Pacquiao, Mayweather deliver fans a final insult

It's bad enough that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. aren't fighting each other on March 13, after both sides detonated boxing's version of a nuclear bomb and destroyed the biggest fight in the sport over a disagreement on the drug-testing procedures for the bout.

Now they -- and we -- are stuck with meaningless alternatives.

Shame on everyone involved. Shame, shame, shame.

The sport and its fans be damned, they said.

This wasn't just the destruction of any old fight. It was one of the biggest fights in history being pulled out from under millions of fans who were ready and willing -- excited, even -- to shell out hard-earned money while in the depths of a recession, just to see the two best fighters in the world throw down.

It was a fight that would have made boxing relevant again in the mainstream, even if briefly, and a great opportunity for the sport to capitalize on its great momentum of the past few years.

But that came to a grinding halt because of pettiness, ego and insanity on both sides.

After more than a month of holding the boxing world hostage while bickering over drug testing, they failed miserably. It is easily the most disappointing turn of events that I have covered in 10 years on this crazy beat.

And now it gets even worse: In the wreckage of the dead fight, the geniuses/babies at Top Rank (Pacquiao's promoter) and Golden Boy (which represents Mayweather) are again giving the finger to boxing fans by planning fights for their stars on the same day in competing pay-per-views.

They've already wounded boxing, so why not just jam the knife in a bit deeper, right?

Competing pay-per-views is just dumb, but Top Rank's Bob Arum -- who deserves a lot of the blame for Pacquiao-Mayweather going down in flames -- and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer are just stubborn and arrogant enough to do it, no matter what damage it inflicts.

So Pacquiao is headed for Cowboys Stadium in Dallas to defend his welterweight belt against Joshua Clottey. If you can get past the Mayweather fight not happening (which I haven't yet), Pacquiao-Clottey is not a bad match, although it pales in comparison to a Mayweather bout. But it says something when the most interesting aspect of the bout is the stadium in which it will take place.

In fact, if you take a look at the poll that has been running on the ESPN.com boxing page for the last couple of days, it asks simply: "Will you watch the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight at Cowboys Stadium?" The results are stunning. With more than 49,000 votes in early Wednesday evening (and still counting), it was 69-31 against watching the fight. If you examine the breakdown of the state-by-state vote, every state had voted in the majority against watching the fight except Hawaii, which has a large Filipino population.

That is just anecdotal evidence, of course, as it is not a scientific poll. But it's pretty clear that the sports public is extremely angry that Pacquiao and Mayweather are not fighting each other. The backlash against any other fight is enormous and deserved, something the promoters just do not understand yet, although they will when both pay-per-views tank miserably.

Mayweather, meanwhile, plans to fight the same night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and seems headed for a match with either Paulie Malignaggi or Nate Campbell. Both are good fighters, but neither bout is remotely compelling and beating either means nothing for Mayweather. They are both horrible mismatches. Let me repeat that, just in case you didn't get it the first time: They are both horrible mismatches. Even as non-pay-per-views, Mayweather against either opponent stinks. For a $50 fee to watch, it's grotesque.

If you think the ESPN.com poll numbers are bad for Pacquiao-Clottey, the numbers for a Mayweather-Malignaggi/Campbell poll should be much, much worse. Why? Because yet again, Mayweather, who claims to be the greatest fighter ever, would be facing a much smaller man with virtually zero chance to win. There's a shock. That's what Mayweather has systematically done since arriving at welterweight in 2005 -- duck the best opponents. At least Pacquiao has consistently challenged himself by facing bigger men. In Clottey, Pacquiao will be facing a man who poses some danger.

What it boils down to is this: Instead of fans clamoring to spend $60 for Pacquiao-Mayweather, they are stuck with two far lesser fights on the same night with a pay-per-view tab that will run $100 or so if they want to see both men in action. Hopefully, enough folks will reject both, which ought to teach both camps a lesson.

Only in boxing could those who are the de facto caretakers of the sport take a glorious event and dump all over it. What these guys needed more than mediator Daniel Weinstein's last-ditch effort to help them see their way through the drug-testing issue was group therapy.

One of the interesting elements in this depressing situation is how HBO will handle it. For the past several years, HBO PPV has handled Pacquiao and Mayweather fights. Now, it's faced with the cold reality of making a decision on which fighter and promoter it will support. Top Rank is prepared to go it alone with Pacquiao-Clottey, but it would like HBO's support. Golden Boy has been dependent on and enabled by HBO since its birth.

I know it's a rough situation because HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg ain't talkin' and he's ordered his staff not to talk either. They've got some serious decisions to make inside the ivory tower.

Greenburg doesn't want to alienate either fighter or promoter. Nor does he want to alienate Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (who is paying a roughly $6 million site fee to bring Pacquiao to his stadium), especially since Greenburg was the one who championed Pacquiao-Mayweather being held at Cowboys Stadium in the first place.

So what's going to happen? Pacquiao is going to fight Clottey because he wants to get in a bout before his campaign for political office in the Philippines get rolling. (Side note: Would you really want Pacquiao, a guy who once signed a contract with Top Rank and then accepted a bag full of cash from Golden Boy to also sign with that company, representing you in government? But I digress.)

Mayweather, who has no real opponent to fight on March 13, continues with plans to fight on that date, although he ought to wait until June and fight Shane Mosley (assuming Mosley beats Andre Berto on Jan. 30).

I don't know for sure what will happen other than, no matter what happens, there will be no winners.