PHILADELPHIA -- Toward the end of every calendar year, the Darwin Awards document incidents of human behavior so preposterous that the only conclusion is that the winners never made it very far up the evolutionary ladder.
It's only a week and a half into 2010, but my early nomination for a Darwin Award goes to everyone concerned with the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. megafight that has imploded into a million pieces, again leaving boxing fans to wonder whether those who control the sport are suicidal, stupid or perhaps a combination of both.
Incensed by claims from the Mayweather camp that his rise to superstardom was fueled by performance-enhancing drugs, Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) has agreed in principle to a consolation-prize bout with Ghana's Joshua Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 13, the date he was to have fought Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
With the possible intent of demonstrating that two wrongs somehow do make a right, Mayweather (40-0, 25 KOs) insists he also will fight on March 13, most likely against pitty-pat-punching Paulie Malignaggi (27-3, 5 KOs) at the MGM Grand.
The only thing more nonsensical than two spiteful guys willfully throwing away a payday of up to $40 million apiece, in a fight that almost certainly would have been the highest-grossing in boxing history, is the notion that they'll go head-to-head on the same date in competing pay-per-view events. I now declare nominations for the top prize for this year's Darwin Awards closed.
Of course, proponents of each fighter will insist that failure to reach an agreement falls to the other side. There have been, and will continue to be, assertions of who deserves to get the larger slice of the blame-game pie. But no one comes out of this smelling like a rose.
Former Philadelphia Daily News sports editor and veteran HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant has been around long enough to understand that most impasses are based less on principle than on ego and money. Elite fighters, by nature, are a self-centered lot.
"I think of negotiating as a kind of dominance in which both fighters are trying to show that they're the man, they're the stronger guy, they're the one who can impose his will on the other guy and that this will somehow show up in the ring," Merchant said when asked for his thoughts on the collapse of Pacquiao-Mayweather for now and perhaps forever.
After both sides -- Top Rank founder Bob Arum and his stepson, company president Todd duBoef, represent Pacquiao, while Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer stood in for Mayweather Promotions, which is not licensed to do business in Nevada -- agreed to the date and MGM Grand site, Mayweather's father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., and uncle-trainer, Roger Mayweather, began popping off about how Pacquiao had gone from skinny 106-pounder to ripped 147-pounder, thanks in large part to steroids.
Pacquiao, who never has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, said he was highly offended by claims his success was anything but all natural. The Mayweather camp then demanded both fighters submit to more stringent, Olympic-type drug testing administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which includes random blood testing up to the day of an event.
During the past several weeks, Pacquiao filed a defamation suit against the Mayweathers, Golden Boy, Schaefer and the "Golden Boy" himself, Oscar De La Hoya. Various compromises were proposed and rejected, and now we are left with a mess of nothing, except, of course, pending litigation.
Is Pacquiao in the right? He's never tested positive for any form of PED, so maybe his anger is justified.
Is Mayweather in the right? Shane Mosley, an executive and fighter for Golden Boy, tested clean for a matchup with De La Hoya, but later admitted to a grand jury he had injected himself with the doping agent EPO. If Mosley can beat the system, Team Mayweather contends, Pacquiao can, too.
A nine-hour mediation session last week with retired judge Daniel Weinstein failed to bridge the gap. In fact, the chasm appears to be widening.
Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, said random blood testing up to the day of the bout would weaken his fighter, the naturally smaller man. He also claims Mayweather insisted on it because he's "scared" of the Filipino and doesn't want to risk his undefeated record, no matter how many millions of dollars are at stake.
Ever the chest-thumping gangsta, Mayweather said in a prepared statement that fans will see through Pacquiao's "smoke screens and lies."
Big talk, however, has never settled anything. As the Darwin Awards demonstrate, we have met the enemy and once again it is us.