Plenty of blame in Pacquiao-Mayweather saga, but one side isn't even trying

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole gets boxing promoter Bob Arum's thoughts on the possibility of a super fight still happening between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Bob Arum celebrated his 83rd birthday on Monday, spending much of his day as he has over the last five years: Talking about a potential Manny Pacquiao fight against Floyd Mayweather.

Arum spoke less on Monday than he often does, which may be a positive sign for those who haven't given up and still long to see the two superstar welterweights in the same ring together.

Because he's an easy target, Arum frequently gets ripped for his role in the fight having not been made. And let's be honest: Anyone who said Arum hasn't had at least some role in the fight not being made is deluding himself.

That said, Arum is not nor has he ever been the biggest obstacle toward getting the fight made.

Arum didn't handle the talks smoothly when they were in the early stages in December 2009. When Mayweather made his demand for random drug testing, Arum scoffed at it and said that Pacquiao was afraid of needles.

That made it look like Pacquiao had something to hide. He's never fully escaped that dark cloud even though he's subsequently said he'd submit to any type of drug test Mayweather requested and he's repeatedly passed a series of tests.

Mayweather wound up with a very persuasive talking point in his favor after Arum bungled the whole drug test affair.

Floyd Mayweather during his boxing match against Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13. (AFP)
Floyd Mayweather during his boxing match against Marcos Maidana on Sept. 13. (AFP)

For all his faults and many errors in his bid to get the fight made, give Arum this: He's trying and he's holding himself accountable to the media and the public. That's a lot more than anyone on the Mayweather side is doing, has done or, frankly, likely ever will do.

Think of how Arum would be excoriated were he to adopt the stance that Mayweather adviser Al Haymon has and simply refuse to talk to the media about anything. It wouldn't be pretty.

But Haymon has gotten a pass from much of the boxing public and from the media for his very large role in the failure to get this fight made because he's simply remained out of touch and unwilling to speak to the media.

The same is true of Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe. I've known Ellerbe since he joined Mayweather in the late 1990s and he's always been an agreeable, nice guy.

But when it comes to getting information on Mayweather and his career, Ellerbe is no better than Haymon. He simply says nothing.

It's not much different when it comes to Mayweather himself. He speaks on the topic occasionally, but more often, he resorts to juvenile jokes at Pacquiao's expense. Not long after Pacquiao's Nov. 22 bout with Chris Algieri, Mayweather posted a photo to Instagram of a knocked-out Pacquiao laying face-down on the canvas after his 2012 fight with Juan Manuel Marquez.

But Mayweather is almost 100 percent inaccessible to media except when he has fights and needs to sell something. The only outlet he talks to outside of when he has a fight scheduled is FightHype.com.

By barricading himself from the media, Mayweather avoids having to answer why the fight everyone wants to see hasn't happened.

Now, it's not like Pacquiao is some great orator and is calling reporters demanding the fight. That's not his style. But he's made clear his intention to take the fight and he'll tell any reporter who bothers to call to ask the same thing.

The Pacquiao side has made itself fully accountable to the media for its role in this debacle. Mayweather's side clearly has not.

Whether they want to or not, though, both sides must take blame for this epic faux pas which will dog their careers long after they're retired.

Manny Pacquiao celebrates after defeating Chris Algieri on Nov. 23. (AP)
Manny Pacquiao celebrates after defeating Chris Algieri on Nov. 23. (AP)

If Mayweather finishes his career with a perfect record, as seems likely, but doesn't fight Pacquiao, which also seems likely, he'll never get fully away from it. There will be a significant number of voters who will withhold support from him for the International Boxing Hall of Fame for not facing the best opponent of his era.

Mayweather will, as he should, be elected on the first ballot, but he won't be unanimous by any stretch if he doesn't face Pacquiao.

But Mayweather doesn't seem to care. He likes to play a numbers game and points to his superior pay-per-view figures.

That isn't the point. The fans want the fight and, as Pacquiao said, deserve it. The sides disagree on purse split, but that's what a negotiating table is for. Yet, there has been no indication from the Mayweather camp it's seriously engaged in talks to make the fight happen.

Pacquiao's pay-per-view number for his Nov. 22 bout with Algieri in Macau hasn't been released, which is all the evidence you need to know in order to understand it's vastly less than was expected.

