NEW YORK – Manny Pacquiao has turned his attention to former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito for a November fight, after his promoter could not get a deal signed against former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Top Rank chief Bob Arum told The Associated Press on Saturday night that Pacquiao will fight Margarito in a junior middleweight bout on Nov. 13. The location is still undecided because Margarito isn't currently licensed to fight in the United States, but Arum is moving ahead with the matchup anyway.
"We'll finalize everything this week," Arum said.
Margarito was chosen for the lucrative payday over junior middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto, Arum said, because Pacquiao has already defeated Cotto once. The Margarito fight will likely be for the WBC 154-pound title that Sergio Martinez vacated earlier this year.
A victory would give Pacquiao titles in a record eight weight divisions.
"Antonio is so much bigger than he is, it's a very attractive fight," Arum said. "Cotto, we figure, should have another fight this winter and shown the improvement he's made under (new trainer) Emanuel Steward and then we could look at him maybe next year."
The fight was made relatively quickly after Mayweather allowed a deadline set by Top Rank for a proposed megafight to pass last weekend without a word. Mayweather told the AP two days later at a charity basketball game hosted by Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning in Miami that he isn't thinking about boxing at all following his one-sided victory over Shane Mosley in May.
"I'm not interested in rushing to do anything," Mayweather said.
On Monday, Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe issued a statement that said no negotiations for a fight against Pacquiao ever took place — which took Arum completely by surprise.
Arum insists that he has been negotiating for possibly the richest fight in boxing history with Mayweather's team for months. Arum said he was using HBO Sports boss Ross Greenburg as an intermediary because he has a rancorous relationship with Mayweather, and that all that was left was for Mayweather to sign for the fight.
Greenburg has repeatedly declined to comment on the negotiations.
"The thing that's silly about this is all Floyd had to say from the get-go was, 'Hey, I'm not interested in fighting this year,'" Arum said. "That's all he had to do."
The biggest winner in the bizarre soap opera ends up being Margarito, who was once considered among the most feared fighters in boxing. Then came his own fight last year against Mosley, when he was discovered to have loaded hand wraps before a stunningly one-sided loss.
Margarito and his former trainer were suspended for at least one year by the California State Athletic Commission, a decision that has been upheld by other state commissions.
That creates a logistical problem for his fight against Pacquiao.
Arum said he wants to hold the fight in Las Vegas, where Pacquiao would not be subject to income taxes and where he could most likely get the largest site fee. For that to happen, Margarito would need to get licensed in Nevada, and his request earlier this month was tabled by the state athletic commission until he answers to authorities in California.
"In Nevada, he's asked for them to consider giving him a conditional license to fight on Nov. 13. He's also going to file his application for his license in California," Arum said.
"There are other states that have contacted us that say they'll give him a license."
One possibility is Texas, where 50,000 people packed into Cowboys Stadium to see Pacquiao defeat relatively unknown Joshua Clottey earlier this year. If all the options in the U.S. fall through, the fight could happen in Margarito's native Mexico, where officials in Monterrey have already expressed interest.
"The fight means so much economically to Nevada," said Arum, whose company is based in Las Vegas. "I cannot conceive the commission turning down his request."
Pacquiao has never fought above the 147-pound welterweight limit, although he's only looked better with each division he tries. Most critics believed that 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton would be too big for him, and he knocked him out in the second round. The same went for Oscar de La Hoya, whom Pacquiao made quit on his stool after the eighth round.
Margarito, meanwhile, will be fighting at 154 pounds for the second straight time. He came back from a year off following the Mosley fight to easily dispatch of Roberto Garcia in May, a fight that was held in Aguascalientes, Mexico.