By Ivan G. Goldman
I wish I could tell you whether the latest dealings involving members of the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao camps will result this time in the super showdown the world craves.
If they do fight, fans will have to pay plenty to see them do it. I’ve seen pay-per-view estimates range as high as $100.
I don’t think we can expect a three-figure number, but it will be close. Last week, for example, my carrier Verizon demanded $72 plus tax to see Manny Pacquiao-versus-Chris Algieri atop a not terribly compelling undercard. If corporations set such a rapacious price on a sparring match, what would they charge for a real fight?
Which brings us to a related question: if the bout actually takes place this time, just how much sense would it make from an athletic perspective? Mayweather and Pacquiao are not exactly in their primes. Most prizefighters are already out of the sport by this stage in their lives, and not by their own choosing. They’ve been retired, most of them, by younger, quicker, stronger, better-conditioned opponents.
There’s a paradox at work. It usually takes quite a while for a fighter to climb up to the big money, and by the time he starts collecting it, his talent has probably faded. A great exception was heavyweight sensation Mike Tyson, a prodigy who won the undisputed championship at age 21. Older fighters’ tricks and experience couldn’t overcome the force of his talent.
Unfortunately, Tyson’s abilities eroded at a higher velocity as his immense personal problems and awful upbringing caused him to make terrible training and lifestyle choices.
If they meet in the ring next spring, Pacquiao will be 36, Mayweather 38, arguably ten years past their athletic peaks. Amazingly, they both still compete at a high level, but they stopped improving long ago, and their trajectories are on the wrong side of their stock charts.
Fighters of their stature campaigning in the same division would normally have fought long ago. You could argue interminably about why it didn’t happen. We’ve seen though, that Mayweather finds cash not so attractive when collecting it involves fighting Pacquiao.
Of course his hardcore fans argue, as he does, that the man who calls himself “Money” and loves to pose with currency saw no reason to take the most lucrative prizefight in history because after all, Pacquiao got knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez. Besides, Mayweather doesn’t like Pacquiao’s promoter. He prefers to compete against opponents he presumably considers more formidable than Pacquiao for a fraction of what he’d earn against the Philippines congressman. That way his heart remains pure.
By those standards, Muhammad Ali shouldn’t have taken on Joe Frazier in Manila in the most intense heavyweight battle ever fought, because for goodness’ sake, Smokin’ Joe was damaged goods after being knocked out by George Foreman in the second round.
Anyway, boxing isn’t the only sport in which compensation and athletic trajectories don’t coincide. Nobody really expects Giancarlo Stanton to be at the top of his game in the thirteenth year of his contract with the Marlins, but even if he’s been sidelined by then he’ll still be raking in a steady stream of loot from his record $325 million deal.
Although fans haven’t signed any long-term contract with either Mayweather or Pacquiao, they’ll still be charged more than they’ve ever been charged for any fight in the history of the sport should it take place, even though a contest fought next year will carry less meaning than it would have years ago.
Promoter Bob Arum has mentioned the Cowboys Stadium in Texas as a preferred venue. It could be configured for about 105,000 fight fans, and they’d be making a mistake to expect free parking.
As for pay-per-view, the limit thus far has reached $75. It tends to rise in $5 increments. Showtime and HBO don’t collude in these matters face to face. That would be acting contrary to anti-trust law. They play a silent game of leapfrog, setting the amount to their advantage at the maximum level, much as airlines do.
It’s a kind of a conversation even though they don’t talk directly. They don’t have to. As Bob Dylan wrote, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.