Multiple sources have told Yahoo Sports the figure falls somewhere between 330,000 and 350,000. Arum said he'd been hoping it would do around 500,000, perhaps a little more.

On Monday, Arum said the fight sold slightly more than 400,000, but said it was less than the 475,000 that Pacquiao did on his first trip to Macau for a 2013 bout with Brandon Rios. That conflicts with the figures Yahoo has obtained but even if Arum's number is used, it's still almost a 20 percent decline from what Arum expected and 15 percent less than the Rios fight did.

HBO's Mark Taffet, probably the foremost pay-per-view guru on the planet, refused to discuss numbers for Pacquiao-Algieri, saying he wasn't authorized to speak by either Arum or Top Rank president Todd duBoef. Taffet also declined to speak on the record about Pacquiao's status as pay-per-view attraction even in general terms.

Pay-per-view has suffered across all forms of fighting in 2014. Mayweather, for instance, averaged 1.54 million pay-per-view sales from 2007 through 2012.

His average for his four fights in 2013 and 2014, if you believe the 1 million number Showtime released for his 2013 bout with Robert Guerrero that many disbelieve, is 992,000.

That's an average decline of over 500,000 pay-per-view sales a show despite his 2013 bout with Canelo Alvarez doing 2.2 million.

The UFC has seen a major pay-per-view decline that began in 2013 and continued through this year, though Saturday's bout at Mandalay Bay appears to have reversed the trend to a certain degree. Final figures aren't in for that card, but indicators are that it will be better than most pre-fight estimates.

Manny Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum head to a meeting in San Francisco. (Chris Farina/Top Rank)
Manny Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum head to a meeting in San Francisco. (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

The WWE has also experienced issues with sales. Arum conceded that pay-per-view is not a rollicking business at this stage, but said it's nothing new.

"From 1976, after the [Ken] Norton-[Muhammad] Ali fight at Yankee Stadium until June 1980, the closed circuit market dried up," Arum said. "It didn't come back until the [Roberto] Duran-[Ray] Leonard fight in Montreal in June 1980. This happens in boxing.

"Mistakes are being made. I think the first one and the most significant one that's being made is price. We're at the upper, upper limit of what we can charge and reasonably expect people to buy and I think in most cases, we're charging way too much."

Despite his tepid pay-per-view sales, Arum said he didn't lose money on Pacquiao-Algieri because of the large site fee The Venetian Macao paid to host the fight.

Arum said that Ali-Joe Frazier III, which took place in The Philippines, was the worst-performing of the three epic matches between the men because it emanated from outside of the U.S. He said the Ali-George Foreman bout, which was in the country formerly known as Zaire, also underperformed on close circuit.

"We knew it would take a hit by going over there, but we thought we'd be able to work it a bit," Arum said. "But what we've learned is that you're losing 40 to 50 percent of your sales by going over there than it would if it came from somewhere in the United States."

Long-time boxing executive Akbar Muhammad put out two press releases recently announcing he'd put together a group from the Middle East that was offering in excess of $200 million for a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and that it would be in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is a sovereign wealth fund believed to be worth more than $500 billion.

But nobody seems to be taking Muhammad's offer seriously, at least publicly. Arum was reticent to speak much publicly about what is going on, which is totally unlike him. Arum may be one of the worst in sports at keeping a secret.

That he even admitted to having talks with Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS Corp. about putting a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight together infuriated duBoef.

Floyd Mayweather celebrates after beating Marcos Maidana. (AP)
Floyd Mayweather celebrates after beating Marcos Maidana. (AP)

Arum told Yahoo Sports on Monday that he has been in contact with Moonves since his return from Macau.

"I don't want to really get into it, but this is no Akbar Muhammad [expletive]; I'm talking with the chairman of CBS and he has a lot better things to do than talk to me if it's not for the purpose of [putting the fight together]," Arum said.

Knowing the sensitivities involved, Arum's cautious words alone may be enough to scuttle the fight.

But he's trying and he's at least putting himself on the line.

The same can't be said for the other side.

Haymon has done a great job of signing fighters in and around Pacquiao's weight classes and boxing Arum out. There are no really good potential opponents for Pacquiao other than Mayweather because Haymon has signed virtually all of them and refuses to do business with Arum.

But maneuvering to block a fight the fans desperately want to see isn't good for the business or anyone involved.

It's a travesty that it's gotten this far and it's high time that someone on Team Mayweather makes an honest effort to get it done.