MAL ON MIKE: Leinster's Malcolm O'Kelly during a press conference ahead of their Magners League match against Glasgow Warriors on Friday night.
Manny Pacquiao's promoters say his prospective bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr is off after mediation failed to resolve differences over drug testing, scrapping what was likely to have been the richest fight in boxing history.
The bout was set for March 13 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, but Top Rank said it couldn't reach an agreement with Golden Boy Promotions, which represented Mayweather in the negotiations, after nine hours of mediation on Tuesday and more discussions yesterday.
Although neither side was allowed to publicly discuss the specifics of their dispute, Mayweather apparently balked at a compromise over the stringent drug-testing requirements his camp insisted upon.
"I knew this was going to happen," said a weary Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter. "You had to play it out."
Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer and Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe didn't immediately return phone messages.
The promoters went into the lengthy mediation on Tuesday. Both sides claimed every other detail for the fight had been decided, but Mayweather had demanded random blood testing in addition to unlimited urine testing, which Pacquiao was unwilling to do.
The fighters' representatives apparently thought they had a compromise after the mediation. The promoters were widely expected to formally announce the bout yesterday -- but subsequent discussions with Mayweather during the day led Top Rank to say the fight was cancelled.
Arum was, therefore, left fuming by Mayweather.
"I've been saying this for years: He's a psychological coward who doesn't want to fight anybody who has a chance of beating him," Arum said. "He walked away from a rematch with Oscar (De La Hoya) that would have paid him a fortune because De La Hoya held him close in the first fight (in May 2007)."
After stellar pay-per-view numbers from their previous fights, both Pacquiao and Mayweather stood to make more than €17m from the welterweight bout. Mayweather returned to the ring after a 21-month absence in September with a victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, while Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) pounded Miguel Cotto in November for his 13th straight victory since 2005.
Mayweather (40-0, 25 KOs) initially appeared eager to fight Pacquiao in a bout between two contenders for the title of pound-for-pound champion of the world. Both fighters quickly agreed to the initial points of a deal, with the fight scheduled for March.
But Schaefer then infuriated Top Rank by refusing to travel to a meeting with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who offered to pay lavishly to hold the fight in the NFL team's opulent new stadium. Schaefer's actions, apparently at Mayweather's behest, meant the fight went to the MGM Grand in Mayweather's adopted hometown with no opposition.
After Mayweather went public with his requests for drug testing that went beyond the standards of the Nevada Athletic Commission, Pacquiao filed a lawsuit last week alleging Mayweather and his camp defamed him by accusing him of using performance- enhancing drugs. That led to mediation, which apparently produced a solution acceptable to everybody except Mayweather, according to Arum. Arum said there's "no chance ever of salvaging it for March, no chance for it ever to happen".