Espinoza: Mayweather’s move a ‘game-changer’
Showtime Sports’ boss Stephen Espinoza shared his thoughts on the acquisition of pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather announced that his first-ever appearance on HBO’s rival network against Robert Guerrero on May 4 to be televised on Showtime Pay Per View from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Mayweather’s deal is part of an exclusive multi-fight venture with the cable network and its parent company, CBS Corporation.
Under the terms of the “revenue-sharing arrangement between Showtime Pay Per View and Mayweather,” the five-division titleholder could fight “six times over a period of 30 months.”
“I am absolutely excited about fighting more. It’s about staying active and that means a lot more of me. Before my career ends, that’s what I am going to give the fans a whole lot more of me,” said Mayweather.
“It’s Showtime baby. I am a veteran in the sport. I have been in the sport of boxing for 17 years and I am still doing record-breaking numbers. Boxing isn’t going anywhere as long as Floyd Mayweather is here. The sport is here to stay.”
The package could be worth $250 million, according to an online report by Forbes’ Magazine, and represents a landmark move in the tenure of Espinoza.
Hired as Showtime’s executive vice president and general manager of sports programming in November of 2011, Espinoza replaced Ken Hershman, who accepted his current post president of HBO Sports in October of 2011.
Espinoza’s recent coup has signed the biggest star in boxing in Mayweather, appearing to create an entirely different angle to the playing field between Showtime and traditional power HBO.
It appears that WBC junior middleweight beltholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez may be in line to face WBA counter part Austin Trout as the co-feature to Mayweather-Guerrero.
If Alvarez wins, the unbeaten Mexican star wants to face Mayweather on Sept. 14 (Mexican Independence Day weekend), meaning that high-profile, potential pay-per-view record-breaking match up would have to take place on Showtime.
CBS will put is promotional weight behind the Mayweather-Guerrero card, including advertising duirng the NCAA basketball tournament’s March Madness.
Espinoza is also encouraged by favorable numbers from the recent appearance on CBS of unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz, who recently vacated his IBF bantamweight belt to enter the junior featherweight ranks.
Santa Cruz’s victory over Alberto Guevara rated 1.3 and retained 90 percent of the audiece from the NBA basketball game which preceded it.
It also remains to be seen how Mayweather’s action will be interpreted by younger fighters in the Golden Boy stable, such as two-division titlewinners Adrien Broner and Devon Alexander, RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, WBO middleweight titleholder Peter Quillin, or unbeaten prospect Gary Russell Jr.?
All of the above mentioned fighters, including Santa Cruz, incidentally, are managed by Al Haymon, who advises Mayweather.
RingTV.com: Is “game-changer” an accurate term to use in regard to Mayweather’s move?
Stephen Espinoza: When you’re talking about doing a deal with the leading athlete in the sport, as Floyd Mayweather is, then I think “game-changer” is appropriate, and not an exaggeration.
He is, without question, the most entertaining, the most compelling, the most talked about athlete in boxing, and among the top in sports. So it’s a massive get for us.
RingTV.com: Your thoughts on Forbes’ estimation of the monetary value of Mayweather’s deal at $250 million?
SE: Well, Floyd’s earning potential, or his track record of earnings, to be more accurate, is no secret. Forbes designated him as the highest paid athlete in the world in 2012.
So I can’t comment on the value of this deal, but in general, their numbers are fairly good.
RingTV.com: Is your relationship with Al Haymon encouraging toward getting a significant number of his fighters to perhaps be televised on your network than already are?
SE: I think that I’m very familiar with the way that Al does business, and Al treats each one of his fighters individually, and he does what’s best for each fighter without regard to any of the other fighters.
If he has another fighter and I can make a compelling case why he should be at Showtime, then I think that I have a good chance. But Al will take each fighter on a case-by-case basis, and evaluate it that way, as he should.
RingTV.com: Can you address the notion of Alvarez-Trout?
SE: It’s been discussed as a possibility, but there are certainly other possibilities out there as well, so it’s definitely an attractive fight if the Trout fight can get made.
But there have been no commitments so far with respect Floyd’s undercard for Canelo or anybody else.
RingTV.com: Your thoughts on Broner as a potential signee to Showtime, or, for a potential appearance on the May 4 card?
SE: There have been a lot of discussion about the May 4 undercard as of yet. I haven’t heard Broner’s name mentioned, but I’m not fully in the loop on all of those discussions.
But there are a number of possibilities for the undercard. I think that Broner a very talented and very charismatic fighter. Any network would be interested in having him at this point in his career.
RingTV.com: When you’re looking at an unattached Manny Pacquiao, or any other fighter, can you imagine that they’re looking at the fact that Mayweather is over on Showtime and considering making a similar move?
SE: I think that Floyd is the latest piece, and potentially, the most important piece in, sort of, the building block of the strategy that I’ve been trying to execute over the last year or 14 months to be exact.
And that is to continue to elevate the sports programming to keep up with the advances in what we’ve been doing on the series side.
Showtime’s series programming has been going like gangbusters for several years. What I’ve tried to do in the last 12 to 14 months is to see an upgrade in the development of sports programming.
Whether its Jim Rome on Showtime, or 60 Minutes Sports, or, now, Floyd Mayweather, it’s all part of the larger plan to bring the biggest brands, the biggest names and the biggest stars into the Showtime sports fold.
RingTV.com: Will the NCAA Tournament play into the marketing of the May 4 card?
SE: Absolutely. We’re in the process of finalizing the entire promotional and marketing campaign, and we’ll have further announcements about all of the programming initiatives fairly shortly.
But we’lll definitely include using the NCAA Tournament on CBS as a cross-promotional platform for us.
RingTV.com: What is the potential for getting more network fights on such as the Santa Cruz initiative?
SE: I think the performance and the viewership of the Santa Cruz fight speaks very well to the future of the possibility of other fights on CBS.
He got a very strong rating, particularly considering that we’re talking about a young fighter without a whole lot of main stream market recognition.
So, it will continue to be discussed, as far as bringing back more shows to CBS, but given the success of the first one, I like our chances.
Photo by Chris Cozzone, Fightwireimages.com
Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Jeff Gross, Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]