Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the same arena? Can it be?
It happened Tuesday night, but it was not for a long-awaited showdown in the ring. Instead, both were courtside in Miami for the Heat game against the Milwaukee Bucks — Mayweather next to the Heat bench and Pacquiao directly across from him on the opposite sideline.
At halftime, the two welterweight champions and future Hall of Famers, whom the world has wanted to see fight, met briefly and spoke with each other.
“He gave his number to me and said we will communicate with each other,” Pacquiao said, according to The Associated Press, adding that he had never before met Mayweather in person, although they previously talked on the phone and Pacquiao once appeared on one of Mayweather’s undercards in 2001.
Asked to clarify whether the exchange meant the two would negotiate directly about meeting in the ring, Pacquiao said that was the case.
“We did meet and chat but I don’t I want to say what we discussed,” Michael Koncz, Pacquiao’s adviser, who was with the boxers, said when reached by ESPN.com on his cellphone during halftime. “It was a private discussion. They had a private, friendly discussion, and that’s all I really want to say.”
Koncz said the presence of both at the game was “purely a coincidence.”
Mayweather is a regular at Heat games. Pacquiao was in Miami to serve as a judge at the Miss Universe pageant Sunday night. Koncz said they had planned to travel to New York after the pageant, but with a blizzard hitting the Northeast, they decided to stay in Miami for a few extra days.
Pacquiao, a huge NBA fan, is a player-coach in a professional league in his native Philippines and has a friendly relationship with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Miami Heat tweeted, “We’d like to welcome @floydmayweather & @MannyPacquiao to tonight’s game!” Included with the message was a photo of the two at the game.
Social media lit up with photos and short videos of their halftime chat.
The unexpected meeting came during a critical time in the negotiations for their proposed May 2 megafight.
Pacquiao has said he wants any deal with Mayweather wrapped up by the end of January, because of the amount of time needed to launch such a massive promotion. That means the end of this week.
According to sources involved in the negotiations, the camps have exchanged a deal memo outlining the major aspects of an agreement. If they can be agreed to, they will be put into a long-form contract.
Also, Time Warner/HBO, which has Pacquiao under contract, and CBS/Showtime, which has Mayweather under contract, continue to negotiate the terms of what would be a joint pay-per-view telecast.
Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), the 36-year-old Filipino legend, and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum repeatedly have said they have agreed to all of the terms outlined by Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs), who turns 38 in February, during talks with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, who has been serving as the go-between on behalf of Mayweather and his adviser, Al Haymon.
In addition, at least twice since Christmas, according to sources with knowledge of the meetings, Arum, Moonves and Haymon have met in person at Moonves’ home in Los Angeles. That is significant given the bad blood that exists between Arum and Haymon stemming from Mayweather’s acrimonious departure from Top Rank in 2006.
Arum told ESPN.com last week that despite the issues he and Haymon have had with each other over the years, “we are on the same page” as far as making a deal for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.
Mayweather has said he intends to fight May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, be it against Pacquiao or somebody else. Arum told ESPN.com last week that if the fight is not finalized, Pacquiao’s backup plan is to fight May 30, and Arum identified England’s Amir Khan, a former unified junior welterweight titleholder and top welterweight contender, as the leading candidate for the bout.
There has been intense interest in a Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown since 2009, but various negotiations have fallen apart over the years. However, this round of talks, according to those involved, is the closest the sides have been since the initial negotiations in late 2009 and early 2010 broke down because of a disagreement over how to carry out the drug testing for the bout. According to sources involved in this round of talks, the sides have agreed to the drug testing protocol, among many other aspects of the fight.
Should Pacquiao and Mayweather meet, the fight, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is expected to shatter every revenue record in boxing history.