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Boxing promoter Bob Arum says Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight each other in 2015. Arum may know what he’s talking about.

Fight fans have waited years for this fight. I have waited years for this fight. It should have happened in 2007. Maybe 2008. Mayweather and Pacquiao are the best fighters in the world. Who would win?

It’s a deep question. It’s a serious question. It’s an important question. But Mayweather is 37 and Pacquiao is 35, and this fight has a certain fish smell to it. Or is it milk gone sour?

In the old days, when boxing was a relevant sport — before UFC crushed it — eight champions ruled eight divisions. Simple as that. Each division had 10 ranked contenders. Simple as that. Fighters worked their way up the rankings toward a title shot. At least that was the theory.

Today, boxing does not have a theory. Boxing is a collection of big fights between big names. Mike Tyson’s later career was a big-fight career — not his fault. No one knows about rankings or even champions anymore. Name the heavyweight champion of the world? Where have you gone, Joe Louis?

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is a big fight that is not a big fight. It is a ripoff fight because it is too late. And it’s all Mayweather’s fault.

I resist calling Mayweather a coward. Anyone who risks his neck in a ring is no coward. But, of all great fighters in the history of boxing, Mayweather comes closest to coward.

He could have fought Pacquiao at any time. Pacquiao was willing. But Mayweather created an obstacle. He wanted drug testing. He implied Pacquiao was taking performance-enhancing drugs.

I have no knowledge of Pacquiao’s pharmaceutical history. But I know boxing. The man who makes the conditions, the man who makes the excuses and creates the obstacles is the man who doesn’t want the fight.

That was Mayweather. Always has been Mayweather. Mayweather didn’t want the fight when it was a valid fight.

Why?

It’s wrong to say he was scared of Pacquiao, although Pacquiao’s left arrives with the impact of a blackjack. Mayweather is complicated. He wasn’t afraid of Pacquaio. He was afraid of losing.

Look at Mayweather’s record. He is undefeated — 46-0. Being undefeated means everything to Mayweather. So does being rich and famous. He is fighter as celebrity. Pacquiao, God love him, is fighter as fighter.

Mayweather avoided Pacquiao because the chance existed that Pacquiao would whip him. Mayweather never could take that chance. Maybe he’s not a coward, but he had an extended lapse of bravery.

Compare Mayweather to Sugar Ray Leonard, another welterweight champ — welters weigh 147 max. Leonard, a superior practitioner to Mayweather, fought everyone, fought the toughest fighters.

Why?

Because he had a fighting heart.

He took the welter title from Wilfred Benitez. He lost it and won it back from Roberto Duran, an all-time great fighter. He beat Thomas Hearns who would have launched Mayweather to the back row of any auditorium. Leonard even fought the great Marvin Hagler, a middleweight — 160-pound limit. And Leonard beat him.

Leonard never played it safe. He wanted to show his character — his fighting character to the world. Muhammad Ali was the same.

Mayweather has no fighting heart. He has a shriveled pea.

Now, he’s giving signals he may fight Pacquiao. Finally, he’ll take the risk.

Pacquiao lost two of his last four fights. In 2012, Juan Manuel Marquez knocked him senseless, Pacquiao falling flat on his face and lying on the canvas for two minutes. You thought he had died.

Mayweather is willing to fight Pacquiao now because Pacquiao no longer is Pacquiao.

Contemptible.

I object to Floyd Mayweather. He is a boring great fighter. He is a safety-first fighter.

That’s his business. He has all his marbles and a ton of dough, but his fights stink. He backs up and shows the opponent his shoulder and backs up some more. And he holds. He learned fighting at an Arthur Murray dance studio. He is the best foxtrot artist ever to be a champ.

He has fast hands and he’s more skillful than anyone he fights. He wins without ever taking a chance. Trying to whack him is like trying to whack the Man in the Moon. By the time you swing, he’s in another orbit.

He always would have defeated Pacquiao. He is the better athlete, the better boxer, the smarter boxer. When this fight mattered, Mayweather would have knocked out Pacquiao. That’s how good Mayweather is — or was. But he is the most hesitant great fighter in the history of this noble broken-nose sport.

When Mayweather and Pacquiao meet in 2015 — if they meet — the fight will have lost its meaning. A faint echo of loud thunder.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.