- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Leonard Ellerbe, one of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s closest advisers, denied Monday that negotiations for a super fight between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had ever taken place.
That is contrary to what Top Rank's Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, has been saying for the past three weeks, and he's sticking by his story.
Arum said June 30 that he had concluded talks and was waiting for a decision from the Mayweather camp on whether he wanted to fight this year. Then, Arum gave Mayweather until 3 a.m. ET Saturday to accept the terms of an agreement, or he would move on and look to make a deal for Pacquiao to either fight Antonio Margarito or have a rematch with Miguel Cotto on Nov. 13.
There was even a clock on Top Rank's website counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the deadline, a deadline Arum said was the window in which he would exclusively negotiate the Mayweather fight.
Arum set a teleconference with boxing reporters at the deadline's expiration. On the teleconference, Arum said he had worked out the agreement with Al Haymon, Mayweather's top adviser, using Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, as a go-between without ever speaking directly to Haymon.
Now, Ellerbe denies any of that ever happened.
"Here are the facts," Ellerbe said in Monday's statement. "Al Haymon, [Golden Boy Promotions CEO] Richard Schaefer and myself speak to each other on a regular basis, and the truth is no negotiations have ever taken place, nor was there ever a deal agreed upon by Team Mayweather or Floyd Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 13. Either Ross Greenburg or Bob Arum is not telling the truth, but history tells us who is lying."
Ellerbe was clearly taking a shot at Arum, who is famous for playing fast and loose with the truth after having uttered the famous quote years ago, "Yesterday I was lying; today I am telling the truth."
When asked for his response to Ellerbe's surprising statement, Greenburg said in an e-mail to ESPN.com, "As always we have no comment."
Arum sounded utterly perplexed when reached for comment about the statement.
"This is like absurd unreality," Arum said when reached at his Los Angeles vacation home. "I'm not going to be party to this [expletive]. When I heard about [the statement] I thought it was a joke. Ross said he was talking to Haymon. He certainly wasn't making it up. And Haymon was relaying conversations to Ross allegedly that Floyd had with him. At least that is what Ross says."
Throughout May and June, when the negotiations were supposedly taking place, Arum refused to speak about them. He would cite a "gag order," which he said everyone involved had agreed to. Schaefer did the same thing and would sometimes say "no comment" when called before even being asked a question because the "gag order" had become such a joke in boxing circles.
Oscar De La Hoya, the founder and president of Golden Boy Promotions, acknowledged negotiations during an early June appearance on a talk show on Spanish-language network Univision. During his appearance, in which he spoke Spanish, De La Hoya said the deal for the fight was very close.
When the camps negotiated the bout in December and January in anticipation of it happening in March, both sides spoke freely to the media, and their comments, they said, contributed to the fight blowing up over an inability to finalize the drug testing protocol.
This time, both sides said, they would keep things private.
"If there is no negotiation, who imposed the gag order," Arum said. "Why they're doing this is absurd. What is motivating them to put something like this out? I'm not going to speculate, but what are they doing? Schaefer said there was a gag order. Who could there be a gag order from if there were no negotiations? From the sky?
"What they said was absurd, but why did they say this? They could say a lot of other things. My feeling is that this is rapidly becoming one of the most bizarre things ever."
On Sunday, Mayweather, who was in Miami as a coach at a charity basketball game hosted by Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning, told The Associated Press regarding the Pacquiao fight, "I'm not interested in rushing to do anything. I'm not really thinking about boxing right now. I'm just relaxing. I fought about 60 days ago, so I'm just enjoying myself, enjoying life, enjoying my family and enjoying my vacation."
With Mayweather, who beat Shane Mosley on May 1, clearly not interested in fighting again this year, Arum said he will try to close a fight with Margarito or Cotto in the next 10 days or so.
But there remains a hearty appetite from the public for Pacquiao-Mayweather, a fight between the sport's two best fighters. It's a fight that many believe will shatter all boxing revenue records.
Top Rank streamed Saturday morning's teleconference live on its website, and spokesman Lee Samuels said more than 30,000 tuned in despite the timing. He added that Top Rank's website spiked to 50,000 hits on Saturday. Both, he said, are records for the site.
So Ellerbe's denial of the talks and Arum's insistence that they took place add another chapter to the saga of the biggest fight in the sport, one that seems a long way from taking place.
"The kid [Mayweather] said he doesn't want to fight. OK, good," Arum said. "But this makes everybody look crazy."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.
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