When looking back on the failure of boxing over the past few years to deliver the one true "mega-fight" in the sport in Manny Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather, September 2006 sticks out as the moment where everything changed. News broke in that month that Pacquiao had bailed on Top Rank and signed a seven fight deal with Golden Boy. It was more than a simple rumor, the signed contract was a real thing that Manny reneged on and went back to Top Rank.
There was a lot of shouting on both sides, lawsuits and, in the end, everything remaining exactly how it was. The companies were even able to set aside their bitterness and work together to promote multiple fights.
In 2007, Mayweather would take the step from top quality boxer to superstar when he fought Oscar De La Hoya in a fight that set the all-time PPV record. The De La Hoya fight also cemented a relationship between Golden Boy and Mayweather. While no one was clamoring for a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight at the time with the men separated by several weight classes, the combination of Pacquiao screwing over Golden Boy while Mayweather was building a relationship with them was the first step that led to us not seeing the fight once it did become THE fight.
It was more than just that history though, it was Top Rank and Mayweather both being unwilling to take the risk once the fight became bigger. The men were to fight in 2010 but Manny wouldn't agree to blood based drug testing (He's afraid of needles! Nevermind the tattoos!), then when they did agree to the method of testing, wouldn't agree to testing within 24 days of the fight.
Early in 2012, another round of posturing ensued. Manny said he wanted the fight, Floyd said it was the only fight he wanted as well. Set to face jail time, Mayweather was able to get his sentence delayed as they had the May 5 date locked up. After previously saying that Manny would fight in May or June, Top Rank's Bob Arum suddenly said that Manny wouldn't be ready to fight until summertime because of a cut he'd suffered in his November bout with Juan Manuel Marquez. So we can add one of the longest healing cuts in the history of fighting to a fear of needles in just why fans weren't treated to the one fight that transcends boxing.
Of course, Floyd isn't innocent in all of this either. Despite it being both men that make the fight the attraction that it is, Mayweather made it clear that he wouldn't take a 50/50 purse split. Top Rank isn't going to agree to anything less than 50/50 so that's a point that will effectively kill the fight every time negotiations start.
All this leads to this Saturday and Mayweather's fight with Miguel Cotto.
Cotto is the biggest attraction in boxing not named Floyd or Manny. His Puerto Rican fanbase remains loyal and rabid. Miguel is also the number one fighter in the world at 154 pounds, a weight that Floyd has only fought against once, in his 2007 bout with De La Hoya. So it's as legitimate a fight as there is for Floyd, you know...if you can ignore that Manny Pacquiao exists.
With his own contract with Top Rank ending after his grudge match beatdown of Antonio Margarito, Cotto became one of the most powerful men in boxing. Arum and Co. wanted Miguel to fight Pacquiao but Mayweather wanted him for their own mega-event. In the end, Floyd's offer was better and he scored the bigger fight while Manny will fight Timothy Bradley in a fight that carries massive risk.
Even better for Floyd is that he is heavily favored to remain undefeated. Cotto is no scrub between the ropes, but he's not the fighter he once was and at 154 pounds, he's not got the kind of one shot power or speed that he had at 140 pounds.
So with the Pacquiao fight out of reach, Floyd has secured a fight against the biggest draw available in a legitimate fight that carries low risk (though don't expect the competitive Cotto to roll over just because he is making ten million dollars). But even knowing the good that comes with the fight, it's hard as a boxing fan to accept that six years of long and winding roads have led us to this...the next best option.