Despite the millions of dollars to be made in a potential fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday the fight wouldn't happen if it were solely his choice.
Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and used to promote Mayweather, said that despite his personal feelings, he'll do everything in his power to make the fight because the public so desperately wants to see it.
Each man has a legitimate claim to the top pound-for-pound ranking. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer calls them "1 and 1A" and likened them fighting to seeing a basketball game with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant playing each other in their primes.
Schaefer predicted on Monday that a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout could sell as many as five million pay-per-view units, more than double the record set in 2007 when Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya combined to sell 2.45 million.
Boxing has had one of its best years in 2009 and Arum said he doesn't want to jeopardize the progress the sport has made by standing in the way of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, despite his personal feelings.
"The only reason I want this Mayweather fight is because the public wants it so badly," Arum said. "Boxing is on a real, real roll right now and I don't want to do anything to get it off that. But if that doesn't matter to him, OK, it doesn't matter to him. I have no problem.
"But I would feel I cheated the sport I've worked in for so long if I stood in the way of this fight happening. Because of that, I'll do everything in my power to try to make it happen. Do I really want this happening, though? Other than that, the answer is no."
Arum and Mayweather have long had a contentious relationship and split for good in 2006. Mayweather was unhappy that he had never fought in a pay-per-view fight while under Arum's promotional umbrella and felt Top Rank, Arum's company, was not marketing him properly.
Despite his 40-0 record and wins over 13 world champions, Mayweather has come under criticism in recent years for failing to face top competition. He has been excoriated by many in the media for choosing to fight Juan Manuel Marquez.
At the time of their Sept. 19 bout, which Mayweather won by a wide decision, Marquez held the World Boxing Council lightweight title and had never fought at welterweight.
Mayweather and his camp members have long been sensitive to allegations he's dodged tough fights. And, on May 13, 1999, Arum was quoted in a New York Times article about his efforts to make a fight between Mayweather and Shane Mosley. Mosley, though, was not interested.
Mayweather also has said he sought a fight with Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao stopped in the 12th round Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a masterful performance. Cotto entered the fight with a 34-1 record, but Mayweather's attorney said Mayweather was desperate for a bout with Cotto at least five years ago, when both were unbeaten.
In an e-mail to Yahoo! Sports, Mayweather attorney John Hornewer described a meeting he and now Mayweather manager Leonard Ellerbe had at the Top Rank offices with Arum and Top Rank president Todd duBoef.
"Leonard and I both proposed Cotto as a great opponent for Floyd," Hornewer wrote. "We felt that it was a big fight and that Cotto couldn't get out of the way of a right hand and [it] would be a fantastic win for Floyd against an undefeated Puerto Rican opponent. Bob and Todd dismissed the proposition outright as not being "ripe" and stated that they did not feel that Cotto was anywhere near ready for Floyd and would not be for a long time. They wanted to develop Cotto on a separate track that they hoped would build up to a mega-fight in the distant future."
Arum became angry when asked about Hornewer's allegations. He denied that such a request was made and said he would have jumped at it because his matchmaker, the highly regarded Bruce Trampler, was of the opinion that Cotto would handle Mayweather.
Arum said he doesn't believe such a meeting occurred.
"That is absolutely, categorically a lie," Arum said. "They never, ever asked to fight Cotto. I swear to you on all that is holy, that is absolute, complete nonsense. We would have done that in a second. Bruce was of the opinion that Cotto would have run Mayweather out of the ring."
Arum would not say whether he had begun talks with Schaefer about a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, saying "that's confidential." Golden Boy, though, technically is not Mayweather's promoter and Schaefer can't negotiate until he is given word that Mayweather wants to use Golden Boy again.
Schaefer said he anticipates receiving the go-ahead, saying "based on the good relationship that exists between Golden Boy and Team Mayweather and the discussions we've had, I would expect that to be the case."
Though Top Rank and Golden Boy have frequently been at odds, Arum said he works well with Schaefer and believes he could come to an equitable deal with him.
Mayweather has made few public statements since the fight, but released a statement on Monday in which he noted that Pacquiao has never called him out directly.
Arum declined to make Pacquiao available to Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday to ask the question directly if he wanted to fight Mayweather. Though he has given every indication he wants the fight, Pacquiao, per his post-fight custom, did not mention a specific opponent. When asked directly if he wanted to fight Mayweather, Pacquiao said he would fight whomever Arum told him to fight. He went on to say it is his job to fight and Arum's job to arrange the fights.
Arum said he wouldn't put Pacquiao on the telephone with Yahoo! Sports because he had already made it clear he wanted the fight.
However, Arum said once Schaefer is able to come to the table, he thinks he'll be able to work out a deal.
"Richard and I are business friends," Arum said. "We have a good relationship, if competitors can have a good relationship. I would describe as good the way we work with each other. Richard is a business guy and is a smart guy and we would have very, very few problems in negotiations.
"Once he's authorized, things will proceed. I'm not going to play Mayweather's games, though. I'm not going to let my fighter play Mayweather's games. If Mayweather wants to fight Pacquiao and make a lot of money, he can do so. But God love him, no one is forcing him to fight and if he wants to play games or he doesn't want the fight, he can do what he wants."
Arum said if he can't make a deal for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, he'll pursue a third bout between Pacquiao and Marquez. They drew in 2004 and Pacquiao won a split decision in 2008. Both fights were spectacular matches.