Boxing
"Money" on the clock for big-fight approval
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Contrary to some folks' belief, I don't have a direct line to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

We don't hang out together. I'm not on the promotional payroll.

Nor am I expecting Christmas cards this season from either Michigan or Vegas.

But if I really did have the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world's ear, I can promise you one thing. I'd have a very simple message for him today.

And it'd go something like this:

"Floyd," to borrow a phrase my mom used to use, "it's time to sh*t or get off the pot."

Admittedly, each time I heard Alice Fitzsimmons use those words, they were directed at the back of a car moving at what she viewed as less-than-optimal speed for the lane it was driving.

More often than not, it didn't work. But somehow, it helped.

In this case, I don't figure the end result will be much different.

I don't pretend for a moment that Floyd or a member of his crew will read this and suddenly exclaim, "You know, that Lyle guy has got it right. Get Bob Arum on the phone. It's time to sign a contract."

It probably won't happen. But it certainly should.

Because in this one sector of the gag-free speculation committee, each day that passes without an official thumbs-up from Arum, Richard Schaefer or the fighters themselves makes it less likely the thing happens at all - this year, next year or ever.

If what's been reported is true and Mayweather's sign-off is really the lone remaining obstacle, a time will soon come for Arum and Pacquiao to throw up their hands, say "we tried our best" and move on to more-willing quarry wandering the welterweight/junior middleweight plains.

And if that happens, they'll be dead right in doing so.

But don't fret, Pac fans, such a decision hardly means overdrawn checkbooks for Manny.

With Margarito, Cotto, Berto and others angling to share spots on the marquee - if not in the actual ring - his dance card will be lucratively full for as long as he dabbles in both worldwide pound-for-pound violence and local Filipino politics.

He'll hold onto a share of the 147-pound pie, add a slice seven pounds north and eventually retire to the Manila statehouse with enough belt-borne jewelry to spike the GDP.

Mayweather, meanwhile, will have a much tougher fight on his hands.

Defending his street cred, or, more accurately, what'll be left of it.

Though his No. 1 status remains secure to those deeding it to him, the unbeaten record he so loudly and frequently cherishes would take a gigantic - and well-warranted - hit should he simply choose not to meet Pacquiao.

The reasons won't matter.

Purse splits. Drug tests. Retirement thoughts. Whatever.

If all negotiated hoops have been jumped through and there's still no dotted- line ink on his side of the contract come deadline day, every claim to greatness he's ever had will hold a little less water for those continuing to argue the case.

Trust me, I know the drill. I've seen all the wins - Corrales, Castillo, Gatti, Judah, De La Hoya, Mosley, etc. - and I'm as big a fan of his as there is. Fight or no fight, he gets "all-time great" treatment from me whenever he's done for good.

And until this pivotal week arrived, little else had changed.

I believe he deserves more money. I'm in favor of stringent drug testing. I think he beats Pacquiao - decisively so - if and when the matchup ever comes off.

And I'd have continued to back him today had the last sticking point been whether Manny could overcome his superstitions about needles within three weeks of fight night.

It was the right stance for Floyd last winter. It would be right again this fall.

But if all that's taken care of and Pacquiao's out there and he walks... then this one's on him. And with it, all bets are off limiting the words that'll one day be used to construct his legacy.

"Multi-division champion" is replaced by "elitist front-runner."

"Defensive genius" gets shouldered aside for "safety-first tactician."

"Took on all comers" takes a back seat to "avoided the top opponents."

And at that point, whether it's largely untrue or decidedly unfair is immaterial.

By nixing the sport's premier financial windfall and the publicity bells and whistles that ride shotgun, it's a long-term semantic bed he'd be making for himself. And nothing much he could offer after the fact - via reasoned logic, petulant chest-thumping or other means - would do much to make it go away.

In the end, only Floyd really knows if he wants the fight, thinks he can win it and is willing to endure a grind that?d confirm a spot alongside Ali, Robinson and other past legends.

But it sure would be nice if he'd give us a hint.

Or at least let the next guy have the porcelain.

* * * * *

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

WBC/WBO bantamweight title - Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico Fernando Montiel (champion) vs. Rafael Concepcion (No. 15 WBC/No. 12 WBO contender) Montiel (41-2-2, 31 KO): Second WBO title defense; Nineteenth title fight (16-2, 12 KO) Concepcion (14-4-1, 8 KO): First title fight; Fifth fight outside Panama (2-2, 1 KO) Fitzbitz says: "Montiel's been better longer at bantam, which should pay off here." Montiel in 9

WBO light heavyweight title - Schwerin, Germany Juergen Braehmer (champion) vs. Alejandro Lakatos (No. 8 contender) Braehmer (36-2, 29 KO): Third title defense; Five-fight win streak since 2008 (5-0, 4 KO) Lakatos (31-5-2, 23 KO): Third title fight (0-2, 0 KO); Lost WBO title shots in 2001 and 2004 Fitzbitz says: "Title shot a nice, albeit ultimately painful, parting gift for an aging Spaniard." Braehmer in 10

Last week's picks: 1-0 Overall picks record: 208-72 (74.2 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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