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Showtime exec: Mayweather wants Pacquiao more than ever

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. wants a fight with Manny Pacquiao more than ever, a top Showtime executive said Thursday, and negotiations continue to make the long anticipated bout a reality on May 2.

Stephen Espinoza told The Associated Press that Mayweather has not wavered in his determination to fight Pacquiao in what would be the richest fight ever.

“Personally I’ve been involved in these negotiations continuously since the very first in 2009,” Espinoza said. “I can say I’m not sure there’s a point where I personally observed him wanting it more than over the last few months.”

Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum said this week that his fighter has agreed to all terms dictated by the Mayweather camp and that all that stood in the way of the bout was the approval of Mayweather himself. But Espinoza said there were still some issues to discuss, though progress has been made.

“We’re making meaningful progress but if we were running a race we would still have a ways to go,” he said. “Everyone is trying to get to the finish line as soon as possible.”

Espinoza, Showtime’s executive vice president for sports, confirmed there have been parallel talks between Showtime and HBO over how the fight would be televised, and that those talks were ongoing. Pacquiao is an HBO fighter, while Mayweather would be fighting for the fifth time in a six-fight deal with Showtime.

The two deals are intertwined, he said, but declined to talk about the details of either negotiation.

“We all mutually agreed we’re not going to negotiate in the press,” Espinoza said. “There’s been some misinformation out there and in general all sides realize that the less said publicly the better.”

Arum said earlier that Pacquiao agreed to everything from the purse split (reportedly 60-40 in Mayweather’s favor) to the gloves to who goes in the ring first in the welterweight title fight. His comments were seen as an effort to turn up the heat on Mayweather, who hasn’t spoken publicly about Pacquiao since declaring on Showtime last month that he wanted to fight him on May 2.

Though there has long been tension between the two networks, it is unlikely that friction would hold up the fight. The plan would be for a joint pay-per-view broadcast like the one in 2002 when Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis met for the heavyweight title.

An HBO spokesman said he was not aware of any talks, and said no HBO executives would comment on the possibility of the fight.

The bout would be boxing’s richest ever, delivering likely paydays of some $120 million for Mayweather and $80 million for Pacquiao. It would likely have the biggest pay-per-view price, too, expected to be in the $85-90 range.

Espinoza said he is confident that it will be a box office smash, despite the time that has gone by since it was first proposed.

“Hard core fans wish it would have happened five years ago but that doesn’t mean they won’t watch it,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be any diminution of public interest in this fight even though it has taken awhile to get to this point.”

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