by Charles Jay
Giving up big bucks for safe fights was not HBO’s cup of tea, at least according to some of the people who are in the know.
Photo: Tom Casio/Showtime
The boxing world was shaken up by the news that HBO had lost Floyd Mayweather, the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world (at least in the opinion of many) to rival Showtime. But HBO, which has been relatively mum on the issue, was reportedly not all that shaken up by it.
According to industry insiders, the people at HBO, who had the resources to keep Mayweather on board if they really wanted to, were not all that willing to move forward with the multiple-division champ, who packs a wallop in terms of talent but can obviously be a pain in the ass. “HBO did not consider him all that reliable,” said one promoter who spoke with Boxing Insider, “and they really weren’t looking to be married to a 38-year-old fighter when the time came,” that being a reference to the new deal with Showtime, which calls for as many as six fights over a period of 30 months.
Also, HBO was faced with the prospect of paying ultra-high guarantees (against percentages of course) for fights that were not particularly challenging or competitive, in their estimation. When it came down to it, they were not altogether excited about overpaying for opponents like Robert Guerrero (scheduled for May 4) and Devon Alexander (tentatively slated for September 14), who don’t necessarily provide a whole lot of suspense. And when one looks at it objectively, when you take away the possibility of fighting Manny Pacquiao, as well as any others (like Tim Bradley) who may not be available because of a particular promoter’s agenda, there wasn’t much left.
Showtime was willing to engage along those parameters. They were happy with offering higher guarantees and a higher percentage split than HBO was willing to offer. “The people who Mayweather wants to fight and HBO doesn’t really want to shell out for, Showtime doesn’t really have a problem with,” according to our source, who has done business with both HBO and Showtime. “They know that Mayweather doesn’t want to go through a lot of risk, but they are willing to go along with that.”
Showtime looks at this deal as a way of pulling even with HBO as a “player” in the pay-per-view game, at least in the perception of the people who they feel counts the most, with the “trickle-down” effect on its premium channel as well. If it is a loss leader in that regard, so be it.
The network, which now has former Golden Boy attorney Steven Espinoza heading up its boxing initiative, already has a cozy relationship with Oscar De La Hoya’s company, which is contractually connected with at least a few people Mayweather can fight, namely Amir Khan, and possibly Canelo Alvarez, who would be part of the May 4 card on which Mayweather will fight Guerrero. The association Mayweather has had with Golden Boy, which does the groundwork on Mayweather’s fights in exchange for a reported $1 million fee, certainly helps in that regard.
As for the prospects for a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in the future, another promoter we talked to told us, “This deal was definitely made with the idea in mind that Pacquiao and Mayweather will probably never happen. This is comfort for Floyd.” You want to discuss “legacy”? That’s a term for neophyte sportswriters to talk about. Brand-building? Not really high on the priority list. Mayweather wants the money, and he doesn’t want to be extended too far in the process of pocketing it. If he can get away with it, who can blame him?