Fight Over Pacquiao Will Go The Distance!

By George Willis


Fight Over Pacquiao Will Go The Distance!

Manny Pacquiao should be the prince of boxing after his scintillating third-round knockout of Erik Morales last Saturday night before more than 18,000 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.  He has the total package:  speed, power, and charisma. But instead of basking in his victory, Pacquiao finds himself smack in the middle of the bitter feud between Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, Inc., headed by Bob Arum.

Both promoters are claiming Pacquiao is their property and it’s almost certain litigation will be needed to settle a dispute that will keep the Filipino sensation in limbo until there’s a resolution. “Now the fun and games start,” quipped Shelly Finkel, Pacquiao’s manager.

This is anything but fun and games.  It’s exactly what boxing doesn’t need, but can’t seem to avoid, legal bickering that obscures brilliance in the ring.  Truth is, Pacquiao is as much to blame for this mess as anyone else.  Apparently, he signs contracts as freely as he does autographs, auctioning his signature to the higher bidder regardless of the consequences.  Now there’s a heavyweight mess surrounding one of the world’s best super featherweights.

Arum contends that a bout contract signed by Pacquiao in August agreed to pay the fighter a minimum of $3 million for the Morales fight and contained language prohibiting him from signing a contract for any future fights with any other promoter until the Morales fight was completed.

But when Pacquiao arrived in the United States to begin his training, he met with Golden Boy reps, including de la Hoya. Somewhere along the way, Pacquiao accepted $500,000 to sign a seven-bout deal with Golden Boy that was to begin after the Morales fight.  When Arum caught wind of the Golden Boy deal, he moved quickly and soon afterward Pacquiao sent Golden Boy Promotions a check for the $500,000 and signed a four-year deal with Top Rank.   Golden Boy has refused to accept the check and is planning to take legal action.  Pacquiao has refused comment on what transpired.

“We have fully executed a promotional deal with Manny and we intend to enforce it,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “Arum has interfered with our contract and we’re not willing to let that happen.  He felt that by returning the money to us, everything would be fine and dandy, but it doesn’t work like that.” 

Schaefer said the Golden Boy deal was negotiated with Pacquiao’s attorney, who made “substantial changes” before agreeing to the deal. “Certain things in the course of litigation will come out,” Schaefer said. “But Manny was represented by legal counsel and the kind of changes that were made clearly indicated it was somebody who knew what he was doing.”

Arum insists his deal is binding. “They’re not going to win because their contract was void because he wasn’t allowed to sign a contract with (Golden Boy) while he was under contract with us,” Arum said. “If they had signed after the fight, fine. But we would have had the whole time during the promotion to have him talk with us.  That’s what we paid for.”

Finkel said he wasn’t privy to either signing and wishes Pacquiao were a free agent. “That’s where he would get the most money,” Finkel said.

It’s believed Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach influenced the initial signing with Golden Boy and admitted he’d prefer Pacquiao were part of the de la Hoya’s stable.  “Golden Boy seems to have more of the opponents we want to fight,” Roach said, mentioning Marco Antonio Barrera, Joan Guzman and Juan Manuel Marquez.  “I just hope we get the right fights.”

The right fight in Roach’s opinion is a rematch with Barrera.  Pacquiao stopped Barrera in the 11th round in Nov. 2003.  Barrera has won six straight fights since then and wants to avenge his loss to Pacquiao. “I’d like to get Barrera right away,” Roach said. “Everybody wants that fight, but who knows if that will happen because of the hatred between (Golden Boy and Top Rank).”

Arum wants to take advantage of Pacquiao’s global popularity, especially in Asia. “To maximize his potential, he shouldn’t fight in the United States. He should fight in Asia where the real money is and he’s insanely popular,” Arum said. “He shouldn’t get caught up, and I’m not going to let him get caught up in that whole thing where he fights two fights in the U.S. a year and that’s it. My idea is he fights first in Asia, then here in June, then back in Asia in September and then end with another fight at the end of the year.  He should fight frequently because that will keep him as sharp as he was on Saturday night.”

Pacquiao dominated Morales in the rubber match of their trilogy despite waking up with flu-like symptoms. “He had the shakes and chills and had to see a doctor,” Finkel said. “Before the fight he told Freddie Roach ‘As long as I’m standing I’m going to fight.’  But he had a bad headache and every time he got hit in the head it was like an explosion.”

Morales’ head must have felt the same way as the Mexican icon was dropped three times before the fight was stopped.  Among those watching on television were some 18,000 prison inmates in the Philippines, who were released from their jail cells just to see the fight.  “Imagine 18,000 inmates allowed out of their cells to watch the fight and then they went back to their cells with no disruptions,” Finkel said.

Pacquiao turns 28 in December and seems to be reaching his peak in skills and popularity as a boxer.  The only dark cloud is the impending legal battle between Golden Boy and Top Rank.  It figures to get ugly.  De La Hoya and Arum have been bitter enemies since de la Hoya left Top Rank to start his own company.  This battle is as much personal as it is professional.  Finkel just hopes his fighter doesn’t get burned by the crossfire.

“He’s either the No.1 or No.2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and he’s definitely the most exciting,” Finkel said of Pacquiao.  “All of that is very positive.  He’s now in demand to fight whomever he wants to fight in that division.  I just want whatever is best for Manny.”

Let’s hope Golden Boy and Top Rank feel the same way.


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