Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Pacquiao won't sign; fight called off
By Dan Rafael
The proposed May 2 showdown between Manny Pacquiao and junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton is off, according to representatives for both fighters.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who represents Hatton, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he's canceled next week's planned media tour and will begin negotiating with other potential opponents immediately. Bob Arum of Top Rank, who promotes Pacquiao, confirmed that the fight is off.
"The fight is off and I instructed [tour manager] Kelly Swanson to cancel the tour," said Schaefer, clearly upset. "It's off and we are now pursuing our other options. That's it. The Hattons called me and asked again if we had a signed deal from Pacquiao and when I said we didn't, they said they won't sit around anymore. They would like me to explore three fights they are interested in."
As soon as Pacquiao finished off Oscar De La Hoya for an overwhelming TKO victory on Dec. 6, attention turned to the pound-for-pound king's next mega fight, a proposed May 2 showdown against Hatton.
Arum and Schaefer quickly wrapped up negotiations and Hatton agreed to a 50-50 split of the revenue, even though he generates substantially more money in British television rights than Pacquiao could ever hope to generate in the poorer Philippines.
Arum and Schaefer shopped the fight to the big Las Vegas casinos. They struck a deal with the MGM Grand and were in talks with HBO and Showtime about a pay-per-view deal.
But all along, there was trouble. Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) refused to back off his demand for a bigger share of the pie. For weeks, they've gone back and Hatton eventually agreed to give Pacquiao a few more points. However, Pacquiao still had not signed by a Wednesday deadline and Hatton and his father, Ray Hatton, instructed Schaefer to pull the plug on the fight.
"Manny decided not to sign," Arum said. "He was unhappy with the terms. So I contacted Schaefer and I told him the situation and he acted accordingly, which means the fight is off. The suits can posture but it's the fighters who have to go in the ring and fight. But I am not thrilled right now."
Schaefer said Hatton (45-1, 32 KOs) still planned to fight May 2 and three names they gave him as opponents to explore deals with, in no particular order, were the winner of the Feb. 28 fight between lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz, Golden Boy boss De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, who is retired but has said he would listen to proposals. In his last fight, Mayweather knocked out Hatton in the 10th round in December 2007.
"The Hattons expressed to me an interest in those fights and about doing them in England," Schaefer said. "Ricky would like to fight Mayweather in a rematch in England and I will be meeting with Oscar this week to see if he's interested. The Hattons have expressed an interest for some time in doing a fight at Wembley Stadium with Oscar, so I need to see if Oscar is interested. And I know I can make a deal with the winner of Marquez-Diaz."
Golden Boy promotes Marquez and Diaz.
"The Hattons told me they don't care who it is, they just want to get things locked in," Schaefer said. "They said, 'Whoever you get a deal done with first is who Ricky will fight.' "
Schaefer conceded that if a signed contract from Pacquiao showed up and he had not made a deal with somebody else, the fight could be saved.
"We're going to go and lock in another fight, but if Pacquiao calls in an hour or a day and I don't have a fight locked in, I'll call the Hattons and let them know," he said."But I don't really want to call the Hattons about anything with the name Manny Pacquiao on it because they want to chop off my head. They are pretty upset right now, and I don't blame them.
"What a waste of time and effort and money this whole thing has been. I flew to New York to talk to the TV partners, I flew to Vegas. My time is money. This has just been a wasted effort. I'm just so sick and tired of the games Pacquiao keeps playing and so are Ricky Hatton and Bob Arum as well."
Schafer and Arum have been through this sort of drama with Pacquiao before. It happened when De La Hoya and Pacquiao played hardball on the split of the money for their fight. Pacquiao eventually accepted a 68-32 deal in De La Hoya's favor.
"It's unfortunate and not uncommon for fighters to make these kinds of decisions," Schaefer said. "When you beat the man, you think you are the man. Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and as his co-promoter (with a small percentage) we are proud of him. But he thinks by beating Oscar that he is Oscar and he is not Oscar. It's unbelievable. Manny is losing a huge, huge payday."
Arum said that Pacquiao had not talked to him or trainer Freddie Roach in two weeks, instead insisting that all communication go through attorney Franklin "Jeng" Gakal and adviser Michael Koncz.
"They represented to me that they did everything short of tying Manny up and forcing him to sign to get the deal done," said Arum, who added that he was willing to take money out of his end of the deal to give more to Pacquiao if that would have helped bridge the gap. "It's really as close to bizarre as anything I have ever been involved in. Considering what the next alternative is for Manny, this is bizarre."
One potential opponent, Arum said, is interim lightweight titlist Humberto Soto, whom Arum promotes. That fight would pay Pacquiao a pittance compared to the estimated minimum $10 million to $12 million he would have made to face Hatton.
"I don't know what really happened here but there are two things," Arum said. "One, Manny didn't really want the fight, which I doubt. Secondly, we all know Manny is a gambler, a poker player. He probably figured if he was strong to the end, they would fold and they didn't.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com