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NEW YORK – In December, as representatives of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were trying to hammer out an agreement to get the world's two best boxers into the ring against one another, every minute detail of the negotiations quickly made its way into the media.
And when Mayweather and Golden Boy Promotions jointly released a statement a few days before Christmas regarding Mayweather's demand for Olympic-style drug testing, instead of pushing the negotiations to a conclusion, it flamed what had been simmering tensions and made the bout impossible to make.
Now, weeks after Pacquiao defeated Joshua Clottey and Mayweather topped Shane Mosley on separate pay-per-view cards, there are hints that talks have picked up. But that's all they are: hints. Because, remarkably, no one is talking publicly.
The principals are so mum that it's not clear that negotiations have commenced.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, has rebuffed all queries about the fight with an abrupt "No comment." He spoke Friday of conceptual issues regarding a venue while at the weigh-in for Saturday's Yuri Foreman-Miguel Cotto super welterweight title fight at Yankee Stadium, but when someone asked about Pacquiao-Mayweather talks, Arum raised his palm.
"I'm not going to talk about Pacquiao and Mayweather, period," Arum said. "It's not going to happen."
Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, who has always been willing to discuss the fight, got the word from Arum and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer and likewise wouldn't offer a thought.
Roach is as close to Pacquiao as anyone in boxing, but would only discuss how he thought the fight would unfold if the two happened to meet.
Roach said he chided Alex Ariza, Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach, for an interview Ariza gave to AOL Fanhouse knocking the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which handled drug testing for the May 1 Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight.
"I want to see this fight happen as much as anyone," Roach said. "That's why we have to shut up and let the people who are going to do the deal do their jobs. It doesn't make sense to say anything."
Schaefer concurred and noted that the public negotiations last time around were a major reason for the fight's failure to be finalized.
He said, "Speaking publicly about the negotiations doesn't help to make the fight and so I'm not going to do it. If you ask me any more questions about the negotiations, maybe you're going to want to hang up the phone because the only answer I'll give you is 'No comment.' "
Arum, holding court with several reporters at Yankee Stadium, said he suspected if the fight is done, it will happen in Las Vegas instead of in Arlington, Texas, at Cowboys Stadium.
That's because, Arum said, Pacquiao attracts extremely high-roller gamblers from Asia so that the casinos can afford to make an offer that no one else could match.
"Manny Pacquiao is, right now, the only athlete or entertainer who can bring in the Asian high rollers in big numbers," Arum said. "They are the only big gamblers who are left. There are very few American high rollers any more. It's all an Asian game. The last guy [before Pacquiao] who could do that was Mike Tyson. They would come for Mike Tyson.
"Now, there are even more big gamblers in Asia. China is a lot different from when Mike Tyson fought. There are many, many more. They [Las Vegas casinos] are all licking their chops for any Pacquiao fight, particularly a Mayweather fight, because any Pacquiao fight will bring in 4,000 of the biggest gamblers in the world. That's a trump card that nobody else has."
Arum said he thought the fight, if it is made, would wind up in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena or at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus sponsored by the high-end Wynn Resort.
Arum said the Las Vegas casinos need those gamblers and are willing to offer almost anything to an entertainer who can bring them in.
Mayweather's pay-per-view numbers have been significantly larger than Pacquiao's, but Arum said that isn't an issue.
"Mayweather can be popular and bring in the people and so forth, but he doesn't bring in the people who are really the big punters, the people who bet $100,000 or $250,000 on a hand of baccarat," Arum said. "I would assume that when the economics are done, that whether it's the MGM or Steve Wynn, they will put up a number over and above what the gate can bring in because of the millions and millions they'll make from having the best Asian customers.
"Whoever gets the fight will get the best customers because they will have the best seats."
Arum is bullish on Cowboys Stadium as a fight venue and drew 51,000 fans there for a March 13 fight between Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey, but he doubted it would work economically.
He said he didn't think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has said he badly wants the fight in his stadium, could make the numbers work without the gambling income that a Las Vegas casino would have.
Arum laughed and shook his head when a reporter said that Jones might throw a pile of money on the table simply in an effort to attract the fight.
"Jerry is the kind of a guy, and he's a great, great guy and he's a big, big risk taker, but he's nobody's fool," Arum said. "Nobody except a degenerate boxing guy like you would spend $100 million just to get a fight there."