On Saturday, the chance of one of the greatest fights of the 21st century being arranged came…And went in a flurry of non-activity, posturing and the usual outpouring of boxing promoter/manager rhetoric.

Saturday saw promoter Bob Arum’s deadline for a proposed super fight, a term often used but rarely deserved but in this case fittingly so, between unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr and Philipino congressman and boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, pass without a deal being signed. The fight that everybody wants to see, will still be the fight that everybody wants to see.

It is a shambles and a stain on the image of professional boxing. It is no wonder MMA is bringing in new audiences. At least their top combatants are willing to fight each other and not hide behind macho posturing, financial postulating and false bravado to try and cover the fact that someone, somewhere, fears that their seemingly invincible title, will be destroyed and their arch-rival confirmed as a true legend of the sport.

It isn’t the first time the fight has fallen through. It seemed late last year that a deal had been agreed for the two giants to face off in May 2010. Then Mayweather’s camp insisted on blood tests 30 days before the fight. Pacquaio refused. A mere technicality, which could easily have been resolved, became a major stumbling block as the ego of each fighter and their advisors ensured that a minor issue of discussion became a full-blown crisis enough to postpone the fight.

Now Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter has pointedly stated “Floyd for whatever reason, and I’m a sure he’s got some valid reason, did not want to commit,” stated Arum in a news conference on Saturday morning. Arum confirmed that the blood testing issue, which scuppered the last fight had been “resolved” – whatever that means.

While the language used was carefully chosen for its conciliatory tone, there can be no doubting the general meaning. Mayweather didn’t fancy putting his unbeaten record on the line against Pacquiao, even with some blood testing agreement in place and a reported split of the purse, of an estimated $200 million fight, 60-40 in the favour of the American.

Make of that what you will.

Of course, Mayweather’s camp will now be on the offensive. No doubt over the next few days we will probably likely hear of the unreasonable demands the Philippine stars camp made of Mayweather and boxing fans will have to make do with the two legendary figures of the modern era knocking down fighters who they have already proved they are better than.

It is hardly a glowing reference for professional boxing.

Imagine if Muhammed Ali had refused to fight George Foreman in 1974, Sugar Ray Leonard turned down the chance to fight Marvin Hagler. Their legacy would forever be tainted. These boxers are revered because they fought the best in their era. They may not have necessarily won every fight, but they were willing to put everything on the line.

A fact that Mayweather and Pacquiao would do well to remember.

They may hide behind their ego, fabulous wealth, apparent disharmony over the ‘unfair’ deal and their entourage of hangers on who agree to every vapid word they say with the mindless abeyance of the entirely servile, but until they climb into the ring to face each other and that bell sounds, neither will be a true champion, regardless of what either camp maintains.