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How the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight got made

It isn’t easy to put together any fight.

But putting together a megafight involving hundreds of millions of dollars can be extremely stressful.

So getting Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to agree to finally face each other in the ring was an adventure that involved delicate negotiations, smoothing over egos and compromise.

A lot of compromise.

“It was probably the most difficult fight to make that I’ve been part of,” said Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao and has been putting on boxing matches since the 1960s when he worked with Muhammad Ali. “I was always hopeful we could get a deal but you never know until you see the signed contract.”

That came about Feb. 20 after several months of intense negotiation. There negotiations between the two fighters. There were negotiations between HBO and Showtime, the cable networks that are collaborating to show the fight. And there were negotiations with the MGM Grand, the host venue for the fight where a deal wasn’t finalized until 11 days before the fight.

So how did the fight finally manage to get made?

In 2009, both sides tried to get Mayweather and Pacquiao into the ring for a fight the next spring. Mayweather was still fighting on HBO at the time, so TV was not an issue. And Arum was happy doing business with the MGM, where Pacquiao was fighting when he fought in Las Vegas. The deal-breaker was Mayweather’s eleventh-hour insistence that Pacquiao submit to Olympic-style random drug testing — drawing blood samples and taking urine samples.

Pacquiao refused, and the talks ended with both fighters going their separate ways.

Fast-forward to last summer. Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS, which owns Showtime and now had Mayweather under contract, met with Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s longtime trainer. Roach told Moonves Pacquiao would take the fight in a minute.

That led to a meeting between Moonves and Arum in Los Angeles in December. Then there was another meeting.

“Moonves is the key to all of this,” Arum said. “He was able to bring both sides together.”

Eventually, Moonves, Arum and Mayweather’s adviser Al Haymon met for an hour and ironed out most of the financial details. Pacquiao’s edict to Arum — make this fight, no matter what the terms.

“Manny really, really wanted this fight,” Arum said. “To get it done, we had to give in on virtually every point. But that’s how much he wants to fight Mayweather.”

Both sides trusted Moonves and they agreed that he would personally handle any disputes that might arise. Moonves mediated the dispute over the contract with the MGM, which had held up the sale of tickets. That didn’t get resolved until April 22.

The other key to making the fight a reality came in late January in Miami. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao were in town to watch an NBA game between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. The two fighters met during halftime, exchanged cellphone numbers and chatted briefly.

After the game, Pacquiao’s phone rang. Mayweather wanted to come by Pacquiao’s hotel suite and talk. Pacquiao agreed. The two fighters talked for over an hour and when it was done, the chances the fight would happen grew dramatically.

“The meeting they had in Miami was a major milestone and I would like to recognize the role that Floyd and Manny had in making this fight,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions.

“After they met, it was the first time Manny believed Floyd was serious about fighting him,” said Pacquiao’s longtime adviser Michael Koncz.

As for the MGM hosting the fight, it wouldn’t have been Arum’s first choice. He and the hotel have been at odds since last spring, when Pacquiao’s rematch with Timothy Bradley on April 12 was sharing signage space throughout the hotel with Mayweather’s May 3 fight with Marcos Maidana. Arum was extremely upset over the conflict and he still has hurt feelings over what happened.

But Ellerbe said that was a key stipulation to making the fight — that it had to be in Las Vegas at the MGM. And as with virtually every other point in the negotiations, Pacquiao agreed to staging it at the Grand Garden.

“What’s important is that they’re finally going to meet in the ring and decide who’s the best,” Arum said.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj

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