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Monday, April 24, 2006
Updated: April 25, 5:27 PM ET
Mayweather turns down $8 million to fight Margarito

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. rejected promoter Bob Arum's $8 million offer to fight welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito, and he instead exercised a provision in his contract to buy Arum out and become a promotional free agent, Arum told ESPN.com on Monday.

According to Arum, Mayweather turned down the career-best purse to meet Margarito on Aug. 12 on HBO Pay-Per-View, instead opting for free agency by buying Arum out of their deal for $750,000.

"I did hear from him," Arum said of Mayweather. "He decided not to fight this summer. I made him a tremendous offer. I think Margarito is the riskiest fight for him of anyone out there."

Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe told ESPN.com that Mayweather passed on the fight not because he is ducking Margarito, but because he couldn't be ready to fight by Aug. 12. Mayweather injured his right hand during a dominating April 8 victory against Zab Judah.

"Floyd is not 100 percent healthy," Ellerbe said. "He has a bruised right hand. His hand is not broken. It's bruised, but it's a bad bruise. He wants to go into any fight 100 percent healthy. If Antonio Margarito happens to be the best available option when he is healthy, so be it.

"We are not turning down Margarito. I want to make that crystal clear. When and if he is the best available option for Floyd's next fight, that's the direction he will move in."

With Aug. 12 no longer set aside for a Mayweather fight, Arum said he will use the date to feature one of his other stars, heavyweight titlist Hasim Rahman, in a mandatory title defense against Oleg Maskaev on HBO PPV.

That bout, a rematch of Maskaev's 1999 knockout victory, took on greater significance last weekend in the wake of Wladimir Klitschko's title-winning knockout of Chris Byrd in Germany.

The reason: Among the four recognized heavyweight title holders, Klitschko became the third from a former Soviet republic to beat an American to win a belt, leaving Rahman as the lone American heavyweight champion and Maskaev poised to give Eastern Europe a sweep of the titles in boxing's marquee division.

Arum said Mayweather preferred to await the outcome of the May 6 Oscar De La Hoya-Ricardo Mayorga fight instead of committing to Margarito because he would prefer to fight De La Hoya.

"We're not sitting waiting on De La Hoya," Ellerbe said. "He's in a tough, tough fight with Mayorga."

Many in the sport believe a De La Hoya-Mayweather fight is the biggest fight on the horizon and the only one capable of generating 1 million-plus buys on pay-per-view.

The reason Mayweather opted for the buyout rather than waiting for the May 6 result was because the contract had a limited window for the buyout, one that expired before the De La Hoya fight. However, Arum said he would have extended the window if Mayweather had asked. What Arum wouldn't do, he said, was raise the guarantees for other fights outlined in the contract.

Arum said while Mayweather would have taken the $8 million to fight Margarito, he asked for a $10 million guarantee to fight opponents such as Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton, when Arum was only willing to guarantee $7 million.

Arum said Mayweather also asked for $20 million to fight De La Hoya, a fight Arum said he wasn't interested in participating in.

"That's not in the cards," Arum said. "He wants $20 million for the De La Hoya fight? It's not there. Sometimes, my man, you gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. We'll talk about things down the road."

Ellerbe said Mayweather opted for the buyout so he could be "more in control of when and who he fights next. It's as simple as that. There is nothing bad between Floyd and Bob."

Arum agreed that the split with Mayweather was not on bad terms like their brief breakup last year. In fact, Arum said, "We intend to be back together. Everything with this was honorable and good. I had offered him numbers [for a multi-fight contract extension] that were livable. His expectations are in the stratosphere. He was entitled to buy me out, and he did. We decided this was the best way to handle it. He is a free agent. We have agreed to work with each other [in the future]."

The split frees Mayweather to make a potential deal with De La Hoya without Arum as part of the promotion. His involvement would have made making a deal almost impossible: The head of Top Rank has openly feuded with De La Hoya, his former superstar, and their companies rarely do business together as a result.

Arum said he was simply not interested in participating in a De La Hoya-Mayweather fight, but not because of his distaste for De La Hoya.

"I don't want to, because if I did that fight, I would be working for such a small percentage, it's not worth it," he said.

Instead, Arum is turning his attention to the Rahman-Maskaev fight.

Arum said that he and Maskaev representative Dennis Rappaport are about $300,000 apart on making a deal. If they don't finalize terms, the WBC will hold a purse bid May 1 in Mexico City.

But Arum is confident they will make the deal.

"We're very close," he said. "It will take another day to work it out."

Arum said he is already making arrangements to announce the fight at a news conference in New York on May 10. He added that the fight would take place at either Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., or at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Arum said Margarito could wind up on the Rahman-Maskaev card in the co-feature.

"But it's tentative," Arum said. "If Mayweather decides to fight in September or October, and Margarito could still be a candidate, I want him to be flexible."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.