A judge floored Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Wednesday before Manny Pacquiao could get the opportunity to do it in the ring.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa sentenced the pound-for-pound boxing champion to 90 days in jail following his guilty plea on a 2010 domestic violence charge, further delaying a mega-money bout between the sport's two greatest stars.
A Mayweather-Pacquiao bout could generate more than $200 million and earn each man in excess of $60 million, but it will have to wait a few more months now after Saragosa unexpectedly let the hammer drop on the boxer known as "Money May."
Mayweather's millions couldn't keep him out of jail despite hiring a pair of high-priced Las Vegas lawyers, Richard Wright and Karen Winckler, and agreeing to plead guilty to lesser charges.
Saragosa sentenced Mayweather to six months, with 90 days suspended, and ordered him to pay a $2,500 fine, attend a year-long domestic violence class, perform 100 hours of community service and remain out of trouble for a year, largely because the incident occurred in front of his children.
The decision once again puts the sport's potential biggest fight in decades, which has been talked about since Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto in late 2009, on hold.
Saragosa's decision also likely made either Juan Manuel Marquez or Timothy Bradley a lot of extra money. Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, was considering Marquez or Bradley as alternatives in case negotiations with Mayweather broke down, as they have so frequently in the past 25 months.
Arum refused to comment on any aspect of Mayweather's situation on Wednesday, including his thoughts on how the sentencing would impact Pacquiao. But with Mayweather unavailable, Pacquiao almost certainly will meet either Marquez or Bradley in bouts that would have nowhere near the luster or garner the kind of worldwide attention that a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would.
There are many who insist there hasn't been a more anticipated fight in boxing since the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight on March 8, 1971.
There have been hundreds of significant bouts since, but there are far fewer stars in boxing now than there were during the 1970s and 1980s, and Mayweather and Pacquiao have become larger than the sport itself.
Arum, who once said that he didn't want it on his epitaph that he was the reason the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight didn't happen, was in no mood to speak about it Wednesday.
"I just want to wish you and your family a very happy holiday and other than that, I have absolutely no comment on anything," Arum said.
A spokeswoman for Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who has promoted Mayweather's last five fights, said he left the office after hearing the news. He did not return telephone calls.
Mayweather had planned to fight on May 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Though Winckler indicated Mayweather is considering an appeal, if he goes to jail on Jan. 6 as ordered to begin serving his sentence, he likely wouldn't be available to fight until sometime in June at the absolute earliest.
Because Mayweather was given credit for three days of time served, if he served the full sentence, he would be released from the Clark County Detention Center on April 2. A top-level boxer needs a training camp of at least eight weeks – and frequently 10 to 12 weeks – to prepare for a major bout such as one against Pacquiao.
Most likely, Mayweather, who turns 35 in February, will wait for the fight until either September or November. The three biggest dates of the year in boxing are generally the first weekend in May, coinciding with Cinco de Mayo, the middle of September for Mexican Independence Day and then in early November.
It is not uncommon for boxers to serve long jail stints and then come out and be successful in the ring once again. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson served three years in prison after a 1992 conviction for rape. He regained the heavyweight title a year after he was released.
But Mayweather, who is 42-0 with 26 knockouts and one of the sport's great defensive fighters, will be at a much more advanced age. Tyson was 26 when he was released from prison. Mayweather, who will be 35 upon his release, is a fighter who relies greatly upon speed, quickness and timing.
Speed and quickness often decline in boxers once they reach their mid-30s, but the effects of imprisonment may accelerate that.
Mayweather, though, has been a physical fitness fanatic who has never weighed as much as 160 pounds in his life and has treated his body properly. He doesn't drink or smoke and is particular about what he eats. That should help him maintain his form longer than most, but he's human and he's subject to the effects of aging like anyone else.
Before he worries about that, however, he must serve his time. An appeal would likely drag on even longer, making a Pacquiao bout less likely.
Mayweather and manager Leonard Ellerbe declined comment upon leaving the court Wednesday, but the fighter will have to consider whether the appeal is worth the risk of putting off the big fight for good. The longer the appeal drags on, the more likely that the fight never occurs.
Saragosa didn't necessarily KO the fight with her ruling on Wednesday, but she did put its prospects on life support.
Now, it's up to Mayweather to decide whether the fight is worth spending the first quarter of the new year at the Clark County Detention Center.
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