By Jeremy Wall
On Saturday, May 2nd, Floyd Mayweather defeated Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision on pay per view at the MGM Grand. But it is hard to say Pacquiao was defeated in any real sense of the word, because both fighters made career pay days that most celebrities only dream of as the fight will easily go down as the most lucrative match in boxing history. And it's a record that is not about to broken anytime soon.
The fight reairs tonight on both HBO and Showtime, starting at 9pm ET. HBO also has Canelo Alvarez vs James Kirkland and Showtime has an exclusive interview with Mayweather where he rejects the idea of a Pacquiao rematch. Premier Boxing also has a show this afternoon at 4pm ET on CBS. CBS is the parent company of Showtime, so it will be interesting to see how they promote the rebroadcast of the fight tonight.
"Muhammad Ali called himself the greatest, but this is my era. And in my era I'm TBE (the best ever). I was born a winner and will die a winner. I'm the American dream," Mayweather said after the bout. Mayweather will earn at least $180 million from the fight, and probably more, making him the highest paid athlete in a calendar year. Pacquiao will earn at least $120 million and probably more.
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports has reported that the pay per view buy rate could reach as high as 5 million. It is an astronomical figure. The record is 2.48 million buys for Mayweather vs De La Hoya from 2008. Mayweather vs Pacquiao was projected to do around 3 million buys, so it was expected to beat boxing's buy rate record, but not by this much. It will also beat the pay per view revenue record for boxing, set by Mayweather vs Canelo from 2013, which drew $150 million on pay per view.
Iole reported that sales for the fight from DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T's uVerse and Verizon FIOS add up to 2.25 million buys thus far. Those are all satellite providers, which usually end up account for around 35-percent of sales, with around 60-percent of sales coming from cable systems, with the remainder of sales from telephone companies. DirecTV sold 1.15 million buys. Dish sold 500,000. Telephone companies have combined for 600,000. Iole projects that if cable companies end up accounting for 60-percent of the total, that would end up with a figure of 5.625 million buys, more than doubling the previous buy rate record. In fact, it is higher than the two biggest boxing buy rates combined.
The MGM Grand sold out to 16,507 for a live gate of $74 million. 46,000 tickets were sold to watch the fight on closed-circuit, bringing in another $9 million. The fight broke the record for private planes at the McCarran International Airport, at about 500 planes. The previous record was 350 for a SuperBowl. Revenue from hotel rooms on the Las Vegas strip rose 30-percent for the weekend.
“We haven’t seen these kinds of numbers, you’d have to go back to Mike Tyson in his heyday to get anywhere near,” said Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts.
The fight was projected to generate $400 million in revenue, but with the pay per view buy rate exceeding expectations by a wide margin, total revenue will end up much higher.
The biggest question is what happens from here. Mayweather said in his post-fight interview that he was going to fight once more in September and retire, although at the post-fight presser indicated he may change his mind about retirement. Mayweather has one fight left on his contract with Showtime, which pays him at least $32 million per fight.
Pacquiao fought with a torn right rotator cuff, which has resulted in a lawsuit against Pacquiao as well as a pending investigation by the Nevada State Athletic Commission into Pacquiao's camp lying about the condition of their fighter going into the bout. Pacquiao had successful arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He's expected to make a full recovery, but will be out of training for at least six months.
"Manny could be back training in about six months," said Pacquiao's surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, before the surgery. "At that point, he will be regaining strength and endurance, and competition is reasonable within nine months to a year. But this is a severe enough tear that it won't heal without being repaired."
Pacquiao's injury shelves the idea of a rematch in September, although even if Pacquiao was healthy it was unlikely to happen anyway. There was no rematch clause in the fight contract and it was hard enough to put the bout together the first time with Mayweather being exclusive to Showtime and Pacquiao to HBO.
It is, however, possible and maybe even likely at this point that a rematch will occur next year. Mayweather will be a free agent in terms of his broadcasting partner after his planned September fight. Pacquiao remains under contract to HBO. HBO could sign Mayweather, who they worked with for years, and broadcast a rematch between the two with the idea that this time Pacquiao will be completely healthy.
A rematch wouldn't draw the numbers of the first fight, but it would still be the most lucrative boxing match of the near future. There are a few holdups. Another roadblock to getting Mayweather vs Pacquiao signed the first time is that Mayweather is controlled by Al Haymon and Pacquiao by Bob Arum, who are involved in an expensive promotional war. That factor doesn't change for a rematch. The second issue is that if Mayweather was to sign with HBO, they would have to work with Haymon. HBO is Haymon's primary competitor for market share after this year's launch of Haymon's Premier Boxing on network television.
