By Ivan G. Goldman
Floyd Mayweather, Golden Boy Promotions, Showtime, and other media outlets favored by the champion have begun blaring out the message that 12-1 underdog Marcos Maidana is a terribly dangerous opponent and that Floyd must have been out of his mind to accept his challenge.
If you turn to fighthype.com, you can find any number of stories that adhere to this party line. Mayweather, after confirming that he could rely on the site to ask him only what he wants to be asked, has occasionally consented to speak to its representatives. He also sometimes talks to members of the entertainment media who know little of boxing. When there are questions about that guy from the Philippines he never fights, they’re asked gingerly. All nonsensical replies are treated as sacred wisdom.
This morning fighthype.com features two stories quoting Maidana, 35-3 (31 KOs), on why he’s going to win and two interviews with his trainer Robert Garcia that also conclude Floyd bit off more than he can chew this time. Then, just to be sure everyone gets the message, there’s an additional interview with Mayweather sidekick Leonard Ellerbe in which he says “This is going to be a tough fight for Floyd.” Maybe.
But most of us expect that if Andy Kotelnik, Devon Alexander, and Amir Khan could find a way to beat the one-dimensional but relentless slugger from Argentina, Mayweather can do it too when they meet up May 3 in Las Vegas.
Not that it’s a terrible match-up. Team Mayweather is smart enough to put their welterweight/light middleweight champion in against someone who will try to make a fight break out in the ring while Mayweather circles, unleashes one punch, circles, and unleashes another punch. Meanwhile avoiding just about everything that comes at him. It’s impressive as all get-out. But exciting? Not terribly.
The opponents come out with fierce determination written all over their faces and with body language screaming aggression. But it doesn’t last. They encounter too much speed, too many tricks, too much experience. Too much of everything except the strategy of total annihilation. Mayweather, 45-0 (26 KOs), befuddles but rarely destroys or seeks to destroy. This is partly due to frail hands that may or may not be numbed through chemistry prior to his fights.
When he left HBO for Showtime, Mayweather became the executive producer of the reality series of programs that precede his fights. Amazingly, he can edit out material he dislikes and insert stuff that supports his message. This apparently was part of the contract negotiated for him by boxing godfather Al Haymon. We can’t say for sure because the Mayweather team and his new network keep the details secret. All they tell us – and they say it repeatedly – is that it’s the most lucrative fighter contract ever signed and runs for six bouts.
Mayweather-Maidana is a good fight. It probably doesn’t belong on pay-per-view, but if viewers are willing to pay extra for it, it’s hard to argue against their dollars. The pay-per-view strategy brings in more money and fewer viewers, gradually turning away fans. It’s like a plastic surgery that looks OK until it collapses.
Meanwhile, Showtime can be relied on to conduct postfight interviews with Floyd that are performed with tact and sensitivity. Jim Gray addresses Mayweather as though he were the Pope. Odd that Gray – before Haymon, Mayweather, and Golden Boy Promotions took over the microphone — used to be known for nastily berating fighters over the judges’ scores.
HBO, Mayweather’s former network, used to employ tough-minded Larry Merchant and still features Max Kellerman, who once pointed out that Haymon finds a way to get fights on HBO that he suspects wouldn’t make it to HBO if they were presented by anyone other than Haymon. Afterward Haymon put HBO in the rear-view mirror and snuggled up to Showtime, which is part of the media empire ruled by bloodless media oligarch Sumner Redstone.
HBO is part of the Time Warner conglomerate whose bastard child Time Warner Cable is, as we speak, seeking to merge with Comcast so it can control even more of the TV spectrum and much of its content. After it owns or controls everything, its lawyers and publicists tell us, it will deliver even better service at even better prices. But I digress.
Mayweather and Haymon have found a way to work the HBO-Showtime rivalry to get what they want out of Redstone’s Showtime. Meanwhile, great match-ups that won’t happen pile up.
Soon we’ll be hearing from Mayweather himself. He’ll conduct his propaganda blitz through tamed media outlets that will bark and perform like obedient seals angling for raw fish. On with the show.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.