by Charles Jay
Ken Hershman, formerly of Showtime, has just taken the desk as head of HBO Sports, which means that he will be the point man for any and all arrangements having to do with a prospective fight between Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. So what he has to say carries some importance with it.
And if his recent quotes are to be believed, he is running out of patience.
Hershman’s point of view is that there is a “sell-by” date past which the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight will no longer have any relevance.
Whether or not he is doing it just as a ruse to speed the process along, he is absolutely right, for any number of reasons.
For one thing, people can only be excited about something for so long. Let’s face it – timing is a factor; if you catch the fans at the apex of the excitement, you have a chance to cash in big. But once that excitement starts to wane, possibly because of the anger fans may have built up over the fight not happening sooner, you may still have a fight, and an event, but it wouldn’t carry nearly the level of interest that it might have before.
Okay – possible, though not probable.
Also, guys get old, so if it draws out too long, the fight loses one of its big selling points: that it is between two fighters who can reasonably claim to be the best, pound-for-pound, in the world. Sooner or later, these guys are going to lose enough of an edge that other fighters will surpass them on that mythical pound-for-pound list, and then what you have is a fight where two guys are fighting each other simply because that’s the only way they can make any kind of a payday.
And maybe even then, the problem will be that they both price themselves out of the market. This is probably the perspective Hershman is looking at it from. HBO is not going to pay 2010 or 2011 prices for this same fight in 2013, because less people might believe this is a bout that really and truly settles something. Nostalgia, as we know, has a certain value, but there are limits.
Another reason is one that might not hold up at all. You see, otherwise one could say that other stars will emerge who would eventually eclipse Mayweather and Pacquiao in terms of viability and credibility. If something like the happened, obviously that would bring the value of this fight crashing down through the process of procrastination.
But short of either of these fighters losing, what is going to make that scenario a reality?
Is there anyone out there who has offered evidence that they could be inserted into the same discussion in terms of pure significance and PPV salability to put them on a level with either Mayweather or Pacquiao?
That is the one of the problems with boxing, where the promotional organizations and networks are going out in all different directions. The “star-making machine” just isn’t there, like it is in other sports, and in the “combat” realm, with the UFC or WWE, which build stars not to make them independent of the brand but to serve the brand.
Who else is getting a wide audience excited in boxing?
Andre Ward may be a heck of a super middleweight who will turn into a heck of a light heavyweight, and was just voted fighter of the year by one organization, but on the best day of his life he is not going to have the drawing power to create a mega-fight. The same can be said about Amir Khan. Canelo Alvarez has possibilities, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll have a fanatical appeal that goes beyond the Hispanic audience. Miguel Cotto is an entertaining fighter, and a very solid pay-per-view draw, but he has lost to Pacquiao already, and is most likely about to lose to Mayweather. That puts him a notch below, and as long as no one looks upon him as a real candidate to be the best fighter in the world, it will stay that way.
Sergio Martinez is a nice fighter, but he doesn’t have what it takes. The Klitschko brothers have had a long time to prove that they do, but they don’t – unless they fight each other. Bernard Hopkins has never been that kind of draw, and he is in the waning stages of his career. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will never get to the level of accomplishment that is necessary, unless he pulls off an upset over a real fighter. There are a lot of other good fighters, like Lucien Bute, Chad Dawson, Robert Guerrero, Lamont Peterson, Tim Bradley, Nonito Donaire and so forth, but not one of these fighters has the magnetism and/or resume to supplant what has already been established by both Mayweather and Pacquiao.
And is there anyone else on the horizon?
That’s the point.
Where are the superstars who could be paired together, or at least put in the same sentence, as the most widely-anticipated fight? You don’t just create these guys out of whole cloth. Guys like that have to beat everyone that’s been put in their path, do so with a certain degree of charisma, have huge popularity, and assume a high degree of world importance to be in that position.
And by those standards, it looks like a match between Mayweather and Pacquiao, whether it is real or merely the subject of speculation, is going to have a shelf life that goes beyond anything else we can think of, whether Ken Hershman likes it or not.