Perhaps once Mayweather finishes with Showtime, Haymon could end up promoting a Mayweather pay per view in 2016 without a broadcast partner. It would be a pay per view broadcast by Premier Boxing, instead of by HBO or Showtime. To make that profitable, Haymon would probably need Pacquiao as Mayweather's opponent, which still means working with Arum and HBO again.
There may also be no rematch. If Mayweather fights again next year in an attempt to break Rocky Marciano's 49-0 record, he may be put against an opponent who is also under contract to Haymon. That wouldn't draw as well as a fight against Pacquiao, but it would be easier to put together for Haymon and Mayweather and would likely still be profitable.
"Did I text Stephen A. Smith and say I will fight him again? Yeah, but I change my mind. At this particular time, no, because he's a sore loser and he's a coward," Mayweather told Showtime in an interview taped this week that airs tonight on Showtime's rebroadcast of the fight. "He lost. He knows he lost. I lost a lot of respect for him after all of this."
The key to whoever Mayweather fights in September or next year, if he chooses to fight again after his final Showtime bout, will be that if Mayweather's opponent isn't Pacquiao, it is likely to be someone under contract to Haymon. There is a nasty promotional war going on in boxing between Haymon and basically everyone else. Haymon isn't going to risk creating a drawing card for his competition by having a fight under contract to Arum, Golden Boy, Main Events, or whoever, beat Mayweather. If Mayweather were to lose a fight, best it be against someone Haymon has under contract. Pacquiao is the only exception because the money for the rematch would be so great.
The limits the field of opponents for Mayweather for September or next year. Amir Khan claims he has been approached by Mayweather's people to fight Floyd in September. A Mayweather-Khan pay per view has been talked about for a while. Khan is currently expected to face (and defeat) Chris Algieri on a Premier Boxing Spike show this month.
Khan is a good fighter, but not to the level of Mayweather in his prime. He isn't a drawing card, although a good fight on Spike TV will help a bit. It surprised me that they booked Khan on Spike instead of NBC, because I figured he would be one of the frontrunners to face Mayweather next and you would expect they would want to expose Khan to as many people as possible.
That they put Khan on Spike and Keith Thurman on NBC in the debut of Premier a couple months ago makes me think Thurman could be the September opponent. NBC executives have talked about the idea of taking one of the stars from Premier broadcasts on NBC and putting him against Mayweather. Thurman's win over Robert Guerrero (who was defeated on pay per view a few years ago by Mayweather) was the most watched boxing broadcast on free television in years.
Thurman is young, has star potential, and is a skilled fight. He may even be able to defeat Mayweather, which is why the fight might not happen because I don't see Mayweather being open to risking his legendary record at this stage in the game by putting someone over on his way into retirement. The best thing for Haymon's long-term business would be for someone he has under contract, such as Thurman or Khan, to beat Mayweather and become pay per view draws themselves.
One of the key factors that made Mayweather a draw was beating Oscar de la Hoya. Mayweather made his pay per view debut on June 25th, 2005, against Arturo Gatti. The fight drew 350,000 buys. Of Mayweather's three pay per view bouts before facing de la Hoya on March 5th, 2007, Mayweather drew an average buy rate of 354,667 over three bouts with the highest being the fight against Gatti.
Mayweather drew what was formerly the buy rate record against de la Hoya at 2.48 million buys. After the de la Hoya fight, Mayweather averaged 1,243,889 buys over nine fights. Mayweather's popularity was also bolstered by appearing in a match at the 2008 WrestleMania, which took place after he fought Ricky Hatton a few months earlier, Mayweather's first bout since beating de la Hoya.
Pacquiao also became a draw by beating de la Hoya. Pacquiao also debuted on pay per view in 2005. Before beating de la Hoya in a fight that drew 1.25 million buys on December 6th, 2008, Pacquiao averaged 295,000 buys over eight fights. His highest buy rate during that time was against Juan Manuel Marquez on March 15th, 2008, which drew 400,000 buys. After beating de la Hoya, Pacquiao has averaged 919,091 over 11 fights, including reach 1.4 million buys for his third bout against Marquez on November 8th, 2011.
