Email Print Comments84 By Dan Rafael
As pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao moves on to a probable Nov. 13 fight against Antonio Margarito -- now that Floyd Mayweather has said he is not interested in making boxing's biggest fight, at least this year -- there is still some unfinished business from the messiness of last week's cliffhanger: Were the Pacquiao and Mayweather camps negotiating the fight or not?
Top Rank's Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, insists they were, using HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg as an intermediary.
The Mayweather camp said that is not true and that there were never any negotiations.
The man in the middle of the storm, Greenburg, remained silent even when pressed repeatedly to offer his version of events.
On Monday night, Greenburg finally did.
He took the Arum/Pacquiao side.
"Fights like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao are significant because of these fighters' ability to connect with sports fans around the world. It's unfortunate that it won't happen in 2010," Greenburg said in a statement. "I had been negotiating with a representative from each side since May 2nd, carefully trying to put the fight together. Hopefully, someday this fight will happen. Sports fans deserve it."
The date Greenburg mentioned was the day after Mayweather's resounding decision win against Shane Mosley.
Arum had said over and over during the past two weeks, beginning on a 3 a.m. ET July 17 conference call to announce that the exclusive window to negotiate with Mayweather had closed, that he was negotiating the fight with Al Haymon, Mayweather's adviser, with Greenburg as the go-between.
Arum said he would discuss deal points with Greenburg, who would then take them to Haymon and vice versa.
Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's other adviser and the public voice because Haymon refuses to speak to the press, said a few days after Arum outlined how the talks went that there had never been any negotiations.
He released a statement a few days after Arum's teleconference that said, "Here are the facts. Al Haymon, (Golden Boy Promotions CEO) Richard Schaefer and myself speak to each other on a regular basis, and the truth is no negotiations have ever taken place, nor was there ever a deal agreed upon by Team Mayweather or Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 13. Either Ross Greenburg or Bob Arum is not telling the truth, but history tells us who is lying."
Ellerbe was clearly taking a shot at Arum, whose history of playing fast and loose with the truth is legendary in boxing circles.
Schaefer, who has promoted Mayweather's past several fights, also denied the negotiations and said he stood behind Ellerbe's statement.
Arum was pleased that Greenburg supported his version of events and cut him slack for taking a week to say so publicly.
"He works for a major public company and he has to clear this sort of thing with his bosses," Arum told ESPN.com. "I understand that he had to get his statement cleared."
Arum was not so kind to Schaefer.
"The one you should all be taking to task is Schaefer for lying to the press," Arum said. "You don't do that. You can say 'no comment' or say nothing. Richard Schaefer owes an apology to the press, not to me, because I've written him off a long time ago. But now anything he says will be suspect. I don't feel vindicated by Ross' statement because that's what happened. I knew what happened because I know I lived through the negotiations. I knew what I said about them was absolutely truthful so I didn't give a damn who believed me. No skin off my back.
"Indeed, when I made the statement about the negotiations on the conference call, I wasn't looking for controversy. I was kind to Mayweather. But Mayweather is the boss on his side and when he says, 'jump,' you're supposed to ask, 'how high.' That's why none of them have any credibility. Schaefer and Haymon and Ellerbe, they cling to the Mayweather boat because that's the source of their riches. So the fact is that Ellerbe, who is not a bad guy, will do anything that Floyd asks, but Floyd is not quite a rational person. For Schaefer to be part of this drinking the Kool Aid is really pathetic. It's really sad. Doesn't he have any pride?"
Ellerbe was surprised to hear what Greenburg said, but told ESPN.com, "I stand behind my statement 100 percent. Obviously, the term negotiation needs to be defined to those parties who are making these comments. Calling to inquire about what Floyd is thinking about doing is not a negotiation. There was never any negotiation. I respect Ross but I am 100 percent sure there were no negotiations."
Schaefer, in Las Vegas promoting Saturday night's Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz lightweight championship fight on HBO PPV, once again backed Ellerbe.
"I think it's unfortunate that Ross made that statement," Schaefer told ESPN.com. "I fully stand behind the statement I made. I have not negotiated with Ross and I am not aware of any negotiations that have taken place.
"If Ross or Arum wants to go through a lie detector test, we can arrange that. I can only tell you I have regular contact with Al and Leonard and there were no negotiations going on. I don't know exactly what Ross is referring to or what he is talking about. But I have been very consistent. There were none going on. Arum should just get a life and stop attacking me on a nonstop basis. This is really childish."
Arum is now focused on finalizing the Pacquiao-Margarito fight, which if completed, will take place at a maximum weight of 150 pounds for the WBC's vacant junior middleweight title. If Pacquiao wins, he would extend his record of winning world titles to an eighth weight class. Pacquiao has won titles from flyweight to welterweight.
Arum said although he has deals in principle with Pacquiao and Margarito, there is no site yet, mainly because Margarito is not licensed in the United States following the hand-wrapping scandal that engulfed him before his fight with Shane Mosley in January 2009. Before the fight, illegal pads coated in a plaster-like substance were found in Margarito's hand wraps. His hands were re-wrapped and Mosley wound up knocking out Margarito, who later had his license revoked by the California State Athletic Commission. Javier Capetillo, Margarito's former trainer and the man who wrapped his hands, also had his license revoked.
With the revocation period up earlier this year, Margarito returned to win a fight in Mexico and recently applied for a license in Nevada, where Arum hopes to stage the fight. However, Nevada officials declined to rule on his application, directing him to first go back to California, which has yet to listen to his appeal.
"Frankly, my desire is to keep the fight in the United States," said Arum, who said there is interest from Abu Dhabi and Monterrey, Mexico, in hosting the fight. "Manny would like to fight in Mexico to save on the taxes. He saves 30 percent. But we have a number of states we are talking to that will listen to Margarito."
Arum said he and Margarito's attorney are hoping that Nevada will reconsider his application and give him a one-fight license to face Pacquiao in an HBO PPV fight that would be a boon economically to a struggling city.
"There's a lot of pressure on me to get it done in Las Vegas from everyone in town," Arum said. "The fight is important to the city. But I want it known that if it is not in Las Vegas, it's not because of Bob Arum. I live there and I feel the town needs this. It's not because of me if the fight is caused to go elsewhere."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer