There was a major breakthrough in the ticket debacle between Top Rank and Mayweather Promotions that has brought talk about the May 2 mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to a standstill.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef confirmed to Yahoo Sports he received a ticket manifest late afternoon Tuesday, which he said represents significant progress in the dispute. DuBoef said there were "small issues" with the manifest but he was generally pleased with what he saw.
It is a step forward toward getting a deal done.
"This is very positive news," duBoef told Yahoo Sports after going over the manifest.
Michael Koncz, Pacquiao's adviser, angrily said a "lawsuit is inevitable" earlier Tuesday as another day passed with no tickets on sale and no signed contract between the promoters and the venue for the May 2 megafight at the MGM Grand Garden between Pacquiao and unbeaten rival Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather Promotions is the lead promoter in the event, but Top Rank, which represents Pacquiao, is the co-promoter. However, there is not a signed agreement between the promoters and the MGM Grand yet and tickets haven't been put on sale.
Top Rank has not promoted a fight at the MGM Grand since April 12, 2014, when Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley. At the news conference for that fight, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum blasted Richard Sturm, president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts. He was angry that there were banners up promoting Mayweather's May 2014 bout with Marcos Maidana throughout the hotel while he was still promoting the Pacquiao-Bradley fight.
Like Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, and Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya, Koncz blamed Mayweather adviser Al Haymon for the issues and said he didn't think the MGM was doing anything to hold up the deal.
"The MGM is a publicly traded company and they have a duty to their investors and their shareholders to maximize the earnings," Koncz said. "I don't believe the MGM has anything to do with this, I really don't. I have sources at the MGM and I don't want to burn any bridges, but it's pretty clear to me this isn't the MGM's doing. There might still be some hard feelings toward Bob because of what he said about Richard Sturm, but that's not really what is going on and it has no impact on the tickets.
"This is Haymon and Haymon alone. He is trying to keep us from getting what we're due in the agreement we signed."
Told that Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said Haymon had nothing to do with the tickets or the contract with the MGM, Koncz blasted Ellerbe and said Ellerbe only did what Haymon told him to do.
Ellerbe has no decision-making authority, Koncz said, and essentially serves as a front man. Because Haymon is a licensed manager in Nevada, he can not serve as a promoter because being a promoter and a manager simultaneously is outlawed by the federal Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.
"Ellerbe is just a puppet," Koncz said. "Haymon's back there pulling the strings. There was an agreement signed back in February that specified that both sides have to be signatories to [the contract with the MGM]. Now, all of a sudden, after we did all this work to get a deal done, they don't want to live up to the deal they signed. I believe a lawsuit is inevitable."
Ellerbe failed to return messages to Yahoo Sports on Tuesday seeking comment or to provide an update on tickets. However, Yahoo Sports spent more than an hour on Friday with Ellerbe in his Las Vegas office in an attempt to fully understand why tickets have yet to be released.
The theme that Ellerbe repeatedly went back to during that interview was that Arum is upset because the agreement he signed in February doesn't give him control. And Ellerbe ridiculed Koncz and said it was laughable that he would speak publicly since he wasn't involved in the talks in any manner.
"Michael Koncz doesn't know a thing about this," Ellerbe said Friday. "Why is he opening his mouth when he wasn't involved in it all all? At all!"
After an April 8 Yahoo Sports story brought light to the issue, Ellerbe sent Top Rank a copy of the contract later that day. But thus far, Arum has refused to sign it, saying it is not what he agreed to. Ellerbe insists it is.
Given that Top Rank has finally received the ticket manifest, the problem is much closer to a resolution even though it isn't done.
"I am an optimist and I hope we come to an agreement that avoids lawsuits and that they do the right thing," Arum said earlier Tuesday before receiving the manifest. "But a deal is a deal. A couple of months ago, we finalized a deal that we negotiated back and forth. It was very difficult and it took a tremendously long time to get it done. It was a very, very hard, difficult negotiation, and it only happened because Les Moonves [CEO and president of CBS] did a great job of getting everyone together and making the deal happen.
"We had an agreement between Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather, Top Rank and Mayweather Promotions and what was provided for in that agreement is that both parties would be signatories to the deal and both would be equally provided tickets, etc., etc."
Arum said his wife, Lovee, called MGM Resorts president Bill Hornbuckle. She put Hornbuckle on the line, Arum said. According to Bob Arum, Hornbuckle told Arum's wife, "We made a deal with Al Haymon," regarding tickets.
Haymon doesn't speak to the media and Hornbuckle couldn't be reached.
Arum said the MGM gets 40 percent of the tickets per the agreement the sides reached in February. But he said that if the MGM chooses to take fewer than 40 percent, those tickets it doesn't take are to be split equally between the promoters.
"This all started to go down hill when Haymon wanted to control the tickets and deprive us of our rights," Arum said. "We have commitments to Manny, to HBO and so forth for certain amounts of tickets. We know now that the MGM only wants to use 28 percent of the tickets, and the other 12 percent are going to go to Haymon so he can sell them on the secondary market and make a fortune."
Pacquiao said he is concerned about the lack of ticket sales and called it "most bizarre," but said it hasn't distracted him because he continues to train and has left that issue to his team. Pacquiao said he doesn't believe the fight is in danger of being canceled, though.
"This fight is too important to boxing," Pacquiao said. "There is too much at stake."
Only 500 tickets are expected to be available to the public, with 100 each available at $7,500; $5,000; $3,500; $2,500; and $1,500.