The drawing power of Mayweather and Pacquiao on pay per view were actually in decline prior to their bout last weekend. For his two fights against Marcos Maidana in 2014, Mayweather actually dipped below 1 million buys for the first time since facing Hatton in 2007. The first Maidana fight drew 900,000 buys and the second 925,000 buys. The second did better than projections, but Mayweather gets paid a lot to fight, so buy rates need to be higher to make it worthwhile to pay him. This is why CBS President Leslie Moonves was so instrumental in getting the fight with Pacquiao made, because Showtime (owned by CBS) is paying Mayweather such a huge sum of money for each fight that they needed the revenue from the Pacquiao fight to make Showtime's expensive contract with Mayweather worthwhile.
Pacquiao's drawing power prior to this year was declining even more severely. After he lost to both Marquez and Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao only drew 470,000 buys against Brandon Rios on November 24th, 2013. Pacquiao beat Bradley in a rematch on April 12th, 2014, but that only drew 800,000 buys. Pacquiao's fight against Chris Algieri on November 23rd, 2014, drew especially poorly at 400,000 buys. This is why Pacquiao was interested in fighting Mayweather now compared to five years ago because five years ago Pacquiao's drawing power and this his personal income were much higher. The biggest pay day he could make at this point was against Mayweather.
If Pacquiao doesn't fight Mayweather again next year, he has a few opponents he could face. One would think that it would be another Top Rank fighter who Arum is trying to push as a new star, such as Terence Crawford, or someone of that nature. A fight like that may even happen if Pacquiao faces Mayweather again anyway, because Pacquiao is at the stage of his career where he could put someone over, similar to what de la Hoya did for him. Arum has also talked about Pacquiao facing Kell Brook, which would be big in England, but mean nothing in the US on pay per view.
Probably the best thing for Arum (and, to a degree, for Pacquiao) would be a rematch with Mayweather next year and then a fight where Pacquiao is expected to lose to a younger and better fighter who is also promoted by Arum. People have also thrown around names like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Andre Ward, and Gennady Golovkin as opponents for Pacquiao, but all three fighters are much too larger. Pacquiao is small for a welterweight. Chavez fights best at middleweight, although he recently moved up light-heavyweight to get wrecked by Andrzej Fonfara. Ward is a super middleweght and Golovkin is a middleweight.
None of those fighters is a likely opponent for Mayweather, either. Ward is under contract to Jay-Z, Haymon's rival dating back to their music days, and fights for HBO later this year. Golovkin fights for HBO. Cesar Chavez is under contract to Haymon and fights for Showtime and has fought at super welterweight when he was younger, but is coming off that bad loss to Fonfara. I could see Cesar Chavez vs Mayweather being made at super welterweight if Chavez hadn't gone up so high in weight and Mayweather had more time left in his career, but for those reasons I don't see that one happening.
There is a bigger game being played, though. If Haymon wants to please the NBC people, which he needs to do to make his business model work, and if they want a fighter who has appeared on NBC to face Mayweather, then Haymon needs to make that happen. The whole thing with boxing on network television is to create new stars and build them to bigger fights, either on network TV shows where Haymon gets paid rather than doing a time buy, or on pay per view.
Haymon is in the middle of a juggling act and one of the key balls in the air is Mayweather's future. If Thurman were to face Mayweather on pay per view in September and win, Haymon might be able to turn his time buy into a paid situation by delivering the fighter that beat Mayweather to NBC for future fights on the network. None of that will likely happen, but the point I'm making is that to understand what decisions are going to made about Mayweather, one needs to understand Mayweather's role in Haymon's business model, as well as within the larger boxing promotional war.
Another one of the bowling balls Haymon is juggling is a recent $300 million lawsuit filed against him by de la Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. Besides money, Golden Boy is seeking a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against Haymon, claiming that he is in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Ali Act, and California's Unfair Competition Laws. This stems from Haymon hiring promoters on a show-by-show basis and launching an ambitious takeover of boxing, as per the Ali Act he cannot act as both manager and promoter of boxers.
"Since the moment Al Haymon launched Premier Boxing Champions, he has repeatedly and brazenly broken the letter and spirit of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act that is meant to protect fighters from exploitation," Golden Boy said in a statement. "As part of an anti-competitive conspiracy that includes financial backers from Waddell & Reed, Haymon has [according to the suit] 'entered into agreements to restrain trade in a substantial portion of the market for promotion of championship-caliber boxers.'"
