By Keysha Hogan
Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s head of sports, is betting big on Floyd Mayweather’s staying power. For Mayweather, the power of his opponent’s left hook isn’t the only stress he faces. It is crucial for him to bring in at least one million pay-per-view buys in each match-up of his lavish six-fight, 30-month deal that has been called the “richest individual athlete deal in all of sports.”
Mayweather has cornered a substantial share of fight revenues by serving as his own promoter through his aptly named firm, Mayweather Promotions. In turn, he gets a piece of all revenue from pay-per-view, sponsorships, and tickets while simultaneously covering the costs of things like his adversary’s purse.
Unfortunately the details of this massive deal are confidential, but there is no way that a man with the aka of “Money” would leave boxing juggernaut Home Box Office for chump change. He averaged around the $40 million in his last three times in the ring. So, with six fights and massive pay-per-view interest, it puts Showtime’s guarantee at about $250 million.
If he’s able to pull off all six fights at age 36, he will have to amp up his schedule. In the past five years he’s only been inside the ring five times. But if Mayweather can find some prime bankable opponents and stay undefeated then he can push those figures much higher.
A large reason Mayweather has been able to dominate all things financial is most likely due to the fact he has cast himself as a fighter cloaked in arrogance and ego. Being abrasive, trash talking his opponents and blatantly flashing wealth is what drives these big payouts when he enters the ring. Each fight, half of the audience is hoping to watch him dominate while the other half just wants to watch him take a Manny Pacquiao-esqe nap on the canvas. To some athletes knowledge of such disdain would cripple them for competition, but Mayweather is only interested in whether or not those with an opinion have paid up for the show. And you better believe that Floyd “Money” Mayweather sees the violent act of pummeling the guy across from him back into the chitterling circuit of boxing as “a show.”
Over his career Mayweather fully embraced boxing as entertainment and spectacle, as well as sport. He grew up in the shadow of the ultimate athletic showman, Muhammad Ali. Every pre-fight utterance Ali spoke was recorded and fawned over by reporters and fans alike. He would make headlines by saying “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.” Ali allowed the press and black-and-white TV to show him as the hero of every tale he told.
The world gazed in wonder when this young black man in the midst of the Civil Rights era would eloquently discuss the world’s problems. He would speak frankly about popes, faith, presidents and the Vietnam War. Then he’d slip in a “rope a dope” comment and slam Forman, and the world smirked with him. But in comparison, the only time we hear anything from Mayweather outside of the ring, is when he is fighting domestic abuse charges and reflecting on his time in and out of jail, a slight bit less eloquently.
At the beginning of his rise to fame, legendary boxing writer Larry Merchant said that Mayweather had to learn the fine line between showboating and showmanship. And it has always been evident that Mayweather was using Ali’s career as a playbook, but he seems to be reading it backwards. Through all the grandiose and controversial behavior, the public eventually become enamored with Ali and turned him into an American icon after his career. But with Mayweather, the more the public is exposed to his self-assured swagger, the less they like him. After his fighting days are over, there will be no arguing his achievements in the boardroom and ring, but don’t look for him to light the cauldron at the Olympics while a teary global audience looks on and waves flags.
The next time we’ll see Mayweather in the ring will be his Sept. 14 bout against Canelo Alvarez. Predictions and opinions have started flooding the online boxing forums, and experts like Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristáin have thrown in their two cents. He was quick to not dismiss the young Mexican fighter.
“In his last fights he (Mayweather) hasn’t looked so good and now Canelo has a great opportunity,” Beristáin said. “It would be a historic triumph for Mexican boxing.”
Mayweather is banking on a motivated Hispanic audience to turn out and tune into his pay-per-view fights for Showtime to drive his bottom line even higher.
In September both fighters will be looking for their chance to step up their game and give boxing the highly competitive televised fight it so desperately needs. Fans will be looking to see if Canelo can force Mayweather to prove he can still withstand a knockdown, drag-out fight. If Mother Nature doesn’t put the brakes on the older but more experienced Mayweather, this will be a fight worth watching.
In the coming months, the promotional teams will be ramping up the hype to make this fight the battle royale of the season. There will be images of both fighters skipping rope and glaring into the camera with stone cold expressions. Alvarez will be covered in the colors of Mexico’s flag while whatever Mayweather chooses to wear will be trimmed in gold.
Either way the winner in this scenario will be Showtime and Mayweather. Together they have created a monster of a machine that eats money and captivates boxing fans. After the first bell rings, all the big talk and flashy behavior will come to a stop. Mayweather may fall short and end up making statements that sound nothing more than idle threats, or he’ll continue his streak of dominance and infuriate the haters who think his time is up. But the machine that this mega-deal has created will keep churning and keep him on top until the next kid with swagger comes along.