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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – Part 1


Manny Pacquiao (“Pacquiao”) is the World Boxing Organization’s (“WBO”) welter weight champion with a career record of fifty-four wins, three defeats, and two draws.   He is ranked as the best pound for pound boxer in the world by “The Ring” magazine.   He was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the period of 2000 through 2010 by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and he was bestowed the title “fighter of the year” in 2006, 2008, and 2009.   He has won eight world championships in eight different boxing weight classes, and is WBO’s “super champion.”

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (“Mayweather”) is the World Boxing Council’s welter weight champion with an undefeated career record of forty-two wins.  “The Ring” magazine ranks him as the second best pound for pound boxer in the world, however, Mayweather is regarded as the best pound for pound boxer by several sports and boxing press sources including ESPN, BBC Sports, Fox Sports, Yahoo, and BoxRec.   Mayweather earned the title “fighter of the year” in 1998 and 2007, and he has won nine world championships in five different weight classes.

Mayweather and Pacquiao have never fought.  Insiders and fans thought the fight would never happen because Mayweather officially announced his retirement from boxing in June of 2008, but on May 2, 2009, Mayweather announced his return to boxing against Juan Marquez.   Coming out of his short retirement, Mayweather stated that he “only wanted to fight the best,” and according to ESPN’s boxing insider Dan Rafael, “in [Mayweather’s] mind, he knows there is only one Godzilla, and that’s a fight with Pacquiao.”

The media and fans have dubbed the potential showdown between Mayweather and Pacquiao the “dream fight,” the “super fight,” and the “mega-fight.”   The dream fight may be just that, a dream, a fight that will never come to fruition.  The dream fight, if it occurs, will be the biggest financial night in boxing history.   The financials are just one aspect of the dream fight pie. The fight will reenergize the waning boxing fan base; and, the fight will finally determine who is the best pound for pound fighter of the decade.  However, the egos and interests of Pacquiao, Mayweather, and their respective representations have clashed at every stage of the negotiation process equating to an overall failed negotiation.  The two sides have gone blow for blow with one another over the distribution of the fight purse, the fight date and venue, fighter’s weight, steroid testing, and weight of boxing gloves.  Both sides have accused the other side of lying and twisting media reports.  Furthermore, lawsuits and gag orders have been filed, mediation by a retired federal judge has failed, and both sides continue to blame the other for the failed negotiation.

This paper analyzes the negotiations between Mayweather and Pacquiao, exploring the negotiating styles, rhetoric, and shortcomings of both sides in chronological order.  Part I evaluates the pre-official negotiations where the parties sparred back and forth through media outlets.  Part II analyzes the intense negotiations which resulted in both fighters fighting different opponents.  Part III offers a solution to moving the fight from the media outlets and into the ring.   

I. The Unofficial Negotiations

After Mayweather officially announced his return to the ring, immense excitement circulated in the media and boxing community about a potential dream fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao.   The negotiations for a fight were imminent following Pacquiao’s fight with Ricky Hatton on May 2, 2009; however, the official negotiations would not start until November 15, 2009 after Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto and Mayweather beat Juan Marquez.  Consequently, the two camps were left to prepare for the mixed-motive Mayweather-Pacquiao fight negotiations for seven months.  To varying degrees, negotiation preparation consists of evaluating one’s self, the other party, and the overall situation in order to arrive at the negotiation table with a clear objective and understanding of the interests of both parties to better reach and maximize an agreement for the dream fight. 

Instead of preparing and evaluating the relevant aforementioned factors for the negotiation, both parties utilized the media in the negotiation preparation period to set a strong positional stance of uncooperative precedent and hard bargaining.  Bob Arum (“Arum”), Pacquiao’s fight promoter, in an interview about the potential dream fight, stated “f*** Mayweather, Pacquiao’s the big attraction.  [Mayweather] has to come to us if he wants it.  If he doesn’t come to us, there’s dozens of other guys we can fight.”   Consequently, Pacquiao’s camp began the preparation period emphasizing that the negotiation was a fixed pie with the negotiators preparing “themselves for attack.”   Pacquiao’s camp set a strong position (positional negotiator) out of the start, stating that the target point will be purely at Pacquiao’s discretion- if Mayweather wants the fight, he will have to come to Pacquiao’s terms.  Therefore, the initial target point is set too high because if the only way the fight can occur is on Pacquiao’s terms, concessions and creative solutions in the negotiation will be at a minimum.

