Mayweather’s May 3 challenge isn’t Maidana, it’s doing big PPV numbers



LAS VEGAS – There are those entertainers whose fame is so transcendent that they are known by a single name – Madonna, Cher, Prince.

The more he fights, the more Floyd “Money” Mayweather joins that single name club. Money has beaten every single opponent that he has faced and there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate threat between 140 and 154 pounds to challenge his ring supremacy any time soon. He has outstripped the competition and now if you’re watching Money you’re doing it because you want to see a singular, exquisite performance from a ring virtuoso.

Marcos Maidana is the latest opponent to take a turn at trying to hand Mayweather (45-0, 26 knockouts) his first loss in 18 years as a professional boxer. But hardly anyone outside of Maidana’s close circle of friends, family and supporters believe he has anything bigger than a remote chance of beating Mayweather for the WBC and RING welterweight titles on the Showtime Pay Per View event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.

In a poll conducted by Lem Satterfield of not one of the 46 boxing experts who participated picked Maidana to defeat Mayweather. That kind of one-sided view carries over to boxing fans that drive the Pay Per View.

As Mayweather heads into the twilight of his boxing career, the question becomes how many people are willing to plop down $64.95 (add $10 for the HD broadcast) to watch Mayweather as a singular performer?

Showtime and CBS, which signed Mayweather to a six-fight deal worth close to $200 million, is banking on Money cashing in on his brand as an entertainer/celebrity/boxing icon. And so is Mayweather, the highest paid athlete in the world in 2012 according to Forbes Magazine.

“I can recall when (Mike) Tyson had his reign and he was fighting guys who weren’t superstars. It was all about coming to see Tyson,” said Leonard Ellerbe, President of Mayweather Promotions. “You didn’t know if he was going to get people out in the first, second or third round. Floyd is taking it to another level.”

Stephen Espinoza, Showtime executive vice president and GM of Sports and Event Programming, said you have to be careful branding Mayweather as a celebrity/entertainment icon.

“We want to brand him as an entertaining personality, but we also have to remain true to the sport,” Espinoza said. “We don’t want to turn him into reality TV star because that undervalues that he’s the Michael Jordan of boxing. Whatever the personality traits are and as fascinating as he is we still have to respect the sport and in particular his work ethic.”

Whether Mayweather is ever able to generate the types of revenue that he did in his matches against Oscar De La Hoya and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez given the lists of available opponents in the welterweight division is highly questionable. He set a record in the De La Hoya fight with $136 million in gross revenue and 2.48 million pay per view buys. He broke it against Alvarez with $150 million in gross revenue and 2.2 million buys.

Espinoza said it is always a tricky proposition trying to select an opponent for Mayweather that will be able to hit big numbers. So far in two shows he has run the gamut with a low of 870,000 buys for his first match on Showtime against Robert Guerrero to a high of 2.2 million for Alvarez.

“We look for two things. One is the best, most competitive opponent and two being the most entertaining fight,” he said. “The most competitive opponent could be because of style, strength or youth. This will be the third different opponent. Our first two approaches on paper looked solid, but Mayweather’s skill level wins out. Here the pure relentlessness, aggression and pressure (of Maidana) is something that is going to give us something entertaining.”

Espinoza does not have any projections on what the Mayweather-Maidana fight will generate on pay per view. But Mayweather needs to get at least 1.5 million to justify the $32 million guarantee that Showtime is giving him as a minimum for each of those six fights in the contract.

Mayweather will probably have to go up in weight to have another tantalizing match on the order of De La Hoya and Alvarez. That would mean taking on middleweights champions like Gennady Golovkin or Sergio Martinez, who is fighting Miguel Cotto on June 14.

Ellerbe said that is something that they are not considering, though Espinoza said it had been discussed as a possibility with some of the smallish middleweights.

Manny Pacquiao’s name continues to surface whenever reporters gather around Mayweather. It was an intriguing match between the two top boxers in the game five years ago. Now it’s just a just an idle curiosity, the lingering remains of unfinished business. Pacquiao would be no more competitive against Mayweather than Maidana, Alvarez or Guerrero.

For the one millionth time someone asked Mayweather about a possible match against Pacquiao and he refused to answer the question directly.

“I want to congratulate Manny Pacquiao on his latest fight,” Mayweather said. “But Floyd Mayweather fights for Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather’s company is Mayweather Promotions.”

That’s a not so subtle dig at the fact that Pacquiao is promoted by Bob Arum of Top Rank, whom Mayweather has said he will never do business with and neither will Richard Schaefer, the CEO at Golden Boy Promotions, who co-promotes Mayweather’s events.

As Mayweather comes down the home stretch of his career, Ellerbe said we’re witnessing history.

“The run that we’re on will never be duplicated,” Ellerbe said. “There will be other great fighters coming behind him that will have great records and be great fighters, but the magnitude of what we’re doing and the revenue we’re generating will never be duplicated.”