- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions thought it had a deal to sign lightweight titlist Juan Diaz last week, but Diaz's manager, Willie Savannah, reneged before it was signed and instead took a better offer from Don King.
Golden Boy didn't make the same mistake twice, signing Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao out from under rival Top Rank by getting his signature on a seven-fight contract during a secret dinner Monday night in Los Angeles, multiple sources with knowledge of the deal told ESPN.com.
"It's done. It is signed," said one source, who said he has seen the executed contract.
Golden Boy, fast becoming boxing's most significant promoter, will also pay Pacquiao an undisclosed signing bonus, the source said.
Pacquiao arrived in the United States from the Philippines on Monday, a day ahead of a Tuesday news conference in Beverly Hills to discuss his Nov. 18 rubber match with rival Erik Morales. Pacquiao opened his training camp in Hollywood on Wednesday.
The fight with Morales is being promoted by Bob Arum's Top Rank, the bitter rival of Golden Boy. Arum promoted the first two Morales-Pacquiao fights, and Pacquiao was expected to sign with Arum after the trilogy, especially given Arum's relationship with Pacquiao confidant Wakee Salud.
Arum was hopeful of promoting a Pacquiao fight in the Chinese territory of Macau next spring at the newly opened Wynn Macau, which is owned by Las Vegas hotel magnate Steve Wynn. Arum does most of his business in Las Vegas with the Wynn Las Vegas.
However, when Pacquiao arrived in Los Angeles on Monday, he was taken to dinner to meet with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, along with trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao attorney Jeng Gacal and a couple of Pacquiao's friends.
"Oscar basically kidnapped Manny from the airport," said another source, who attended the dinner. "It was a substantially better deal than the one Manny was offered by Top Rank."
Schaefer had no comment.
When reached at his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Roach, who is very close to Pacquiao, was reluctant to talk about it.
"I can't discuss it right now," Roach said. "But Oscar did come by the gym to talk to Manny a couple of days ago."
Arum admitted he wanted to promote Pacquiao in a fight in Macau, win or lose against Morales.
"If he signed with Golden Boy, that's part of the business," he said. "I don't give a [expletive]. I really don't care. We have enough on our plate to occupy us. It would have been nice to promote Manny but if we can't, we can't. Life goes on."
According to sources, Pacquiao wants to keep the signing quiet because he doesn't want to upset Top Rank, which he believes will stack the deck against him in his rubber match with Morales.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef said that is ridiculous.
"We had conversations with Manny Pacquiao about signing him, but our conversations were primarily about this fight with Morales," he said. "If he wants to sign with Golden Boy, good for him. How does it effect the Morales-Pacquiao fight? It doesn't. They had come to us about working with Manny in the future. If he signed with Golden Boy, good for him. Congratulations."
If Pacquiao gets past Morales -- they split their first two bouts -- his first fight under the new deal could come in March in an HBO PPV rematch with Marco Antonio Barrera, one of Golden Boy's franchise fighters, who defended his junior lightweight title in a rematch with Rocky Juarez last week.
Pacquiao knocked Barrera out in the 11th round in their 2003 featherweight championship fight. Both fighters have openly talked about a rematch, which would be one of the biggest bouts the sport has to offer.
This is another major change in Pacquiao's team, which has seen considerable upheaval in recent years. He previously dumped promoter Murad Muhammad, agreeing to an $800,000 settlement after suing Muhammad for skimming from his purses. He also is ending his relationship with managers Shelly Finkel, Nick Khan and Keith Davidson following the fight with Morales.
The signing adds another star fighter to Golden Boy's increasingly deep roster, which is headed by company boss De La Hoya. In addition, Golden Boy promotes Bernard Hopkins (should he unretire), Barrera, Shane Mosley, Joan Guzman, Kassim Ouma, Jhonny Gonzalez, Daniel Ponce De Leon, Fernando Montiel, Oscar Larios and a host of other top fighters.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Golden Boy signed Manny Pacquiao to a seven-fight contract Monday night in Los Angeles, multiple sources with knowledge of the deal told ESPN.com.