x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Seconds out for boxing after some time inside

Floyd Mayweather sounds amenable to making the bout that can save boxing - against Manny Pacquiao. Or at least issue a stay of execution. You read that right.

Floyd Mayweather Jr, right, exits the Clark County Detention Center with rapper 50 Cent earlier this month.
Floyd Mayweather Jr, right, exits the Clark County Detention Center with rapper 50 Cent earlier this month.

Whether prison reformed Floyd Mayweather Jr, the person, is uncertain. Yet it appears to have done wonders for the mindset of Mayweather, the boxer.

He emerged from two months in life's penalty box saying niceties about sworn enemy Manny Pacquiao.

Better yet, he sounds amenable to making the bout that can save boxing. Or at least issue a stay of execution.

You read that right.

We have reached five, maybe six, in a standing eight-count that could signal the sport's expiration.

Any enchantment with the heavy-weight division has been sapped by the brothers Klitschko for their dominance and dullness.

The charismatic but diminished Oscar de la Hoya, 39, considers himself retired, a wise call that suggests his brain cells remain intact.

The ranks are nearly devoid of 20-somethings whose flailing fists and magnetic personalities could attract vast interest.

There is little anywhere to excite, other than the spectre of Money against Manny.

They are the best in their business, but neither has an unlimited supply of punches in those gloves. Mayweather is 35, Pacquiao 33, with 101 bouts between them.

Pacquiao, too, is transitioning into a new career that tugs ever harder on him. A congressman in his native Philippines, he delayed his next bout three weeks to December 1 to focus on a campaign for governor. (Rejected campaign slogan: Vote for Pac-Man; he's got your back, man.)

The window for this gig is open wide. Actually, it was wider a few years ago, but the past cannot be undone.

For most of their adult lives, these two have managed to duck each other, alternately teasing and infuriating their constituencies.

Perhaps some alone time in the slammer got Mayweather pondering his sports mortality. He had pled guilty to domestic battery - in essence, treating his girlfriend as if she were a martial-arts opponent - and was freed a month early after minding his manners behind bars.

A free man again, Mayweather spoke one sentence that raised suspicion over whether the wrong person had been released.

"I think Pacquiao's an unbelievable fighter and hopefully we can make the fight happen in the future."

Whoa. Praise for Pac-Man? Eagerness to tangle with him?

Mayweather's words gained credence when Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, was confident enough to discuss possible scenarios with his client. They bandied about an April 2013 date, which could provide Mayweather ample opportunity to shed rust with an easy warm-up encounter.

It would also buy time for the sport to shake the bushes and see if the next generation of fighters falls out.

If the pair engage over the fattest purse ever, likely well north of $100 million (Dh367m), the credit will go partly to a "50 Cent" piece (of work).

The rapper-actor known as 50 Cent has branched out into fight promotions, smartly buddying up with Mayweather. It was Mr Cent who picked up Mayweather outside the prison gates.

Mayweather's encouraging comment was uttered as he strolled down the red carpet at Fifty's latest film premiere.

Says Arum, it might be the human half-dollar who makes it happen: "He appears to me to be a real businessman ... so I think we can get a deal done."

OK, Arum is as about creditable as Pinocchio, having once observed: "Yesterday I was lying, today I'm telling the truth."

Still, when it is Manny versus Money, a ray of hope as thin as a laser pointer's beam is worth grasping.

Boxing being the leaderless morass that it is, where common sense is in short supply, this bout might never leave the drawing board. (An aside: Already on the outside with the International Olympic Committee, the sport walked farther out on the ledge in London with wretched officiating and befuddling outcomes, adding up to another Bummer Games.)

Even if all parties are willing, this train could roll off the tracks. Another Pacquiao defeat, following the bizarre split-decision loss in June that was judged by three blind mice, would be a party-pooper.

Mayweather is unfit for 12 rounds, implies his camp, claiming the prison scrimped on poor Floyd's dietary requirements and provided insufficient exercise space. So lack of conditioning might forestall his comeback bout.

Besides, Mayweather seems an incurable knucklehead, inviting trouble with his antics.

In a video he posted this week, Mayweather opens a bag on his private jet and removes stacks of cash supposedly totalling a million bucks. Here is hoping he peels off sufficient amounts to pay for qualified security guards.

No matter. Boxing does not need good guys. It needs good fighters, with celebrity appeal, in the same ring.

Make Money-Manny happen, somehow. Otherwise, it might take more than smelling salts to revive this sport.