The question came out of left field but the recording artist known as 50 Cent took it head on.
Did Floyd Mayweather duck Manny Pacquiao?
‘Yes,’ said the rapper who was Mayweather’s business partner during the brief period when a rock-solid proposal for boxing’s first and long-awaited $200million fight was firmly on the table.
‘He did duck the fight. That was $100m right there for him and he just left it.’
The issue of which of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world at that moment refused to fight the other has vexed the rival legions of Mayweather and Pacquiao fans for years. And a lot of knowing fingers have been pointed at the PacMan’s promoter, Bob Arum.
But few insiders are better positioned to settle that argument than 50 Cent, who became involved with the
PacMan after falling out with Mr Money but can now pass impartial judgement as an independent promoter in his own right.
So did Mayweather fear Pacquiao when both were at the height of their powers two years ago?
|50 Cent And Mayweather|
‘I wouldn’t say he’s afraid of Pacquiao or any fighter,’ says 50 Cent. ‘There were two reasons. He concentrates on how much someone else is getting paid as opposed to how much he’s making. Then he sees himself as being so high on top that he won’t give some of the other great fighters a chance to get up to that position.
‘It’s more a question of who it is necessary for him to fight. So its more about finding the perfect opponent than finding the toughest fighter to fight. When you’re looking to go into the history books you do it a bit differently. You fight the other great fighters.
‘But For Floyd it’s business. About making the right financial decisions. How do you stretch out how many wins on you record.’
Mayweather watchers have long sensed that he is obsessive about protecting his unbeaten record. Even casual observers know why this man calls himself Money, so it surprises virtually nobody that he has now found a way in which he might double his $100m share of a Pacquaio fight, albeit through a lot more fights.
Mayweather has just signed a deal with the Showtime cable TV network in America which should make him the highest paid sportsman of all time. Think more than $200 million in 30 months... if he can fulfill his side of this astonishing bargain.
Not even the stars of American football or baseball can match that, since the $100 million plus contracts of the likes of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez run over at least five years.
As for David Beckham, his last season at the LA Galaxy is reported to have added just $50 million to his net worth of $260 million. The potential for Mayweather dwarfs dear old Golden Balls.
Although Mr Money has a tendency to exaggerate his revenue from each bout, even by a conservative estimate he is now banking $35m from each pay-per-view performance.
He now has the opportunity to do that six times in two and a half year. That adds up to $210m.
There is only one caveat. To crash the $200m barrier in record time he does have to climb into the ring that often in that short space of time... and keep winning.
Now one boxing match every five months may not seem too much to ask of a highly trained athlete who keeps himself fit at all times. However, since defeating Ricky Hatton in 2007 Mayweather has fought only four times.
And that, you will have no problem calculating, amounts to less than one fight a year. Nor has he boxed since being jailed for two months last year.
The comeback from his incarceration takes place in his Las Vegas backyard on May 4. That is when he will defend his world welterweight championship against Robert Guerrero, who has been keeping the interim title warm during his absence.
Feverish anticipation of Mayweather’s return guarantees another box office bonanza and that should spill over to his next scheduled outing at the MGM Grand on September 14.
But Showtime will be aware that the more regular the appearances, the harder the sell. More can be less.
The paradox for a man who has been so protective of his no-loss record is that if the audiences are to keep buying in their millions he will have to take the most competitive and appealing fights out there.
Maybe, given his notorious financial extravagance, Mayweather will be fired up for more frequent activity against tougher challengers by a need to replenish his bank account.
Also, at 36, he knows the gravy train cannot keep steaming along forever – and that he cannot afford any defeats along the way which would derail the bullion car.
What the wider world will be hoping is that this combination of circumstances will finally force him to fight Pacquaio if he is to keep the fans on the boil.
Despite the PacMan’s shock KO by Juan Manuel Marquez, that is still the biggest fight out there and Mayweather may be obliged to take it around the mid-point of this six-fight cycle, probably in spring next year.
The outcome would depend in large part on what happens to both of them in the meantime. Not least whether Pacquiao decides to devote himself to politics full time.
As for who would have won two years ago, that is another divisive question.
Given that Mayweather is at his least comfortable against southpaws and Pacquiao has a dynamite left hook,
I would have given a marginal edge to the Philippines congressman.
Not their rapper friend for his 50 Cent’s worth: ‘I think Floyd, just. He has that something extra, something special.’
Not to mention all that Money.