By Ivan G. Goldman
A new element has stepped into the on-again, off-again negotiations to put together the elusive super-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Leslie Moonves now takes a personal interest in the outcome.
Moonves, CEO and president of CBS, which owns the Showtime network, is a hands-on executive who’s considered a bad guy to cross. When he calls, even the smuggest, most spoiled celebrities pick up the phone and pretend to be pleased. Moonves, 65, has been known to show up to big fights, and apparently is just as fed up as your average fan with this obvious welterweight matchup that’s been talked about for years but never happens.
Among the elements being discussed? A joint HBO-Showtime broadcast. There is a precedent – the 2002 showdown between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. But it’s not clear that both networks were happy with the way that brief partnership turned out. They haven’t teamed up since.
Moonves is considered something of a miracle man. Under his watch CBS became the most-watched TV network, going from last to first, and it’s remained in first place for 11 of the last 12 years.
With Moonves at the helm, Showtime began challenging HBO on a more equal footing, spending more in an effort to make more. But when he stole Mayweather from HBO he may have been outsmarted by boxing kingpin Al Haymon, who negotiated on Floyd’s behalf. Floyd’s pay-per-view numbers are down. We don’t know how far down because Showtime no longer releases the figures.
Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has confirmed that he’s been talking with Moonves about making the fight.
“I assume, without knowing it for a fact, that he’s talking to the Mayweather camp,” Arum told Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times. Pugmire is one of the few U.S. journalists on the scene for the fight Saturday night in Macau, where Pacquiao, 56-5-2 (38 KOs), will defend his WBO welterweight title against Long Islander Chris Algieri (20-0 (8 KOs).
Boardroom competition can be almost as competitive as prizefighting, and one can assume that Jeffrey L. Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, which owns HBO (Pacquiao’s network), would be less likely to approve a joint broadcast if he thought it would help Moonves’s reputation. That makes negotiations even more delicate.
Clearly Arum, who’s tried everything to create a buzz for the Pacquiao-Algieri contest, is using the possibility of a Big Showdown with Mayweather to get attention for his card in Macau. Although it will be shown free on Chinese TV, in the U.S., fans must fork over PPV money. Pacquiao is a 9-1 favorite, and it’s difficult to create suspense for Pacquiao’s tune-up against a slower, less powerful opponent.
Another fly in the ointment could be Arum himself because he’s looking to make a fight between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez for the Cinco de Mayo weekend of next year. May 2, 2015 would be a logical date for a Pacquiao-Mayweather super-fight. Canelo-Cotto would likely knock the wind out of any Floyd match-up you could name that doesn’t feature Pacquiao as an opponent.
Meanwhile Arum says he’s already considering the Cowboys stadium in Irving, Texas for Mayweather-Pacquiao. For a prizefight, its fan capacity could exceed 100,000. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach says he fears if Manny looks too good against Algieri, it might frighten off Floyd. If Roach can’t get the Mayweather fight, he said his second choice is unbeaten junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia (another Haymon fighter).
Pacquiao has been beating the drum for a showdown with Mayweather, 47-0 (26 KOs), for years. Mayweather occasionally seems interested, but not long ago threatened to drum his father off the team again for daring to discuss with boxing writers the super-fight that Floyd Junior usually says isn’t necessary.
Mayweather is in the news these days for apparently spending $30,000 to lure strippers into his hotel room and perform in a twerking video for Instagram. Maybe it’s his way of diverting attention from a new feature article in USA Today that includes an exhaustive interview with his former girlfriend Josie Harris, mother to three of his four children. In it, she details six instances of Floyd beating her, including the Las Vegas blow-up in September 2010 that put him in jail for two months.
In that one he entered her home as she slept, yanked her to the floor by the hair, and began punching and kicking her. His oldest son Koraun, now 14, eluded one of his father’s henchmen, hopped over a gate and found a security guard who phoned police. In the interview, Koraun, who says he’s not interested in boxing, calls his father a “coward” for not owning up to his actions.
Last month, Mayweather’s former fiancée Shantel Jackson filed a civil lawsuit against him that included claims of battery, false imprisonment and allegations that he pointed a gun at her.
While she and Floyd were a couple, she told Showtime that Floyd was innocent of the domestic abuse charges pertaining to Harris.
Mayweather, who’d already pleaded guilty and done time for the offense, was listed as executive producer on the show. That was a perk granted to him by hands-on Moonves.
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.