The legendary trainer, who still trains top heavyweights Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, amongst others today, spoke to BBC Sport on the back of Sugar Ray Leonard’s comments that a bout between the two pound for pounds stars has to made to for the good of boxing.
“Boxing’s not in good shape. It’s more of a business now and its hurting boxing. We need to return to an era when the best fight the best and it wasn’t all about money and egos,” Steward explained in the BBC interview.
“Unless some drastic changes come about, I don’t like the way things are looking for boxing. There’s not one dream heavyweight fight – you’ve got Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko and nobody else. That’s not good.
“What made that era [of the 80’s] great was that they fought each other. They could have played politics but they were true warriors.”
“I could see something building up, so finally I called up [Leonard’s manager] Mike Trainer and said ‘Mike, it looks like the public wants to see Ray and Tommy fight and he said ‘why don’t we meet today?’
“So I jumped on a plane and we met at an airport coffee shop. Mike Trainer said ‘what are you looking for for Tommy?’ I said, ‘I want $5m for Tommy’. He said ‘have you lost your mind? How much do you think Ray should get?’ And I said $8m.
“They were all shocked, they thought I was going to ask for more for Tommy. They stepped out for a minute, came back and said ‘pal, you’ve got a deal’. I shook hands and flew back to Detroit on the exact same plane that I came on – that’s how quick the deal was made.
“One of the biggest fights in history was made on a quick handshake in about 30 minutes. There were no egos involved. We knew the public wanted it.
“The money is there [for Mayweather-Pacquiao], the two guys would make a minimum of $50m apiece, and it still can’t be made because of egos. Times have changed and it really frustrates me because I remember how easy it was for me to make the fight with Ray,” added Steward.
Mayweather and Pacquiao are now likely to put off a potential welterweight mega-fight whilst the two pursue different goals. The ‘Pacman’ is expected to attempt to end all doubt with Juan Manuel Marquez in a fourth meeting this November, whilst Mayweather is ready to equal Oscar De La Hoya’s feat of winning a world title at a sixth-weight class.
‘Money May’s’ has set his sights on the world’s best middleweight Sergio Martinez, although one stumbling block will be the fact that the Argentinian doesn’t currently hold a recognised world title – which he hopes to rectify with a WBC title bout with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September.
That could then open the door for Mayweather to step in for a December meeting with Martinez and gives the American plenty of time to regain his sharpness following a scheduled spell in a Las Vegas prison.