LAS VEGAS - The making, at long last, of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s greatest pound-for-pound clash with Manny Pacquiao Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden was almost more fascinating than any answers the fight itself could provide about the relative merits of the two best fighters of their time.
All the dynamics of Mayweather's life, from its turbulence and dysfunction to its opulent obsessions, came into play as the drama dragged out over five years from the time the bout first was proposed to the signing. It began long ago with Pacquiao's resistance to random blood and urine testing demanded by Mayweather, and when the Filipino dropped his opposition, it seemed Mayweather's reluctance to face the unorthodox southpaw came into play.
In 2012, former HBO sports head Ross Greenburg thought he was right on the goal line in negotiations only to have Mayweather's side deny negotiations even had taken place. So, it came as no surprise on Tuesday when Mayweather sat down with a group of journalists that he offered at least three scenarios for how the final deal came together.
At first, Mayweather simply said, "Les Moonves." Moonves is the CEO of CBS, which owns Showtime cable, which is in the fifth fight of a six-fight deal with Mayweather. Moonves and Showtime head Stephen Espinoza last week denied they were losing money on the deal with Mayweather, but Moonves admitted only a Pacquiao bout could turn a good deal into a great deal.
Shortly after Pacquiao defeated Chris Algieri in November, it was Moonves who brokered negotiations between Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who handles Pacquiao, and mortal enemy Al Haymon, who manages Mayweather.
"When Moonves got Haymon and myself together at his house in December, every single point, every major point was agreed to with the exception of two or three, which were agreed to the next day," Arum said. "So, why did it take so many months until we got a contract? Because the process seemed to be stalling, we imagined that it was because they didn't have Floyd on board."
Much was made of a "chance" meeting between Mayweather and Pacquiao at a Miami Heat game on Jan. 28. Arum said that's when Pacquiao called and said he believed Mayweather wanted the fight. How did Mayweather reach that point?
At first, Mayweather said it was all his idea. "How this fight all came about was, um, me, actually," Mayweather said. "Al Haymon was at my house, and I thought about my career and my different investments. I said, 'hold on, I can take this money and put it over here. I could fight two more fights.' I said, 'Let's make this happen.'
"Every day, I would call Al and say, 'Al, get on this.' He would say, 'Floyd, I'm trying.' I said, 'You can't try. Tell me you're going to make it happen.' He said, 'I'll make it happen.' I said, "'OK.'"
Anyone who understands Haymon's power knows all he had to do was snap his fingers to make it happen. Why did it drag out? Mayweather described a talk he had with Haymon, presumably about the time his manager was negotiating with Arum and Moonves.
"Me and Al Haymon sat and we talked," Mayweather said. "The guy is brilliant. Al Haymon is a genius. He said, 'Floyd, when you wanted the 'big boy mansion' built, did we get it built? I was like, 'Yes.' He said, 'Floyd, when you wanted to be the highest-paid fighter in boxing, did we make it happen?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'When you wanted to be the highest-paid athlete in sports, did we make it happen?'"
And so it went in sing-song fashion as Mayweather described how Haymon came through with a Bugatti in his luxury car collection, a house in Los Angeles, another in Miami, a 14-passenger private jet. "I sat back and thought about it and said, 'We've done all this, and I ain't reached 40 yet,'" Mayweather marveled.
Given that history, it's fair to assume Mayweather trusted Haymon when he negotiated the fight with Pacquiao. But Mayweather still had one thing to do. He had to make a public show that he was in charge of the negotiations. Hence, his appearance at the Heat game.
Mayweather said he confronted Pacquiao directly and said, '''You said you all signed paperwork. Show me the contract. Show me a screen shot.' They were telling [the media] for years that they had paperwork, and I was scared. It wasn't true."
The fight finally was announced on Feb. 20. "In the contract, it provided that, even after the contract was signed by all the parties, only one person could announce the fight -- Mr. Mayweather," Arum said. "That, in my mind, is a little bit of megalomania.
"If you want to understand Floyd Mayweather, there's a play by Eugene O'Neill called 'Emperor Jones.' Read that play, and you will understand Floyd Mayweather."