There were a lot of eyebrows raised and a bit of furor created when TMZ Sports posted a story on Tuesday claiming that legendary former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali regarded himself as "Team Pacquiao."
Manny Pacquiao is preparing in Los Angeles to fight Floyd Mayweather on May 2 in Los Angeles in arguably the most hyped boxing match since Ali's first fight with Smokin' Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971.
Media outlets are devoting extensive coverage to the bout and seeking comment on it from anyone with any connection to the fight game (as well as from many without any connection).
TMZ quoted Ali's daughter, Rasheda, a Las Vegas resident as saying, "My Dad is Team Pacquiao all the way." She also was quoted as saying, "He knows Manny's a great fighter ... but it's more about what he does outside the ring. He's such a charitable person."
About Mayweather, TMZ quoted her as saying, "My Dad stood for things. Mayweather ... I don't think there's a comparison."
The story became big news and was picked up all over the world. The problem is, Ali himself is denying having picked sides.
His publicist released a statement saying Ali hasn't offered his opinion to anyone.
His entire statement:
Earlier this week it was reported that Muhammad Ali picked a favorite in the upcoming Mayweather/Pacquiao fight on May 2. Muhammad Ali would like to wish both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao well in their upcoming fight. Muhammad never offered to anyone his prediction and information that was published earlier this week and picked up by other media is either a misquote or someone else’s personal opinion. The stories saying that Muhammad Ali has chosen a favorite in the fight are false. Muhammad has the utmost respect for both fighters who will undoubtedly give boxing fans an incredible match. He believes the significance of this fight will rival other historic matches. Muhammad Ali will join the rest of the world on May 2 to watch this match-up.
Ali hasn't attended a fight in years, but is expected to attend the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame ceremony on Aug. 8 in Las Vegas if his health permits.