Photos via Mayweather Promotions
by Gautham Nagesh
The world of televised boxing was upended Tuesday morning with the news pound-for-pound champ Floyd Mayweather has signed a six-fight deal with Showtime and parent company CBS. The first fight will pit Mayweather against welterweight contender Robert Guerrero on May 4th.
According to the release, the deal is “a unique revenue-sharing arrangement between Showtime PPV and Mayweather” that will enable Floyd to fight up to six times over a period of 30 months. The release declines to give specific financial details, but claims the deal “is by far the biggest in the sport of boxing.
"At this record-setting PPV performance level, if all six fights contemplated by this deal occur, it will be the richest individual athlete deal in all of sports," states the release.
The announcement will undoubtedly send shockwaves through the boxing establishment, most notably at HBO, which has broadcast all of Floyd’s fights in recent memory and is considered the ultimate destination for PPV boxing. As noted in the release, Mayweather is the unquestioned king of boxing PPV at the moment, particularly after rival Manny Pacquiao’s devastating loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December. Losing Floyd is a serious blow to new HBO Sports president Ken Hershman and his team, which have now seen the tentpole for their boxing franchise leave for Hershman’s former employer.
The Guerrero fight had been rumored for months, though few give the rugged Guerrero much of a shot at upsetting Floyd. Still, the fight should do a million PPV buys without much trouble, considering Floyd’s recent run of success at the box office. More disturbing for HBO, the contract likely means that a future showdown between Mayweather and Mexican matinee idol Saul “Canelo” Alvarez would also take place on Showtime. That fight, which could take place as soon as September, could challenge the PPV record set by Mayweather vs Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.
While he probably wouldn’t want it pointed out, Mayweather’s move to Showtime echoes a similar defection by Pacquiao for the Shane Mosley fight. Whether the move is intended to give Mayweather greater leverage over HBO as with Pacquiao, or simply represents good business, remains unclear. But Mayweather enjoys privileged status in boxing, since his earning power rises above promoters, networks or opponents. He already controls a greater portion of the revenue generated by his fights than any other professional fighter, and that sum will likely only increase thanks to his new deal. The added lure of marketing from CBS probably helped, but likely wasn’t a key factor in closing the deal.
Meanwhile, taking Mayweather to Showtime means HBO must now scramble to lock down other future superstars, many of whom, like Mayweather, are also managed by Al Haymon. Haymon is clearly the sharpest operator in the boxing business right now, and has managed to steal control from HBO through his influence over Mayweather, the sports’ biggest cash cow. With their new deal in hand, Floyd and Haymon are in position to call the shots for boxing in the immediate future, and their choices of opponents and undercard fighters will dictate the sport’s landscape for the next two years.
Any way you slice it, Tuesday was a bad day for HBO, a great day for CBS and Showtime, and another big payday for The Money Team. Floyd wouldn’t have it any other way.
Update: BoxingScene has HBO’s response:
"We made an aggressive and responsible pay-per-view offer. Now we move on. We are focused on the best boxing franchise in the television business. We are proud of the roster of superstar fighters and emerging stars who are scheduled to appear on the multiple HBO television platforms this year."
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