Column: Gay Marriage Flap May Sell Pacquiao Fight
The guy he really should be boxing will be in a jail cell when Manny Pacquiao enters the ring next, not that it's the furious little fighter's fault. Neither was the faux uproar that erupted when shoddy journalism and the rush to judgment collided with predictable results.
This is boxing, though, and things happen. Sometimes they even happen for a reason, though it's hard to believe Pacquiao tried to insert himself into the debate over gay marriage in the hope it would sell a few more pay-per-views for his June 9 fight against Timothy Bradley.
The crazy thing is, it just might.
"It may very well resonate with people," promoter Bob Arum said. "We have so many evangelical Christians living in this country that have paid attention to this whole thing. Some of these people would never think of buying a fight and they might buy it, I don't know. It certainly isn't what was intended."
On that, I have to give Arum a pass. He's been promoting fights for the better part of a half century and done some silly things to sell tickets, but even he wouldn't have been able to dream up a scheme to get this fight in the news by having Pacquiao seem to disparage gays as well as gay marriage.
I'll also give him a pass on the Mayweather fight that never happens because I've grown convinced that Mayweather simply doesn't want to fight Pacquiao. Not with a 50 percent cut of proceeds from the richest fight ever, and not even if Arum comes through on a plan to build a 40,000 seat outdoor arena on the Las Vegas Strip.
The whole thing is getting a bit stale anyway. Both fighters are edging toward the end of their careers and, with Mayweather heading to jail and Pacquiao concentrating on politics, a date next spring will probably be the last hope for a fight that fans have been desperate for the last few years. There's a chance they could meet after that, but by then both will be past their primes and the fight won't be nearly as meaningful - or as lucrative.
Instead we get Mayweather and Pacquiao twice a year against opponents who aren't nearly as significant or interesting. Bradley may be undefeated and a fine family man - both traits that HBO will showcase on "24/7" - but it's as hard to justify spending $64.95 to watch him fight Pacquiao as it was to spend the same kind of money to see Mayweather against a slow and very hittable Miguel Cotto.
Arum understands that, just as he understands that Pacquiao is under pressure to sell the same 1.5 million pay-per-view buys that Mayweather generated against Cotto last month - if only to show Mayweather that he should be a 50-50 partner in any purse split should they somehow put aside their other differences. To have people talking about Pacquiao weeks before the fight is a promoter's dream, no matter what they're saying.
That Pacquiao's comments about gay marriage went viral isn't all that surprising in today's all-consuming media. That they were misconstrued wasn't too surprising, either, given the way content is created and appropriated these days.
The bottom line is that Pacquiao says he doesn't hate gays. He's simply against gay marriage, a position that is not out of line with many segments of the American public.
"The reporter asked me about my stance on it and I answered his question," Pacquiao said. "I am against legalizing same-sex marriage. That was all I said."
Mayweather, of course, is for it, if only because the two fighters can't seem to agree on anything. That's fine, too, though fight fans would surely rather see Mayweather and Pacquiao discussing how they would fight each other than debating one of the hot social issues of the day.
Both are getting ready to move onto other things. Mayweather will spend most of his summer in a Las Vegas jail cell for domestic abuse, while Pacquiao will fight Bradley and then head back to the Philippines to continue a political career that includes a planned run for governor of his province next year.
The selling point, meanwhile, for Pacquiao's June 9 fight revolves around his recent re-dedication to religion and the new discipline in his life. He's given up long nights playing darts and visiting cockfights and become a family man again. There will be no distractions, he said, of the kind that left him unfocused in barely pulling out a win over Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight.
"He's somebody we've known and admired, but we knew he had some moral shortcomings," Arum said. "Now he finds God and eliminates those moral shortcomings. It's a good storyline, but only because it happens to be true."
Truth seldom sells in boxing, but the real truth is that both Pacquiao and Mayweather are running out of opponents they can sell. Mayweather admitted as much after beating Cotto, and Arum's talk about a possible fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight shows just how lean the list of possible future opponents is.
Unfortunately, the only way they'll get in the ring together is if they need each other.
And unless fans stop buying fights against lesser opponents, that isn't going to happen.