Updated 05:41 AM EDT, Sat, Oct 25, 2014
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Why Floyd Mayweather’s Legacy Will Be Damaged if He Doesn’t Fight Manny Pacquiao [Video]

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Floyd Mayweather Ducking Manny Pacquiao?
Is Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, doing whatever it takes to avoid fighting Manny Pacquiao, right, in what could be one of the biggest boxing matches in history? (Photo : Reuters)

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has made his thoughts pretty clear when it comes to locking up with Manny Pacquiao in what would be one of the most anticipated boxing matches of the decade, maybe in boxing history: Thanks, but no thanks.

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Mayweather, whose last fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez earned him $41.5 million and drew more than $150 million in TV sales, has been linked to a possible fight with Manny Pacquiao for the last few months, including one particular story—which was later squashed—that reported the two boxers recognized as the best in their sport would indeed lock up for a fight later this year.

But while Pacquiao has publicly expressed his interest in fighting the man known as “Money” in a match that boxing fans would love to see, Mayweather has been far less enthusiastic about the prospect of fighting the 35-year-old Filipino boxing star, going as far as openly mocking Pacquiao on social media and in interviews, while implying that Pacquiao is desperately chasing him for a fight.

His recent comments in South Africa on Wednesday just continued to fuel the flames.

"I offered Manny Pacquiao the fight before," Mayweather said, as reported by ESPN. "We didn't see eye to eye on terms. Years later we come back and I try and make the fight happen again. I offer him $40 million. He said he wanted 50-50. So we didn't make the fight happen.

"All of a sudden, he loses to Timothy Bradley, he loses to Marquez … he has tax problems now. So, two losses and tax problems later, now he all of a sudden want to say: 'You know what? I'd do anything to make the fight happen,' when he's really saying: 'Floyd, can you help me solve my tax problems, get me out of debt?'"

Mayweather even went on to brag about the record figures that he drew in the Alvarez fight without the aid of Pacquiao.

"As far as my last fight with ... I can't even remember the guy's name. Canelo! They all the same to me," Mayweather said. "So, as far as my fight with Canelo, they said Floyd Mayweather's record could never be broken without the Pacquiao fight and as you have seen what we did, the fight done crazy numbers."

For his next fight opponent, the signs are pointing to Britain’s Amir Khan for a May 3 showdown. And because it’s Floyd Mayweather on the card, boxing fans will undoubtedly tune in for a great fight.

However, there's just one problem. There’s a bigger fight on the horizon for Mayweather, and as great as his undefeated record is and all the prestige of his championships may bring him, walking away from a fight with Pacquiao will only do Mayweather more harm than good.

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Mayweather has a point about him making his money no matter the circumstances. He’s the biggest attraction in boxing, and he knows it. No matter who he faces, people are going to plunk down cash to watch the fight, whether its for tickets at the stadium or PPV orders, because…well, because he’s Floyd Mayweather, Jr. And everyone wants to see him in action. But while his pockets certainly won’t hurt without the Pacquiao fight—although the payday for such an anticipated boxing match would certainly net him a handsome amount—the question isn’t about Mayweather’s bank accounts.

It’s about his legacy.

Mayweather has faced his share of big name opponents in his day. Oscar de la Hoya. “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Juan Manuel Marquez. Ricky Hatton. Miguel Cotto. And he’s beaten them all. Seemingly, he’s taken on all the big names he can take on…except one glaring omission. Yup, you guessed it. Pacquiao.

To be fair, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. The famously botched negotiations between both Pacquao’s and Mayweather’s camps in 2010, when they first tried to make the fight happen, have been well-documented. First, there was the drug testing snafu, with Pacquiao and Mayweather unable to come to terms on blood and drug testing—Mayweather wanted random drug testing all the way through the fight, which Pacquiao’s camp declined, though they agreed to blood testing within 30 days of the fight. A lot of back and forth between the camps through the summer of 2010 followed on those issues. Then there was the issue of money, with Mayweather refusing to split the earnings of the fight with Pacquiao 50-50, offering the Filipino boxer only a $40 million flat fee without PPV earnings, which Pacquaio—probably rightly—refused.