Furthermore, an additional problem with the positional bargaining approach taken by Pacquiao’s camp is that it reinforces egocentrism which is amplified when two professional athletes at the top of their sport are confronted with hard line positions.  The positions each camps take become part of their self-concepts, “making any opposition an ego threat.”   Mayweather through several media outlets stated that he would not agree to a 50-50 purse split with Pacquiao; in fact, Mayweather demanded a 60-40 split in his favor stating it “would be a cold day in hell” before he agreed to a 50-50 split.   Defensive behavior and competitive communications ensued as Pacquiao’s promoter Arum replied that “[Mayweather] is not the attraction.  [Mayweather] has no idea what he is talking about . . . whoever faces Pacquiao next should be happy with 30, 32, 35 percent of the purse and that includes Mayweather.”  Consequently, the ego defensive behavior by Mayweather and Pacquiao snowballed into competitive communication, retaliatory behavior, negative perceptions of the counterparty, and attitude polarization.   Therefore, instead of evaluating their respective positions and preparing for a negotiation, both camps exhibited counter-productive egocentric behavior transforming the negotiation into a hard bargain list of demands aimed to build up one’s ego and attack the other’s ego, resulting in a negotiation deadlock before the actual negotiations had started— an ego based deadlock that is very difficult to overcome.

The media reports emphasize the ego-based positions held by Mayweather and Pacquiao toward one another, however, a key attribute in the pre-negotiation phase and once the actual negotiations begin, are the additional parties in both the Pacquiao and Mayweather camps.  Bob Arum, Richard Schaeffer (“Schaeffer,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO, and Mayweather’s promoter), and Floyd Mayweather Senior (“Mayweather Sr.”) are hidden table (at this pre-negotiation stage) parties to the negotiation.  The additional parties’ interests are never fully explored or discussed through the negotiations, but each party has immense influence on the process and outcome.  Pacquiao openly defers his judgment to his team, specifically his promoter Arum.  Pacquiao stated that he will fight whoever his team chooses, “just as long as [his] team chooses wisely, and everything is fair and right.”   Consequently, one major concern is that the additional parties complicate the negotiation situation enormously, which is illustrated by who is making the overall decisions, and based on Pacquiao’s comments, one may reasonably conclude that Arum at this stage may be driving the actual negotiation.  Therefore, all of the parties’ key interests must be brought to the forefront, and their perceived differences need to be addressed and resolved.

The additional parties further divide Pacquiao and Mayweather’s ultimate interest of having a fight through in-group bias which they cultivate and release to the media as an ego attack on Pacquiao or Mayweather.  Arum, combined with his superiority belief that Pacquiao should control the negotiations and his grudge against rival producer Schaeffer, openly targets Mayweather, stating that Mayweather should fight Shane Mosley.  “But that Mayweather won’t take that fight.  He won’t take any fight where there is any possibility he might lose . . . He won’t take a chance like a normal fighter . . . [he only cares about] his legacy and [retiring] undefeated.”   Consequently, in-group bias propels groups toward conflict through superiority and distrust.   Furthermore, the in-group persona may amplify the ego defense responses by downward social comparison where each group views the other group as inferior.   In response to the egocentric driven insults by Arum, Mayweather Sr. accused Pacquiao of using performance enhancing drugs.   Mayweather Sr. further infers that Pacquiao is inferior to Mayweather, and that even if Pacquiao is using steroids, it will not put the needed boxing knowledge in his head to compete at Mayweather’s level.   Thus, although the official negotiations have not started at this point, the pre-negotiation phase has created huge rifts between the two parties through egocentric attacks further amplified by additional parties and in-group bias that illustrates the lack of proper preparation in understanding the interests of all the parties that will take place in the negotiation.


Judd Larson

Judd Larson is a 3L at Pepperdine School of Law and a student at the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution. MORE >

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