Franchise Thoughts: Why Floyd Mayweather is Doomed to Lose the PR Battle Over the Death of Mayweather-Pacquiao

Barring some kind of miraculous development at the eleventh hour, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will not be standing across from each other in a boxing ring on March 13.

The fight that everyone wanted to see, that had the media and general public suddenly paying attention to boxing again, has fallen apart. And while it may be revisited again for the fall of 2010 or beyond–and indeed, I’ve gone on record saying that’s exactly what will happen–it’s dead for now, a fact that will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many.

Smarter and more informed minds than my own will pick at the carcass and try to assign blame. There’s sure to be plenty to go around, as it’s a situation in which no one will really look good going forward.

As the finger-pointing begins in earnest, I’m much more interested in the opinions of the fans than the experts. They are, after all, the ultimate losers in all of this, deprived of the fight that has captured their imaginations like no other in recent memory.

Since the fans are never going to be privy to a transcript of any of the negotiations or mediation sessions, the winner of the ensuing war of words is going to be primarily a matter of perception. This is fitting, in a way, since perception trumps reality in boxing more often than in any other sport.

Though I favor Mayweather to come out on top if and when the bout finally happens (which is difficult to admit since I’m a huge Pacquiao fan), there’s no way he can avoid losing the battle of public opinion. A majority of fans are going to think he’s to blame for scuttling the fight, and one can already sense that he knows that, as he quickly went on the attack to try to deflect the incoming fire back in his opponent’s direction.

It’s not going to work. At best, he’ll galvanize his own loyal followers, and perhaps a small percentage of neutral minds who are convinced Pacquiao had something to hide by refusing to bow to Mayweather’s drug testing demands.

Floyd’s problem is that he’s painted himself as the brash, supremely confident villain for so long that most people will have a hard time accepting that he’s the good guy in all of this. With that as the context, it’s easy to buy the line coming from Manny’s camp that he simply refused to accept the mediator’s proposed compromise.

A few years ago, I asked two respected boxing writers, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, and Doug Fischer, then of MaxBoxing.com, about what the real Floyd Mayweather was like for a piece I was doing for another site. Their answers could not have been more different.

Iole said that Floyd was basically a decent, generous person, and that his bad boy act was just that, a show he put on to sell tickets. I got the opposite opinion from Fischer, who claimed that Mayweather was a jerk whose fits of ego and insecurity were legit.

Which writer painted the truer picture? In this case it doesn’t matter, because Fischer’s version is the one that’s more commonly accepted.

On top of that, Floyd’s critics will simply use the disintegration of the Pacquiao match as more ammunition to back up their belief that he was too scared to fight Manny. To them, this is just the latest, greatest example of a career spent seeking slightly less than the top challenges available.

To me, it’s hard to swallow that Mayweather would be afraid to fight anyone, as his confidence in his own tremendous skills simply wouldn’t allow it. But again, the question is what fans will think, and put simply, this current turn of events won’t help.

None of this should come as much of a surprise. In addition to the differences between the two men in the way they embody the sport–Manny is raw power and aggression that’s been tempered over time, while Floyd has prodigious natural gifts and a mastery of the subtler nuances of the sweet science–there’s a similar dichotomy to the way they are perceived outside the ring.

Pacquiao is a beloved figure, carrying the hopes of an entire nation with him every time he fights. He comes across as affable and almost naïve despite his success, even though some of that is almost as certainly a show as Mayweather’s persona.

For Floyd, the most commonly encountered feeling among fans is respect rather than love, and often grudging respect at that. He’s embraced the villain role for so long that he’s more famous than popular, a small but important difference.

This saga is far from over, and there’s bound to be significant backlash against both men thanks to the legions of distraught boxing fans all around the world. Smart money says that more of it will be directed against Mayweather than Pacquiao, though, and short of unilaterally dropping his demands, there isn’t much Floyd can do at the moment to change that.

Posted by The Franchise

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