm the careers of all involved.
But HBO Sports has come under particular scrutiny in recent days. Last week, I pointed out how it couldn't afford to be perceived as an obstacle toward making the fight. In a Monday column on MLive.com, David Mayo wrote that the only way the fight happens, in his opinion, is if Pacquiao pressures HBO to make it.
It is incumbent on both sides to stay at the table, but the fact that Time Warner/HBO has little reason to push for Mayweather-Pacquiao this year remains, even while CBS/Showtime has every reason to deliver it, and until the former gets shoved into the negotiating inferno by Pacquiao and/or his promoter Bob Arum, the fight won't get made. And inevitably, because Mayweather plans to fight May 2 regardless who it is, and Pacquiao's backup plan if he doesn't fight Mayweather on May 2 is an alternate date of May 30, guess who has to walk away from the table first?
There have been many similar opinions expressed, in newspapers, online and on sports talk radio.
That prompted HBO Sports to take the unusual step on Monday of putting out a statement at the end of the business day in New York. The statement was not attributed to any single person, but to HBO Sports in general.
Essentially, it said, 'Hey, if this fight doesn't happen, don't blame us.' What this statement means in relation to where the talks stand is anyone's guess, but it's clear that the executives at HBO are feeling the heat from a very demanding fan base.
The statement in its entirety:
We are not an impediment to this fight. We stand ready to go. The principals need to agree to terms and come to a deal.
The principals, of course, are Mayweather and Pacquiao. Pacquiao has repeatedly said he's agreed to anything Mayweather has requested: He'll accept a 60-40 purse split that favors Mayweather. He's agreed to the drug testing protocol that Mayweather wants. He's agreed to fight on the date (May 2) and in the venue (MGM Grand in Las Vegas) that Mayweather wishes. He's agreed to things such as who walks to the ring first and who is introduced last. He's agreed to the type of gloves to be worn.
There isn't much more Pacquiao can do. It's understandable why sometimes Pacquiao feels like he's shooting at a moving target.
But Arum, his promoter, isn't helping the situation and could be hurting it by speaking publicly so often. One day, Arum told Yahoo Sports that there was no deadline on Mayweather to accept and that he had nothing bad to say about him. The next day, he was quoted in a Fightnews.com story saying that Mayweather "was running like a thief."
Arum told reporters last week that the fight was on the verge of occurring, even as Mayweather denied it on social media, and sources on both sides on Friday said a problem had developed that set talks back significantly.
But it's not only Arum.
Mayweather is galavanting around the world, posting to social media, and seemingly enjoying playing the role of a puppeteer. He needs to decide once and for all if he wants to fight Pacquiao. If he does, he needs to quit trying to make everyone jump through hoops and get a deal done.
Boxing has made him rich beyond anyone's wildest dreams and at the very least, he owes it to the fans who have so desperately asked for this fight to give them an honest answer.
If a deal isn't reached, it's going to haunt the careers of Messrs. Mayweather, Pacquiao, Haymon, Koncz, Moonves, Espinoza, Plepler, Hersman and Arum. It is, unquestionably, going to be harmful to their businesses going forward.
HBO seems to get that and put out a pre-emptive strike.
But rather than worry about what is going on in the media, it's high time that HBO, and all others involved, get together and stay together until the fight is made.