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SportsColumnistsGreg Logan

Pacquiao, Mayweather put legacies at risk

Manny Pacquiao works out with his trainer in

Manny Pacquiao works out with his trainer in Los Angeles. (March 3, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Selling tickets isn't a problem where the phenomenon known as Manny Pacquiao is involved. More than 30,000 tickets already have been sold for the WBO welterweight champion's first defense of that belt against Joshua Clottey on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

See photos of Manny Pacquiao

But where is the buzz, the electricity that usually accompanies Pacquiao to the ring? Clearly, it was short-circuited by unbeaten Floyd Mayweather's demand for random blood testing for steroids, and Pacquiao's refusal of same. The March 13 date was reserved for a bout to determine the best pound-for-pound fighter of this era, and instead, we're getting what feels like substituting a generic brand for the real deal.

At least promoter Bob Arum didn't deny the letdown felt by the boxing public. "To be frank, we had to overcome disappointment," Arum said recently. "People were looking forward to a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. That is clear."

For people who question the health of boxing, it must be doing well. I mean, for Pacquiao and Mayweather to decide they can live without a potential purse of $40 million each, well, that is mind-boggling in boxing or any other line of work. Apparently, the laws of attraction to the biggest possible purse don't apply for these guys.

Both men obviously are concerned about their legacy. Mayweather, who is scheduled to face Sugar Shane Mosley on May 1, obviously is loath to risk his undefeated record against Pacquiao's speed and power. And until he submits to blood testing for steroids, many will suspect Pacquiao doesn't want to risk tainting his achievement of winning titles in a record seven weight classes.

When I had the chance to question Pacquiao recently about why he chose not to agree to Mayweather's demand for random testing, his answer betrayed a certain weakness, a lack of conviction. "I don't want to talk about or think about blood testing," Pacquiao said. "I want to focus on the Clottey fight.

"I did take a blood test when I fought Erik Morales. I didn't think I would fight Mayweather because people know Mayweather was not ready to fight me. It has never been in boxing before that a fighter changed the rules. It is the fighter's job to fight in the ring and it is the promoter's job and the commission's job to make the rules for the fight."

It's true Mayweather has not yet been certified in any state as a one-man boxing commission. And maybe Pacquiao was smart not to accept Mayweather's terms the way middleweight champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler once got bamboozled by agreeing to all the conditions set forth by Sugar Ray Leonard.

"They were trying to get into Manny's head," Arum maintained. "Get him completely discombobulated so he would be easy pickings for Mayweather, and if he said no because of the bullying, Mayweather would get his wish and not have to fight Manny."

Arum might be right, but if Pacquiao and Mayweather aren't careful, their legacy might be that they walked away from the big fight the public wanted to see, and each of them will seem the lesser for it. Karma works in mysterious ways, and in this case, it would serve them right if they lost to Clottey and to Mosley.

If that happens - and it's not out of the question - we'll all be left to wonder what the fuss was all about. Pacquiao and Mayweather insist they don't need each other, but that's not the point. The great ones want to face each other and are willing to risk whatever it takes for the chance to prove themselves the better fighter.

Just not in this case.


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