The lawsuit by Golden Boy is silly at best. "The first thing that came to mind Wednesday upon receiving a news release from Golden Boy Promotions that it had sued Al Haymon for violations of the Muhammad Ali Act and for employing anti-competitive business practices was that Golden Boy had done exactly the same thing for years," writes Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports.
The key here is to understand that Haymon used to provide fighters to Golden Boy until last year, when Haymon and Golden Boy split. Haymon and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer attempted to buy the promotion from de la Hoya, who would not sell ("I am the golden boy!" declared de la Hoya). Golden Boy ended up suing Schaefer for $50 million, who left the promotion and has a non-compete clause that runs out in August. They also settled out of court. Presumably, if Haymon and Schaefer had bought Golden Boy, we might be seeing Golden Boy broadcasts all over network television instead of Premier Boxing.
Haymon taking his 180 or so fighters away from Golden Boy gutted the promotion's roster and has left them as an afterthought in boxing's promotional war, which largely has Haymon one side and HBO with Bob Arum's Top Rank on the other.
While with Haymon, Golden Boy was the primary promotion for Showtime and had an exclusive with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn that kept other promotions out. Golden Boy has engaged in the same unethical business practices they are now accusing Haymon of, although Golden Boy blames Schaefer for that.
"There is a two-word answer to that," Golden Boy attorney Bert Fields told Yahoo Sports. "The two words are 'Richard Schaefer.' Richard Schaefer was running Golden Boy. He was close to Al Haymon and he is with Al Haymon now."
"Whatever happened in those days is attributable to Schaefer. Oscar has taken over the company himself. He has a good staff. [Matchmaker] Eric Gomez and others. We're going in a different direction. That direction has caused us to investigate the facts and this [lawsuit] is the result."
"During my 25 years in boxing, I have watched far too many fighters be chewed up, spit out and left with nothing to sit idly by while Mr. Haymon flaunts a federal law meant to protect those who put everything on the line to entertain fans of our sport," De La Hoya, Golden Boy's president and founder, said in a statement. "The Muhammad Ali Act was passed to help fighters avoid the fate that bedeviled so many of our predecessors, and I will do everything in my power to ensure this crucial piece of legislation is upheld and followed."
The problem with de la Hoya's stance is that no boxers have complained about Haymon's business practices. In fact, in the post-fight interviews of most Haymon boxers, they frequently thank God and Al Haymon and not necessarily in that order. It comes off as arrogant and desperate for de la Hoya to file a lawsuit against Haymon on behalf of boxers when de la Hoya's company has frequently engaged in similar business practices.
"It's unlikely that an anti-trust suit is going to save Golden Boy," Iole astutely observes. "Signing good fighters, making good deals and getting out and promoting quality matches are the keys to making that happen."
More concerning than Golden Boy's suit, though, is a letter sent last week by the Association of Boxing Commissions to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking the US Justice Department to look into possible violations of the Ali Act by Haymon.
“One of the expressed purposes of the Muhammad Ali Act was to regulate the sanctioning organizations which have proliferated in the boxing industry which have not established credible and objective criteria to rate professional boxers and operate with virtually no industry or public oversight,” noted Tim Lueckenhoff, President of the ABC, in the letter.
“However it is obvious that the PBC is following the model used by MMA promoters (UFC and Bellator) which are not covered by the Muhammad Ali Act, to wit, having their own in house champions. Managers working with the PBC have publicly reported that this is the model and reportedly title belts are being made.”
The WBO, obviously out of fear that their antiquated method of handling boxing championships is being threatened, has come out in support of the ABC's letter to the Justice Department.
“I'm in agreement with the ABC's request to the US Attorney General to investigate Haymon,” said Francisco Valcarcel, president of the World Boxing Organization, on Twitter. “The time is right to investigate him & all of us!"
“The World Boxing Organization is willing to cooperate with any investigation of the U.S. Attorney General for the betterment of the sport of boxing. As discussed in our WBO Convention in October, [the] Ali Act should define the "advisor" figure and penalties increased to 5 years in prison/($250,000 fine).”
All the lawsuits aside, the key for boxing's future is to create new stars. They aren't going to have a fight that draws the kind of revenue Mayweather vs Pacquiao did for at least another generation, if not longer. But that doesn't mean the future of boxing is bleak, or anything that bad. In the meantime, boxing promoters and broadcasters can focus on creating new stars and building for the future. Previous promotional wars in boxing, MMA, and pro wrestling have actually assisted in the creation of new stars. The question now is whether the boxing people take advantage of the many opportunities that are in front of them.
Jeremy Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org