The fighters, who were for a long time the #1 and #2 fighters in terms drawing value and pound-for-pound status, have been inextricably linked in the boxing equivalent of "will they-won't they". So far they've failed to get in the ring together despite the calls of the boxing community, casual fans and television networks.
There was hope however that the bout would finally happen after the WBC instilled Pacquiao as the #1 challenger for Mayweather's Welterweight title. This was a decision that was roundly supported in the boxing world as a title awarding body doing the right thing for boxing and trying to help create the biggest bout that boxing could possibly have right now. Unfortunately however the WBC's move may not work in the way we had all hoped.
We had of course hoped that the WBC would have forced the Mayweather against Pacquiao as a mandatory title fight in 2014. This seemed to be the intention of the #1 ranking of Pacquiao and it seemed clear that if the bout was forced as a mandatory the negotiations would be easier than if the parties involved with both fighters were forced to do it themselves. For example going through the typical purse bid procedure would see both men given their "just" purses.
The WBC's rules state that by default a purse bid for a fight would typically be split 70-30 in favour of the champion. In this case that would be Mayweather getting the lions share. The WBC do however allow modifications to this typical split in extreme circumstances:
2.12 Division of Proceeds in a Purse Offer. The net purse offer (after deduction of the WBC certification
fees) shall be divided as follows:
a) 70% for the champion and 30% for the challenger.
b) 50% to each contender in the case of vacant titles or elimination bouts.
c) 55% to the champion and 45% to the interim champion, in the event of such a bout.
d) Notwithstanding the terms of subparagraphs a), b) and c) above, the Board of Governors
may, in its discretion and by a majority vote, modify the division of purse offer proceeds
between boxers in a purse offer in unusual or special cases, like the consideration of the
outstanding marketing value of one of the boxers. The modification of the split will be
limited to three categories: 70-30%; 60-40%; and 55-45% for the Champion and
challenger, respectively, except in the most exceptional circumstances, in which the split
may be modified to 50-50%.
Whilst this isn't a clear "duck" it does seem that Mayweather and the WBC aren't singing from the same hymn sheet and instead Mayweather will do as Mayweather wishes, something he has repeatedly proven over the course of his career.
From where I'm sat it's always looked like everyone has been posturing and as a result everyone has been to blame for the fight not happening. Mayweather's demand of "Olympic Style Drug" testing involving blood tests seemed to be one power play whilst Arum and Pacquiao's request of a 50-50 purse split was another, Mayweather's demand that the fight was to be fought under the Mayweather banner was another one whilst another was the venue with Arum originally wanting the bout in the Cowboys stadium or a temporary outdoor arena.
Those issues seemed to stand in the way of a fight that both probably wanted, but didn't want it enough. The fight, back in 2009, 2010 or 2011 was by far and away "the fight". It was almost bound to break records in terms PPV sales, purses, gate and almost every conceivable record.
Whilst it's still a fight that boxing fans want the allure of it has certainly dropped with Pacquiao suffering a controversial defeat to Timothy Bradley and a shocking KO defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez. From my point of view Mayweather has the ball clearly in his court due to those losses. Pacquiao's drawing ability has dropped significantly, his supposedly "invincibility" has been shattered and he's dropped well down the mythical pound-for-pound charts. Mayweather on the other hand is still unbeaten, he's been granted a huge money deal on Showtime and needs a major opponent and probably more importantly he'd also get the lions share of purse if he took this bout as a mandatory as one would expect.
Whilst Pacquiao's options are limited in terms of opponents things aren't actually much better for Mayweather. The American needs a big name opponent. He needs someone bigger in terms of name than Robert Guerrero, who he faced earlier this year, and whilst options include Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana neither is likely to bring the big money and big sales that please Showtime. That would leave Mayweather in desperate need for someone able to sell big numbers and the only real fighters that can do that are Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao.
If Mayweather is willing to give up his title, as he claims, then it's almost impossible for people to defend Mayweather. He's got a chance to satisfy everyone, fans, himself, Showtime and the WBC. If he turns it down it may be hard for Mayweather to get the respect that he craves, especially given that he right now holds the better cards.