UPDATE: Not long after this story was published, Bob Arum phoned Yahoo Sports to say he received a draft version of the contract at issue. The update is noted in the story below.
LAS VEGAS – Just 23 days before Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are to step into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden for what will be the largest-grossing fight in boxing history, a significant dispute has erupted between the promoters.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, said no contract exists between MGM Resorts and the promoters. Asked point blank if the highly anticipated May 2 fight is in jeopardy, Arum told Yahoo Sports, "I don't know any more. I've never been in this area before."
Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, who has been handling negotiations with MGM, said the notion the fight is in jeopardy is ridiculous.
Ellerbe ripped into Arum and said he is just doing his due diligence to make sure the event does as well as possible.
A deal terms memo was signed between the parties in February, shortly before Mayweather announced on Feb. 20 that he had signed to face Pacquiao. That memo covered items such as how many tickets and rooms would go to the MGM and how many would go to the promoters.
Normally, that is then taken and put into a contract that all parties sign. That has yet to be done and Arum was apoplectic on Wednesday. Speaking with Yahoo Sports, he said in a half century of promoting boxing, he'd never encountered such a situation where there was no signed agreement with the venue three weeks before a major event.
Asked a question about the fight, Arum responded with a question of his own.
"Fight?" he said in a thunderous tone. "We've got nothing. They're [the MGM] going around saying, 'The fight, the fight, blah, blah, blah,' but they got nothing. They have no contract. Nothing. We haven’t even seen a draft. … What is happening now is absolutely intolerable. For the MGM to think that everything is resolved and so forth, when nobody has even discussed terms, is the most insane thing ever."
Ellerbe said the tickets were delivered to the MGM on Wednesday. Yahoo Sports reached out to Richard Sturm, the president of MGM Grand Entertainment and Sports, but did not receive a return call.
Relations between Top Rank and the MGM, particularly Sturm, have been tense ever since Arum blasted Sturm last year before a Pacquiao fight at the MGM. He was angry that there was signage all over the arena for Mayweather's upcoming bout.
Arum called Sturm "a moron" regarding the incident about the signage and said, "He doesn't have a [expletive] clue what the [expletive] he's doing."
Ellerbe said he released a statement about ticket sales and closed-circuit seats on Thursday. He declined to say exactly when they'd go on sale, but insisted it would be shortly.
However, Ellerbe said Arum is simply angry that he can't dictate terms and accused him of creating a controversy where none exists.
"The reason this fight is in Las Vegas is because Floyd Mayweather insisted it be in Las Vegas," Ellerbe said. "It's no secret that Bob is the one who wanted to shop the fight around. You have to remember, he went on a profanity-laced tirade ridiculing the MGM and its management. We're not falling for those tactics. Every time he doesn't get his way, he goes running to the press misrepresenting the facts.
"The bottom line is this: Bob cannot stomach the fact that he is not the lead promoter. Reality has set in, and this is typical Bob. My responsibility is to ensure every deal is done properly, to benefit the fighters and the event."
Ellerbe went on to say that Arum knows full well how many tickets he'll receive as well as how many rooms. He said there is a controversy only because Arum created it.
"This is typical Bob," Ellerbe said. "He has in his possession a draft term sheet with all the deal points. I have been in communication with him and have updated him every step along the way on what is going on and getting his feedback, etc.
"I think he's a terrific promoter, and I want you to write that, if you will. He is without a doubt, a great promoter. But he's also known for erupting when he doesn't get his way and the reality is setting in that he's not the lead promoter."
Arum scoffed at the notion he's creating problems. He said he needs to give information to people who are traveling great distances to come to the fight.
Asked what the issues are, he said primarily allocation of tickets and rooms. He said a deal could be reached between the three sides in a half hour.
"Allocation of tickets [is a significant issue]," Arum said. "How many is the MGM taking? How many are available for the public? Under our contract, Mayweather [Promotions] and us are supposed to get an equal number of tickets. … The point is, this is a whole smelly situation that the MGM has gotten themselves into. And what else is there? Well, what about rooms? How many rooms are you allocating to us? We have people coming in from the Philippines, Manny and so forth. How many rooms are we getting? We’re three weeks out. How can we not know that?"
Just before 7 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, not long after this story was published, Arum phoned Yahoo Sports to say he'd received a draft copy of the contract. Ellerbe later phoned to say he sent the contract via email at 4:11 p.m. Pacific.
"I finally got it and I have sent it to our lawyers to make sure that everything is in order the way the [deal terms] say," Arum said. "So we'll see what the lawyers say."
This was the first major public blow-up between the sides since the deal was made. It may not, however, be the last.