LAS VEGAS – The biggest event in boxing history is rapidly turning into its greatest embarrassment.
And that's saying something considering the long and mostly sordid history of professional boxing.
It's less than two weeks before Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao are scheduled to step into a ring at the MGM Grand Garden on May 2, but incredulously, tickets to the fight aren't on sale yet. Nor are the approximately 50,000 closed-circuit seats in Las Vegas that are supposed to be available for purchase.
Combined, the fighters are expected to collect upwards of $300 million in prize money between them. The bout is expected to easily surpass every financial record ever kept, even adjusting for inflation. Pay-per-view sales could, for the first time, threaten three million.
If there is an event, of course the rich and the famous won't have any worries about accommodations and tickets, even though there unquestionably will be a lot of very rich noses seriously out of joint when they discover their $1,500 tickets are in the upper reaches of the arena.
The average boxing fan, the one who kept this sport alive and kicking through the many dark years, is being hit hardest by this debacle.
Perhaps most frustrating for all fans: the reason the tickets are not on sale as of yet is anybody's guess, since those in a position to know are either pointing fingers in opposite directions, engaging in double talk or choosing not to speak publicly at all.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum placed the blame squarely on Mayweather's adviser, Al Haymon.
Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said Haymon isn't involved in things like ticketing and the deal between the venue and the promoters. Ellerbe pointed the finger back at Arum, saying, "He just can't stomach the fact that he's not the lead promoter."
Haymon doesn't speak to the media and nobody other than his closest confidantes truly knows what he thinks or, more importantly in this case, what his role, if any, might be.
Nobody at MGM Resorts International, including Chairman & CEO James Murren, president Bill Hornbuckle and, most significantly, Richard Sturm, the company's president of entertainment and sports, have been made available to the media or even issued a public statement in explanation.
It's a farce, and it's turning what could be a great sporting event into a question mark. Millions of dollars are floating out the window each day that passes without tickets on sale.
There are only so many feasible explanations:
• One possibility, pushed hard by Top Rank, is that Haymon is orchestrating some maneuver behind the scenes to obtain tickets he could then sell on the secondary market.
• A second possibility is that Mayweather Promotions isn't prepared to accept the responsibilities of staging an event of this magnitude. Ellerbe scoffs at the notion that his team is behind the issues and said it successfully organized Mayweather's recent fights fully on its own. He said despite Golden Boy Promotions' involvement in Mayweather's last few fights, his company successfully ran them start to finish.
• Another explanation is that MGM executives remain angry at Arum for highly incendiary comments Arum made about Sturm prior to the Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley rematch at the MGM Grand in 2014.
• Alternatively, Top Rank could be refusing to sign because it wants a greater say in how the fight is run and how tickets are distributed and feels it will gain leverage the closer to fight time it gets.
• Finally, it seems at least possible, if not unlikely, that tickets are intentionally being withheld in order to prevent scalping and/or counterfeiting. Ellerbe said he had plastic tickets made in an effort to prevent counterfeiting, but one source told Yahoo Sports, "These people can copy a $100 bill, so I don't think they would have a hard time with a plastic ticket."
It's hard to know who is truly at fault because no one is able or willing to produce evidence on the record to conclusively show what is causing the delay.
The net result is that what should have been an extraordinary night is going to wind up being something far less. It's going to be felt most significantly by the boxing fans who desperately want to come to Las Vegas to be part of fight week as well as by the workers in the city who stand to profit from the flood of visitors.
Now, many of those fans are inside the two-week window for purchasing airfare. In some cases, they won't be able to afford it. In others, they're going to have to pay far more. Many fans have said on social media they're canceling their hotel reservations and changing plans to be in Las Vegas.
It seems certain that on fight night, there will be plenty of tickets available at or below face value. Even if the tickets go on sale by Wednesday morning, there simply isn't enough time for ticket brokers to sell them at the prices that had initially been discussed.
Four people not involved in the fight but familiar with the parties involved all told Yahoo Sports they were confident the fight would proceed as scheduled.
One, though, summed up the feelings of many boxing fans when he said, "This makes boxing look terrible and they have [expletive] this up beyond belief."
For those who thought boxing might have fundamentally changed for the better and turned a corner when the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight was finally made, this is a cold, hard reality.
As bizarre as this is, it's nothing more than business as usual in this wacky sport.
Popular Mayweather-Pacquiao video on Yahoo Sports: