Will Paying Fans Don Disguises to Watch Floyd Mayweather-Andre Berto?


By Ivan G. Goldman

Lots of folks have such a pronounced craving to see Floyd Mayweather lose that they can’t resist buying his fights and crossing their fingers. It’s an itch they’ve never been able to scratch.

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So although his September 12 stand against Andre Berto is generally considered a ridiculously sorry deal as a pay-per-view offering, that doesn’t necessarily signal it will be a financial flop. Maybe fans will watch in disguise, but some of them will nevertheless buy the fight.

After all, Floyd is promising this is their last chance to see him go down to defeat. And over the years Mayweather bouts have developed into societal happenings, events that transcend the action or inaction inside the ring.

Now that he’s faced and vanquished Manny Pacquiao at last, maybe the identity of the opponent doesn’t matter so much anymore. Sure, knowledgeable fans ask why Floyd doesn’t fight someone considered more formidable or deserving – Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Amir Khan or maybe even barnstorming middleweight Gennady Golovkin.

But consider the Super Bowl. Millions of viewers tune in as a shared experience regardless of who’s playing. Many know next to nothing about the sport. It’s an event that shares certain attributes of a Mayweather fight. A good portion of viewers who purchased his last contest against Manny Pacquiao probably couldn’t name any other welterweights anyway so to them the choice of Berto registers no particular displeasure.

What vastly distinguishes a Mayweather event from a Super Bowl is that fans have to pay extra to see it. His bout next month will require a $75 payment for high-def. His last outing – the biggest PPV fight ever, cost $100, but there were more hands out. It was a shared telecast from Showtime and HBO and Pacquiao could boast of his own big following so he earned 40 percent of the purse money.

Berto, against an opponent of equal caliber to himself, might not fill a 5,000-seat stadium. He no doubt consented to a far less lucrative deal.

In the one and only pre-fight press conference, Mayweather, 48-0, 26 KOs, promised “knockdowns” and “blood” in this, the last of his bouts on a six-event contract with Showtime. It’s his shot to tie Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 so fans are promised a slice of history.

The usual pattern for a big PPV show is to hold a series of press conferences in different cities. But as Floyd got richer and more successful he seemed to take more and more time before signing a contract, leaving less and less time to market his fights.

He’s so well known by now that his fights don’t need as much salesmanship. Yet ironically he’s followed by a snore-mongering reputation — more concerned with protecting his undefeated record than seeking destruction of his opponent. His last knockout, if you don’t count the fourth round sucker shot to Victor Ortiz, was scored back in 2007 against Ricky Hatton.

Berto, 33-3, 23 KOs, has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and lost to Ortiz and Robert Guerrero, both easily defeated by Mayweather. The overseas 5dimes betting site lists him at +1600 to -3200 Mayweather. $100 on Berto wins $1,600 and you must risk $3,200 to win $100 on Floyd.

That exceedingly wide spread means the house is taking a huge commission, which indicates it’s not terribly enthusiastic about booking the bet but will do so in exchange for that massive vig.

Once again we’re offered an undercard that’s not particularly fetching. That seems to be a PPV rule these days. But fleecing PPV fans isn’t a new phenomenon. Recently I was reminded by a couple of trainers in the Fabela Chavez Boxing Gym in Carson, California that Oscar De La Hoya’s 1998 welterweight title defense against no-hoper Frenchman Patrick Charpentier was an HBO pay-per-view presentation. Charpentier, the mandatory WBC challenger, had more losses than Berto. He was 27-4-1, 23 KOs.

The challenger landed 5 of 111 punches and went down three times before referee Laurence Cole stopped it in the fourth round. We can expect more from Berto. Charpentier never fought again.

That ridiculous 1998 event sold out the Sun Bowl in El Paso – 51,000 seats. A reminder to us all that just as the bible says, there is nothing new under the sun.

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.

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