There's a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., but it's not in the ring -- at least not yet. Instead, it's in court.
Pacquiao filed suit in U.S. District Court in Nevada on Wednesday against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Floyd Mayweather Sr., Roger Mayweather, Mayweather Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions executives Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer, alleging that they made false and defamatory statements accusing him of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
It could be the final blow that will kill the negotiations for their proposed March 13 HBO PPV super fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a bout many believe would be the richest fight in boxing history if it takes place.
But it has hung in the balance for days as the sides have been hung up on one item -- the drug testing protocol to be used for the bout.
Mayweather has insisted on random urine and blood testing for both fighters. Pacquiao, who has agreed to random unlimited urine testing, has balked at random blood testing, saying he would only take three blood tests: One in early January around the time of the kickoff news conference, one randomly up to 30 days before the fight and one in the dressing room after the fight.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission only requires urine testing.
While Todd duBoef, the president of Pacquiao promoter Top Rank, and Golden Boy executive Bruce Binkow, representing Mayweather, continue to hold talks to try to find common ground, Pacquiao filed suit.
"Manny Pacquiao's achievements come from God-given talent and an indefatigable work ethic -- not steroids," said Pacquiao's Los Angles attorney, Daniel Petrocelli. "He cannot and will not allow others to deliberately misrepresent his years of hard work and tarnish his reputation.
"We had no choice but to file this lawsuit. He's had an unblemished reputation. You cannot accuse an athlete of cheating. It's the worst possible thing you can do to an athlete. They knew he didn't take any performance-enhancing drugs and they made these statements anyway. There was no choice but to bring a lawsuit to protect his reputation."
Petrocelli said they would seek damages "in the tens of millions."
Petrocelli represented Top Rank a few years ago when it sued Golden Boy over Pacquiao's promotional contract after Pacquiao had signed with both companies. The lawsuit led to a cold war between boxing's two most powerful American promoters, but was eventually settled through mediation, paving the way for the firms to co-promote several major fights.
Also Wednesday, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com that he didn't think the fight would happen and he was making plans to match Pacquiao with junior middleweight titlist Yuri Foreman on March 20 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, so Pacquiao could go for a title in a record eighth weight division.
"In my opinion the fight has no chance of happening and we should go and do other things and revisit it later in the year," Arum said from his vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "That is what I would suggest. That may not be how it works out. I don't know. It's a damn shame, but it's out of my hands. When I think of having to share a dais with those sleazebags, Oscar and Schaefer, after what they've been saying about Manny, it turns my stomach."
Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy, told ESPN.com, "As it relates to lawsuits, we never have a comment. We will refer it to our attorneys. That's all I have to say about the lawsuit."
He did say, however, lawsuit or not, he still hoped to finalize the fight.
"The fact is Floyd Mayweather is ready, willing and able to fight Manny Pacquiao," Schaefer said. "Bruce Binkow has told me that conversations are ongoing with Todd duBoef from Top Rank to find a solution to get this fight done, and just because there is a lawsuit, Todd has not represented to Bruce that they should stop talking."
Said Petrocelli, "Whether or not the fight is made, this lawsuit was an absolute necessity. [Pacquiao] could not leave unanswered the malicious statements to the public that he's been taking performance-enhancing drugs. These were irresponsible, reckless, false statements and he needs to address this."
Pacquiao said a few days ago that he planned to file a lawsuit, saying in a statement, "Enough is enough. These people, Mayweather Sr., [Mayweather] Jr. and Golden Boy Promotions, think it is a joke and a right to accuse someone wrongly of using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. I have tried to just brush it off as a mere pre-fight ploy but I think they have gone overboard."
Mayweather Sr., in particular, has been vocal in his assertions that Pacquiao is using PEDs, pointing to the fact that Pacquiao, who began his professional career at 106 pounds, has won seven titles in a record seven weight classes while retaining his speed and power. He won his seventh title in November by knocking out Miguel Cotto in the 12th round.
The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, alleges that since September, the Mayweathers, De La Hoya and Schaefer have publicly stated that Pacquiao uses PEDs.
Pacquiao denies he has ever used any banned substance and has passed urine tests.
"I maintain and assure everyone that I have not used any form or kind of steroids and that my way to the top is a result of hard work, hard work, hard work and a lot of blood spilled from my past battles in the ring, not outside of it," Pacquiao said in a statement. "I have no idea what steroids look like and my fear in God has kept me safe and victorious through all these years."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.