LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. built a career — and made a fortune — by using deception to confuse and outwit his opponents.
Playing the same game outside the ring has also paid off for Money May. Mayweather has, for the most part, been able to fight who he wants, where he wants and when he wants. He sells enough pay-per-views that he has been able to avoid a fight with Manny Pacquiao that should have taken place five years ago.
But the game has gotten old, even if Mayweather's many yes men haven't had the courage to let him know. His latest attempt to twist the story line about a possible fight next year with Pacquiao was so dated and absurd that even the sycophants in his sizeable entourage had to be rolling their eyes.
The wizard of defense has finally been boxed into a corner. The charade is over, whether Mayweather realizes it or not.
He must fight Pacquiao next, if his career is to have any legitimacy. And he must to do it on terms that reflect he won't be the only superstar in the ring.
Mayweather didn't seem to grasp that the other day when he broke his silence and tried to make it seem as if he were challenging Pacquiao to a fight, not the other way around. In an "interview" with the Showtime network that employs him, Mayweather not only declared he wanted Pacquiao, but set a May 2 date for the fight.
Lest long suffering boxing fans get too excited, though, the conditions quickly followed. Mayweather not only wants to pick the date but to set the purse to his liking and have Showtime be the broadcaster. He regurgitated old arguments about blood testing that didn't make sense five years ago when he first started spouting them and make absolutely no sense now.
Luckily, the interview ringside in San Antonio didn't last long. If it had, Mayweather might have demanded Pacquiao be allowed to train only one week for the fight, have his blood taken in the locker room just before he goes into the ring and not be able to use his right hand for the first eight rounds.
That may be laughable. But so, too, is this:
"Manny Pacquiao, (promoter) Bob Arum, you guys have been ducking us for years," Mayweather said. "We're tired of you guys fooling the public, fooling the critics. Before we tried to make the fight happen and you guys didn't want to take random blood and urine testing. So that's why the fight didn't happen. Then I offered you $40 million and you didn't want to make the fight happen. Then you lost twice and now you're coming back begging for the same money. That's not going to happen."
Maybe Mayweather doesn't read the papers. If he had, he would know Pacquiao had no problem with unannounced blood tests for his fight with Chris Algieri last month. He would know that Pacquiao and Arum would almost surely accept a smaller purse as long as the money split wasn't lopsided.
He would know that the free ride is over for the most part and Showtime won't keep paying him $20 million to $30 million to fight the Marcos Maidanas of the world.
The fact of the matter is pay-per-view buys are slowing for both Pacquiao and Mayweather. Pacquiao's fight last month with Algieri in Macau wasn't a big seller, and both of Mayweather's fights last year with Maidana underperformed. Both HBO and Showtime are charging premium rates, but not showing premium fights.
Put Mayweather and Pacquiao in the ring together and that would change. Though both fighters have slowed some in recent years, the matchup is still one fans desperately want and are willing to pay for. It would be the richest fight in history, and it wouldn't be close.
Frankly, it's hard to see why Mayweather hasn't already signed on the dotted line. He would easily make $100 million, maybe more. Assuming he wins — and Vegas oddsmakers have already put up lines favoring him by as much as 3-1 — he would cement his legacy and bolster his claim to being one of the great fighters of all time.
But if the fight has an expiration date, so do the negotiations. For a fight as big as this, they would likely need to be wrapped up by the end of the year to allow time for the promotion to begin.
It's taken five years to even get Mayweather to say he wants the fight.
Now it's time for him to step up and show he really means it.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg