Boxing’s Great Weakness

In every other sport, we see the best vie with the best for props and trinkets. In boxing, the best control their own fate.

The downside? No champs.

Here is Kevin Iole interviewing Manny (via BLH):

Mayweather, it was suggested to Pacquiao, is winning the public relations contest handily, at least in the U.S. At that, Pacquiao looked up from his plate and put down his fork. His eyes widened and he leaned forward, staring intently across the table.

“He talks, he says all this, but you know what: He doesn’t want the fight,” Pacquiao firmly told Yahoo! Sports in an exclusive interview. “I want the fight. I’m the one who has wanted this fight all along.”

Not long after he was granted a conditional boxing license by the Nevada Athletic Commission to fight Cotto, Mayweather made a big deal of Pacquiao turning down a $40 million guarantee to fight him.

But Pacquiao said that was simply a bluff, a public relations stunt that didn’t bear any semblance to reality.

“He offered me $40 million, and no pay-per-view [money],” Pacquiao said, breaking into a laugh. “No pay-per-view. Can you believe that? Would you do that? Come on. What would he say if I offered him $50 million – not $40 million, $50 million – and said ‘No pay-per-view. Take this money and be happy, but no pay-per-view.’ He wouldn’t do it, either.”

This song has been on repeat for three years.

I’ll spare you the effort, here are your likely responses:

  • Why not just fight for the money? That’s so much money!
  • That blood test thing made me think Manny was scared (or worse) and wanted an excuse. Now I think maybe Mayweather does!
  • The fans want this fight! Don’t they want to see who is the best?
  • These prima donnas are so greedy. That’s so much money!
  • etc…

Unfortunately, you’d be missing the point.

It’s a old lesson, but Mike Tyson made me think of the psychology of ultra-high performance. He believed you can literally intimidate another fighter into folding under your knockout blow. One’s confidence must be unshakable to be champ.  In any sport.

Now consider Mayweather. He prides himself as much on escaping from Top Rank boxing to self-promotion as his boxing ability. He’s endlessly talking about his negotiating triumphs.

He’s so into it that taking a 50-50 deal means stamping a big ‘L’ on his own forehead. And if he loses at the negotiating table does that dent his confidence in the ring?

Tiger teaches us that a champ’s sense of invincibility must be complete. Would a wiser champ not expose himself to failure in so many arenas? In the mind of a champ, perhaps such admission of fallibility is just as deadly.

Manny, newer to the uber-champ game, probably feels this less keenly. He does sense, just like Haye and Chisora in that video, that the other guy is trying to push him around. And he’s pushing back. It’s the blood testing thing all over again: Mayweather’s mind games and Manny calling BS.

So now we have two alpha dogs angling for initial advantage. A 50-50 deal is a Manny victory, so Mayweather will happily never take the fight at those terms.

This is why you employ third parties to negotiate, by the way. These two have probably locked themselves into classic no-back-down positions. Their intermediaries should be ashamed of themselves. This is the richest opportunity on the table and they effed it up.

A caveat, of course, is that this fight becomes irrelevant the minute one or both of these guys loses his edge. Ironically, that’s all that will make it happen.

There’s plenty of precedent suggesting it’s just a matter of time.

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