Floyd Mayweather Jr. against Manny Pacquiao.
A fight too big not to happen.
Bob Arum of Pacquiao promoter Top Rank said Thursday he's ready to negotiate a showdown between the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, even suggesting potential locations and acknowledging that his Filipino star is willing to fight at 147 pounds.
Arum is waiting to hear from Golden Boy Promotions chief Richard Schaefer, who is acting as an intermediary between Top Rank and Mayweather Promotions, two companies with an acrimonious relationship. Schaefer has assisted Mayweather's team on his most recent fights.
"I have to have discussions with our side, and when the time is right, I will be talking to Bob," Schaefer told The Associated Press. "That will probably take place face to face, and I intend that to happen very shortly."
Mayweather's adviser, Leonard Ellerbe, left no doubt that Mayweather is ready to get in the ring with the man who many believe replaced him atop the pound-for-pound list.
"Floyd has made it perfectly clear to Team Mayweather and the rest of the world that he wants to give the fans what they want, and that's Mayweather versus Pacquiao," Ellerbe said.
It would be the biggest event in the sport since the days of Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns, when marquee fights were held under the stars in the outdoor arena at Caesar's Palace.
Perhaps it's fitting that Las Vegas officials and casino magnate Steve Wynn have already contacted Arum about staging Pacquiao-Mayweather on the Strip. One possibility would be to build a temporary, 30,000-seat outdoor arena on a vacant lot at the old Frontier, where there would be room for corporate hospitality tents and a Super Bowl-like atmosphere.
Another possibility is the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium. Team owner Jerry Jones has expressed interest in holding major events at his $1.2 billion palace.
Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost has said he'd like to see a fight at the new Yankee Stadium, across the street from the building where many of the sports' greatest battles were waged. The problem is that New York would tax a significant percentage of the revenue, especially for a fight that could generate up to $80 million in purses.
The notion that so many venues are vying for a fight that has yet to be made demonstrates how much attention the sport is receiving. Mayweather is coming off a victory over Juan Manuel Marquez that sold more than 1 million pay-per-views, and Pacquiao's stoppage of welterweight champion Miguel Cotto on Saturday night is expected to surpass 1.2 million.
"It's not so much that I give a damn whether this fight happens _ I don't _ and for me it's not the greatest experience doing a promotion with Floyd Mayweather," Arum said. "But not to do this fight would slow down the momentum of boxing."
Mainstream sponsors like Pepsi and Subway have shown interest in Pacquiao-Mayweather, one more sign the sport is returning to the popularity level it enjoyed in the early 1980s.
Pacquiao recently made the cover of Time magazine in Asia and is easily the most widely recognized figure in the Philippines, while Mayweather has a magnetic personality that has been showcased everywhere from the WWE to commercials with Bill Kurtis for AT&T.
One of the two has won Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year the past three years.
"It has to happen. The stars are aligned and both fighters want it," said HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg. "If it doesn't, it would be devastating to the sport."
Mayweather issued a statement Monday in which he said, "If Manny Pacquiao wants to fight me, all he has to do is step up to the plate and say it himself."
"The world is much more intrigued by the thought of someone fighting me who can beat me," Mayweather added. "Manny Pacquiao's people have done a good job of creating an image of him to be this unbelievable fighter and now the so-called guy to beat me."
Already, the bluster has begun.
Arum promised that "my guy will make (Mayweather) fight, and once he fights, my guy will knock him out," while Ellerbe made it perfectly clear how he sees the fight shaking out.
"At the end of the day, we already know that Floyd is the best fighter in all of boxing, and if we're able to make a deal, he'll just be proving it to the world," Ellerbe said. "Nothing has changed. Pacquiao will be no different."