There was movement by the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao camps Saturday in the battle over how to handle drug testing for their tentative March 13 super fight, but the sides remain at a stalemate in an increasingly nasty negotiation that threatens a fight many predict would be the highest-grossing bout in history.
With all of the other points agreed to for the blockbuster HBO PPV welterweight title bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the drug testing protocol is the final sticking point.
Mayweather -- whose father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., has accused Pacquiao of using performance-enhancing substances without any proof -- had been demanding the inflexible Olympic-style testing conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That would mean Mayweather and Pacquiao would be subject to random blood and urine tests all the way up to the fight and immediately following it.
Pacquiao objected, in part, because he and his team want assurances that testing would be cut off at a predetermined time before the fight.
Mayweather changed his stance Saturday, moving off the hard line he had taken on using USADA as the testing agency.
"We are OK to move off USADA," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who is representing Mayweather, told ESPN.com. "What we're saying, and what is important to us, is four things -- that the tests be random, that they include blood and urine and the time frame, meaning when do you stop the tests before the fight but know they will still be effective. Three of them we have agreed on -- random, blood and urine. So now it is a matter of the two sides working out the specifics of the cutoff date to assure it will still be effective."
Schaefer said those talks are taking place between Bruce Binkow, a high-level Golden Boy executive, and Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank, Pacquiao's promoter.
"Todd and Bruce are trying to work out the specifics of the cutoff to assure the tests are still effective because we know that 30 days before is not effective," Schaefer said. "At 30 days, we might as well not even do it. We want to figure it out [the cutoff window] and I will give my recommendation to Team Mayweather, and they will be on board. USADA is the most recognized one, but if it's another one, like the Nevada commission, we don't really care. I don't care who performs the tests as long as they are performed. That's our position. If this fight doesn't happen it's not because of Team Mayweather."
Pacquiao agreed to unlimited urine testing and at least three blood tests, one in early January around the time of the kickoff news conference, one 30 days before the fight and another in the dressing room after the fight. When Mayweather was insisting on USADA, Top Rank chief Bob Arum said Pacquiao was willing to revisit the number of tests as long as they used some other agency, one with which they could negotiate the protocol and assure Pacquiao that he would at least not be tested in the middle of the night or in the few days leading up to the bout.
On Friday, Arum said their side was willing to sit down with Golden Boy and the Nevada State Athletic Commission to work out the details of the testing. Nevada only requires a prefight and a postfight urine test, although it could also test blood if the sides asked.
But on Saturday, Arum, speaking from his vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, backtracked, saying even the three tests were out the window -- unless Nevada asked for them, which Arum knows is unlikely.
"Our position is that since the fight would be in Nevada, let [the Mayweather side] make any petition it wants to the commission," Arum said. "We wash our hands of it. If the commission wants to take blood, fine. We don't care. But we're not going to pander to this petty [expletive] about how many days before the fight they can test and so forth. Who are they [Golden Boy] to tell Manny what he's supposed to do? How many times did [Golden Boy boss] Oscar De La Hoya ever give blood before a fight? I will not let this kid get pushed around.
"If they go to the commission and they ask for blood tests and the commission says yes, we will do whatever the commission says. The commission says blood testing, we'll do blood testing. We're not going to help it or oppose it. We're not going to give any credence to this nonsense. They want to sign a contract under the rules of the commission, fine. We don't want the fight if it means Manny is going to be pushed around. Let the commission tell us how many days in front they want blood. Let the commission pick a date to stop taking blood. We trust the commission. Blood testing we think is unnecessary, but fine, we'll do it. But let the commission set the parameters. Let Golden Boy approach the commission and say we want to take blood when he's walking into the ring. Whatever the commission wants to do we will support, but we won't take part in this exercise in nonsense, a procedure which is contrary to how boxing has been conducted in Nevada for 40 years. The burden is not on us to tell the commission what to do."
Arum's appeal for the commission to handle matters may be hollow because although it has protocols in place for random urine testing during training camps, it doesn't for blood testing, and to put it in place in time for a March 13 fight is unlikely, according to Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada commission.
"We're very confident that urine tests by themselves cover everything that needs to be covered, but if the camps want to do additional testing through a third party they are welcome to, as long as they also adhere to commission rules," Kizer told ESPN.com. "Urine testing we could run with today. We could test their urine every day from now until March 13. But blood testing is trickier because we don't require it. If the commission wanted to change the rule it would have to be at a public meeting and, at the earliest, that would be early to mid-January. We have done some urine testing during training camps. We have those protocols in place. Blood testing is a different story.
"We'd have to put it on a commission agenda. Golden Boy or Top Rank or both could ask for blood testing and we'd look into it. Whether it would go anywhere, that's up to the commission to decide. As of now, there are no plans for a special commission meeting, nor has one been requested from either side."
The promoters and HBO hoped to have the fight signed and formally announced at a news conference the first week of January. If they can't iron out the particulars on blood testing until a commission meeting, likely around Jan. 13, it would make finalizing the bout unlikely until at least then.
Schaefer believes that Arum's position of leaving it up to the commission is him "moving the goal post."
"The pressure is on Pacquiao," he said. "They keep moving the goal post like they did with the $10 million weight penalty [if either fighter is over the contract maximum 147 pounds], which we agreed to. They didn't think we would accept that. When we did, they had to find something else to make into a problem. So now they're saying it's up to the commission instead of wanting to negotiate the drug testing with us. I don't want to hear that if the fight breaks up it was because of us. When they came to us with a $10 million weight penalty, they didn't expect us to say yes. They thought we'd say no. So when we said yes, they had to come up with something else. Now we're off USADA, and they are going to come and say only urine testing if that's what the commission says. It's really frustrating.
"We are making compromises. It's a two-way street. If they back off again, I will shut off my phone and spend the rest of the Christmas and New Year's time with my family, and good luck to all of these fools."
While Arum is making plans for an alternative fight for Pacquiao against former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi -- who has also accused Pacquiao of using PEDs -- if the Mayweather fight falls apart, Schaefer said he hasn't discussed an alternative with Mayweather.
"We haven't discussed anybody else because the fight we want to bring to the fight fans is the one with Pacquiao," he said. "The focus is on getting Mayweather-Pacquiao done while Bob is making calls everywhere on the Malignaggi fight. That shows his focus is not on Mayweather.
"How ridiculous is that that Pacquiao would go and fight the guy who makes accusations that he uses performance-enhancing drugs instead of Mayweather [Jr.], who didn't make those accusations? Something is not right. I don't know how to explain it other than maybe Pacquiao doesn't want the Mayweather fight."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.