Column: Mayweather rant means no Pacquiao fight
Sorry, boxing fans. This is news you don't want to hear.
Enjoy Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday night against Miguel Cotto, if you wish. But understand this: Despite the fervent hope of almost everyone in boxing, Mayweather will not be fighting Manny Pacquiao.
Not later this year. Not ever.
If I wasn't sure of it before, I'm sure of it now. Hard not to be after watching Mayweather as he went into a bizarre rant for the benefit of myself, a few other writers, and his ever present band of sycophants.
This wasn't for HBO's ''24/7'' cameras, though it was better than anything on the most recent episodes. It had nothing to do with getting people to pony up $69.95 to watch the Cotto fight in their living rooms.
This was pure Mayweather, unvarnished, unplugged, and totally uninhibited.
He won't fight Pacquiao unless he's convinced he doesn't use steroids - something, by the way, that only Mayweather has accused the Filipino of doing. And there will be no convincing Mayweather that he's wrong.
''You all think I'm scared, I'm a coward? Well guess what? I'm a rich, scared coward. I'm a rich coward,'' Mayweather said. ''And if that's the case, why the hell would you want to watch me? I don't want to watch no coward. I don't want to watch nobody who's scared and you all know for a fact I'm not scared. You all know that.''
I'll take part of the blame for setting Mayweather off. Sitting next to him Tuesday in a VIP check-in room just off the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel, it seemed like a good time to get his thoughts on his main rival.
Instead of an answer, I got a soliloquy. Instead of a yes or no on Pacquiao, I got a disjointed diatribe on all things Mayweather.
He railed about common sense and hat sizes, doing the right thing and protecting his health. He called Bob Arum a professional liar, and suggested I was in the rival promoter's pocket.
He even questioned my patriotism for some odd reason that only his pals seemed to get.
''So, you're an American, right? I'm an American,'' he told me. ''I was in the Olympics. I represent the red, white and blue. You know what the American writers should say? 'Well, why's this guy from another country who comes over here and makes money taking it back to his country?
''Once again, I'm feeding American citizens every day. All I ask is give a little blood, give a little urine. That's a crime?''
Actually, the drug testing shouldn't even be an issue. Arum has already said Pacquiao is willing to take blood and urine tests in the weeks and months leading up to a fight with Mayweather.
But Mayweather seems obsessed with the idea Pacquiao is juicing. He seems to truly believe that Pacquiao has some sort of super human powers other fighters don't.
He's not going to change his mind. And, ultimately, that means no Pacquiao fight.
It is true that Pacquiao has grown noticeably since he first began boxing professionally in 1995 at 106 pounds. He's much more muscular and his body has filled out in the 17 years since then.
However, I reminded Mayweather that he boxed in the 1996 Olympics at 125 pounds, and will be fighting at 154 pounds against Cotto.
''Guess what? It took me years to get to here. Years,'' he said. ''Go back and look at the pictures. First, his head is small. Then, all of a sudden, his head just grew? Come on, man. Stop! Stop this man! Come on, man! This (stuff's) so easy. Ray Charles can see this (stuff). Come on. Come on, now! Come on, man. I told you, it's basic common sense. Look at the pictures and tell me this man's head didn't get bigger? This man probably went from a seven and one-fourth to an eight. In a hat, a fitted hat. And you're going to tell me this (stuff) is all natural? Come on, man. Stop this. I'm going up in weight, but I ain't just walking through no damn fighters.''
If that wasn't clear enough, Mayweather shifted into third person mode to press his point.
''Writers are saying, 'Floyd is scared,''' he said. ''No, Floyd cares about his family. Floyd is smart. At the end of the day, Floyd is smart. My health is important. My health is more important than money. They can take all the money and my health is more important. If they say, 'Floyd, you can live a healthy life like you is right now, or you got to walk with a limp, and walk all bent over, but you can have a lot of money for the rest of your life,' I'd say, 'Take it all back.'''
Guess we should give the guy a break. He's got a fight that might be tougher than most Saturday night, and he'll barely have time to relax afterward when he's due at the Las Vegas jail to begin serving what's expected to be a two-month sentence for domestic abuse.
Before I set him off he had been in a reflective mood, quietly talking about basically raising himself as a child. He spoke about how the gym was his only refuge, and how he used to put pictures from boxing magazines on his wall and stare at them at night, convinced he would one day be rich and famous, too.
He's both, now. But he's not so sure the fame part is worth it anymore.
''I want to live a normal life. I want to go to the mall by myself, but I know I can't,'' he said. ''I do want to take a walk by myself, but I can't. There's a lot I want to do.''
It's hard not to like Mayweather in these moments. Actually, I've always liked the Mayweather I've been around, a guy who is generally thoughtful and upbeat. He contributes some of his considerable fortune to those less fortunate, and he does it mostly without asking for credit. His various arrests show another side, yes, but at the age of 35 he seems to finally be outgrowing the foibles of his youth.
I still like him, even after the rant that ended with a dramatic flourish when he leaned over and offered his hand to me.
''Have a good day,'' he said.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg