Manny Pacquiao file photo: London Ent/Splash News
There’s no room for creativity in boxing -- it’s the same game of rock’em robots every time out -- and Bob Arum isn’t feeling any more adventurous in his old age. But there’s a pile of money sitting underneath Manny Pacquiao’s recent assertion that he’d try a mixed martial arts bout.
Pacquiao, 31 and one of boxing’s few remaining pay-per-view draws, is scheduled to fight Antonio Margarito Nov. 13 in Dallas. Speaking to BoxingScene.com during a press conference, Pacquiao claimed he wants to fight in MMA but his promoters, including Arum, “don’t want me to.” Understatement of the year.
Pacquiao’s immense wealth automatically disqualifies him from the desperation bid in MMA, and Arum’s preference that his cash cow not be maimed in a cage means nothing will ever come of this. To Pacquiao, it’s just idle talk that media will blow out of proportion. (Like I’m doing now.) But Team Pacman should acknowledge an opportunity when they see it.
A celebrated boxer in an MMA fight during his prime would be a tremendous spectacle that doesn’t require any cooperation from the UFC. The matchmaker decides how good or bad Pacquiao would look in any kind of fight, and in this case, the matchmaker would be Arum. Feeding him a stylistically-advantageous striker might be transparent to the die-hards, but to the rest of the world, it would be a rebuttal to the James Toney/Randy Couture fiasco of last weekend. If MMA can steamroll Toney, why couldn’t boxing put an MMA guy through the meat grinder?
Put Karl James Noons in the ring with him and you’ll see a boxing match with five-ounce gloves. Better: you’ll see Noons willing to give Pacquiao a rematch under boxing rules if things don’t go Pacquiao’s way. It’s a way of salvaging egos and cashing in on a fight series instead of a single-night take; it restores some of boxing’s mojo in the face of MMA’s rising popularity; it appeals to two different sports-fan demographics; it makes Pacquiao a ton of cash without being dependent on a bratty Floyd Mayweather; and if Noons beats Nick Diaz in October, he’ll even have the stroke of being a current world champion, lending everything an air of legitimacy.
I’ll only ask for 5% of the gate. Call me, Bob.