In talks regarding the fight over the last few months, Mayweather’s camp has come up with a number of reasons for not wanting to face Pacquiao in the ring—from Mayweather not wanting to deal with Pacquaio’s promoter, Bob Arum, to wanting Pacquiao to drop Top Rank Promotions for Mayweather’s managing company, Golden Boy Promotions, to Mayweather flat-out saying that Pacquiao isn’t worth his time. Even Pacquiao’s No. 1 ranking in the WBC welterweight rankings was not enough to warrant Mayweather climbing into the ring, as he bluntly put it in this video clip:

Mayweather makes one telling statement in the video: “You put ‘em in front of me, and I’ll beat ‘em. You gotta realize this, everybody kept talking about the title, he’s mandatory; he can have the belt. A belt doesn’t make me.”

No, a belt doesn’t make the champion. A champion, the man holding the title, is what makes the title. However, aren’t champions supposed to take on all challengers? Aren’t champions supposed to be willing to defend their titles, their status, their pride and their reputations night in and night out against whoever comes their way? Shouldn’t a champion—a real champion—be willing to put their skills up to the test against anyone in the world? From what Mayweather said, that is the philosophy he claims to live by…except, apparently, when it comes to Manny Pacquiao.

And others have taken notice, as Boxing Insider columnist Ivan Goldman wrote in September 2012:

“The stories, for the most part, interpret any signals from Floyd as negotiating ploys designed to secure his demands even before any parley takes place. Rarely do they consider that Mayweather might not be signaling anything of the kind. Maybe he just won’t fight Pacquiao under any circumstances.”

One could argue that’s the case. For a guy who claims he has absolutely no interest in fighting Pacquiao, Mayweather seems to be doing an awful lot of trash-talking—which is basically his M.O.—whenever anyone mentions Pacquiao. Maybe part of it is agitation that no matter how many times Mayweather tries to duck him, neither fans nor boxing analysts will let this match go. The demand for that superfight is obviously there, people want to see it and would likely pay top dollar for it, yet it’s clear that “Money” would rather not duke it out with Manny.

Maybe part of it is fear. Yes, fear. I know, it sounds preposterous that a man with a 45-0 record and with one of the richest pedigrees in boxing could ever be afraid of anything, but it has to be pointed out that at age 36, Mayweather is no spring chicken. He’s a few ticks slower than he was five years ago, and his legs no longer have the same spring that allowed him to jump around the ring like a jitterbug to fluster opponents. Granted, Pacquiao, 35, isn’t getting any younger, either, but he still packs plenty of power behind his fists and has the wily veteran instincts that make him a definite threat to be the first man to ever put a loss in Mayweather’s column. The proof was in his convincing win over Brandon Rios in November:

And that is ultimately what it boils down to for Mayweather—his undefeated record. As long as he keeps the zero in the loss column, he’s the biggest star in boxing. But once you add the loss to his column…well, he’s still a big star, he’ll still be Floyd Mayweather, Jr. But that luster and shine, that must-see aura that makes Mayweather all his money and all of his fame suddenly goes poof!...and that’s it. It’s over. Could he still fight after losing? Absolutely. He’s arguably the best boxer in his generation. But would it be worth it? No. Not when he can walk away from the game with his bank accounts well-padded and be able to enjoy the fruits of his success.

However, Mayweather has taken to calling himself, jokingly or not, “TBE”—The Best Ever. Can he really lay claim to that title if he doesn’t fight everyone, all of the major players of his era, before he hangs up his boxing gloves? Muhammed Ali fought every major name there was to fight in his day, so few can contest him when he claimed to be “The Greatest.” Lennox Lewis, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, took on all comers in his day, and while he suffered two losses at the hands of Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, he avenged both losses with victories and retired as one of the all-time greats. If they want to call themselves the best, they’ve more than earned that right. Mayweather has the record, the titles, the glitz and glamour around him that goes with being the biggest draw in boxing. But if he walks away without having fought the eight-division champion Pacquiao, the only fighter out there just as devastating as Mayweather himself, the last and biggest “big fight” left out there, then was Mayweather the best ever? Or will he just be remembered with an asterisk next to that undefeated record because he never took on his greatest rival?

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