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Wednesday, March 3, 2010


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Pacquiao vs Clottey
By Phil Barnett, Press Association Sport

The assumption Floyd Mayweather Jr v Manny Pacquiao is too big a fight not to happen looks increasingly brittle.

While neither side will budge over the row that threatens to scupper the richest fight in the history of the sport, it should also be remembered that countless blockbusters have fallen by the wayside over the years despite perceived wisdom pronouncing them inevitable.

Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum last week emphasised they will not give an inch in the row with Mayweather, which stems from the American demanding additional drug testing and being issued with a defamation action by the Filipino.

At first, it seemed that the argument was merely posturing but as Arum stated on Friday, it is certainly not unheard of for superstars to somehow fail to meet in the ring.

"I remember (Riddick) Bowe and (Lennox) Lewis not coming off when everyone thought it was going to come off," said Arum, who has been a major player in the sport since the days of Muhammad Ali.

"(Mike) Tyson and (George) Foreman was being negotiated and that never came. Tyson and (Evander) Holyfield didn't come off until a number of years later.

"These things happen, but it doesn't happen all that often."

True, even in a sport dominated by politics it is rare that such significant fights fail to come off. Yet it provides another example of boxing shooting itself in the foot when the best boxers do not meet each other and, in many cases, supposed champions hide behind alphabet titles and negotiate themselves out of 50-50 fights to protect their one-man franchise.

On British shores it is particularly frustrating when we are treated to two world-class fighters in the same weight division and they fail to meet.

Joe Calzaghe, the dominant super-middleweight world champion of his time, never gave in to Carl Froch's goading, despite the younger man's persistent calls for the two to go head to head.

Calzaghe predictably claimed Froch was not on his level, yet turned down the chance to prove it in what would have been a lucrative domestic showdown. Instead, he fought a washed-up Roy Jones.

Similarly, Ricky Hatton was dismissive of Junior Witter's repeated challenges and public pursuit of an exciting all-English world title fight.

Such frustrations for fight fans are not limited to these shores or, indeed, the modern era.

How did Archie Moore and Billy Conn never meet? And what would have happened had Sugar Ray Robinson had a second crack at the light-heavyweight title held by the legendary Moore?

Would Thomas Hearns against Aaron Pryor have lived up to the hype had their paths crossed in the professional ranks? While Pryor won their Golden Gloves clash in the amateurs, Hearns grew to become the bigger man and a notoriously brutal puncher and his old rival remained down at light-welter.

The list goes on. But for politics, perhaps the greatest amateur fighter in the history of heavyweight boxing, the Cuban Teofilo Stevenson, could have settled bar-room debates by meeting his professional counterpart

Ali in the 1970s.

Sometimes they do happen. In the case of Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr, a rematch between the pair will take place an incredible 17 years after Jones prevailed by unanimous decision in 1993.

While the clamour for another meeting between the pair was never particularly fervent even at its peak, the two men continue to somehow achieve top billing and next month will go at it in the boxing equivalent of an old timers' five-a-side kickabout.

Meanwhile, the admission from Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach that his fighter is somewhat obsessed with Mayweather gives hope that the pair will eventually settle their differences in the ring.

"Manny wants to fight him in the future because of the remarks he made," said trainer of the year Roach.

"Sometimes when Manny is shadow boxing, he will show me how Mayweather fights and how he will take care of the problem.

"I've never seen many do that before. He was trying to ruin our reputation with those allegations but we do want to fight him and we do want to knock him out."

Regardless of whose side you're on in the dispute, the fact remains that both fighters' reputations will suffer if they allow the biggest showdown in recent memory to only ever be fought out in tiresome lawsuits and on internet message boards.


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