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It's Floyd's way or no way

7/17/2010
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Some things that could be stated without hesitation about Floyd Mayweather, even before he allowed Bob Arum's deadline to pass at 3 a.m. ET Saturday, placing the possibility of a fight with Manny Pacquiao once more in serious doubt:

&#8226; He is a phenomenal boxer, a generational talent who displays artistry in the ring that almost demands admiration.

&#8226; However high someone else's opinion might be of his ability and his place in the historical firmament, it is unlikely to be quite as high as his own.

&#8226; He is, most assuredly, his own man.

If it is the first point that has gathered him legions of fans, and the second that has helped generate an approximately equal army of detractors, it is the third point that is almost certainly most relevant as we look anew on what appear to be, for the second time in eight months, the charred embers of what had promised to be the richest fight in boxing history.

Mayweather has earned millions upon millions of dollars, not solely through pugilistic brilliance but by applying a single-minded focus to his career, in the ring and out of it. He speaks of the fact that he is his own boss almost as frequently as he mentions his undefeated record. To Mayweather, it is a matter of immense pride and satisfaction that he marches to the beat of his own drum, that he takes orders from no one.

Floyd Mayweather, in other words, doesn't do deadlines. Not other people's deadlines, at least.

There was always the slight suspicion when Top Rank declared some months back that Pacquiao would be fighting Nov. 13, be it against Mayweather or some other foe, that the Pretty Boy's nose would slip a little out of joint. Once Arum began speaking publicly of deadlines, the likelihood of Mayweather meeting a cutoff date that was presumably not of his choosing seemed increasingly improbable.

Arum has handled this skillfully. He is, of course, within his rights to insist upon a deadline -- Pacquiao has an especially convoluted schedule, and a major fight needs time to be developed and promoted. Plus, the immediate futures of a good many other boxers in the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions are contingent on the Pacquiao-Mayweather situation reaching resolution.

Once he was convinced that Mayweather would not sign on time, Arum got out in front of the story, placing a countdown clock on the Top Rank website and hosting a conference call in the middle of the night to make it perfectly clear that it was Mayweather's side, not his, that was responsible for the fight falling through.

At the same time, Arum remained careful to leave the door open, either for a last-minute reversal of fortune or a third round of negotiations for 2011. He treaded carefully so as not to impugn Mayweather's reputation or question his motives.

If the fight is indeed about to fall by the wayside again, Mayweather will almost certainly take the great majority of the criticism for it, and -- if he has indeed been negotiating, and agreeing to, the finer points of the agreement, only to step inside a cone of silence -- deservedly so.

The irony is that some of that criticism may be stunted by Arum's expressions of understanding, however heartfelt they may be. While the proximate cause of negotiations collapsing last year was Mayweather's insistence on random drug testing and Pacquiao's opposition to it, that was just the match that lit the fuel of mutual loathing between the promoter and his erstwhile charge. The resultant explosion scattered shrapnel in the form of recriminations, accusations and even a lawsuit.

So far at least, that hasn't happened this time. Cold-hearted business calculus has replaced hot-headed animus. Who knows if any of the proposed reasons for Mayweather balking -- uncle Roger Mayweather Jr.'s legal issues [Roger serves as Floyd's trainer], the lack of desire for a second fight in 2010 after the massive windfall from the destruction of Shane Mosley in May, a deep-rooted fear that maybe he is not quite the fighter he used to be -- are the correct ones? Perhaps, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, Mayweather simply wasn't happy with the contract's provisions. Maybe he just didn't want to be told what to sign and when to sign it.

Until he decides to explain his side of the story, it is all just speculation. And right now, he isn't talking.

It's possible that Mayweather will emerge from seclusion next week and the fight will be back on. Or perhaps he'll keep his head down. Maybe he'll announce he doesn't want to fight again before next year. Then, at some point, the drum beats will start again and we'll build, for a third time, to the possibility of a showdown between the planet's two best fighters.

By the time it finally happens -- if it ever does -- it is an open question whether fans' enthusiasm and excitement will be tempered by a skeptical weariness.

One thing seems certain: Whatever Mayweather ultimately does or does not agree to, it will be on his terms.