By Ivan G. Goldman
Fans are voting with their wallets on Saturday night’s match between Floyd Mayweather and Andre Berto. So far they refuse to open them.
Anyone who wants to get inside the MGM Grand arena in Las Vegas doesn’t have to pay a scalper’s markup for this one. Only five days before the match the casino was still offering plenty of seats through Ticketmaster.
This doesn’t bode well for pay-per-view sales, since demand for electronic viewing tends to parallel ticket sales.
The MGM Grand, Showtime, and Mayweather’s team overreached on this one. They hoped fans would be unable to resist the chance to see history – Mayweather’s very last fight. But that sales gimmick fails on two principal counts:
One, fans gravitate toward the promise of good fights and leave history to the history books. Two, they know this may not be Floyd’s last go-around anyway. He must be awfully tempted by the opportunity to finish at 50-0 rather than just tie Rocky Marciano’s achievement of 49-0.
Don’t get me wrong. Even if heavy underdog Berto, 30-3, 23 KOs, were to pull off a miracle and change Mayweather’s numbers to 48-1, 26 KOs, Floyd would still have plenty of accomplishments under his belt. Yet insofar as history is concerned, taking a peek behind those numbers can be enlightening.
For example, the great Sugar Ray Robinson, 173-19-6, 108 KOs, won forty times before posting his first loss, but that unanimous decision defeat was to Jake LaMotta, who weighed in at 160 and a half against Robinson’s 144 and a half. And LaMotta wasn’t just any old middleweight. He was one of the best ever and tough as nails. He knocked Sugar Ray through the ropes in round eight of that ten-rounder.
And get this. Only two weeks later Robinson competed again, winning a majority ten-round decision against Jackie Wilson in the Garden. Just one week later Robinson faced LaMotta yet again, getting up off the canvas in round seven to win a unanimous ten-round decision.
Imagine welterweight Mayweather fighting middleweight Gennady Golovkin twice in the space of three weeks – plus another guy in between. Without any catch weight. Is that a fair comparison? Absolutely. You can bet GGG would be flattered to be mentioned alongside the great LaMotta.
Fight records are like punch stats. They don’t tell the whole story.
Now about those seats at the MGM Grand … As of Monday evening there were crummy seats at the top of the stairs available for $324.15. Relatively decent seats were being offered at $1,551.
The best seats were gone of course, but they weren’t necessarily sold. Many were allocated as comps to high rollers and other folks collecting for past and future favors. If the arena is full Saturday, you can assume seats were given away to shills.
As for PPV, the high-def price of $75 plus tax follows on the heels of Mayweather’s May 2 outing against Manny Pacquiao, priced at a record $100. Yet another dull contest in which Floyd never even tried to put away his opponent — who competed with only one good arm after the fourth round.
Even when a fighter can win every round on points there’s supposed to be a serious level of aggression. That’s why we call it prize-FIGHTING, not prize-SCORING.
The fact that Mayweather-Pacquiao pulled in somewhere around 4.4 million PPV buys (they claim they’re still adding it up) actually works against sales for Saturday. Most of those folks are now unsatisfied customers. When you buy a lemon you’re unlikely to do business with the same dealer again.
It’s hard to get reliable numbers on the May 2 purses. The numbers are so huge they become almost meaningless. But there was a 60-40 split of more than $400 million in PPV money, plus closed circuit, foreign sales, the live gate, and sponsorship money. The live gate was much bigger than the announced $71 million because most tickets were set aside for scalpers who drove up the prices, and the two teams got a huge share of those “secondary” dollars.
Let’s put those hundreds of millions in perspective. Four-round fighters earn about $1,500 apiece, depending on the commission minimum and other factors. A lot of those four-rounders are damn good fights.
Mayweather-Pacquiao represented dollar extraction on an industrial-strength level — for a contest that was a farce due to a serious shoulder injury suffered by Pacquiao during training. The farce factor can’t be blamed on Floyd. That’s all on Team Pacquiao.
With all those dollars floating around you’d expect a good undercard, but that wasn’t to be either.
We can’t know at this point whether buyers of Mayweather-Berto will turn out to be foolish or savvy. In either case, I wish them well.
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.