By Ivan G. Goldman
I’m in a nondescript room in downtown Los Angeles with about 100 other media people, mostly writers, a few photographers. We wait for Floyd Mayweather. This is about two hours prior to the big media conference to kick off publicity for the welterweight superfight I will refer to hereafter as FloydPac, to be fought May 2 in Las Vegas between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Floyd is 50 minutes late, somewhere outside in the Nokia Plaza on the red carpet, we’ve been told. There are lots more media people out there, about 600. They were awarded credentials in other colors but deemed unworthy of the prized green credentials we have dangling from chains around our necks. We greenies, the hundred media aristocrats, will get to interview the fighters and their principal team members in separate, back-to-back, open-ended sessions.
I look around for “The Ghost,” Floyd’s adviser Al Haymon, who supervises events from his secret headquarters. Could he be here in disguise? Spotting him would be like a bird watcher seeing a blue-tailed Pterosaur, a flying dinosaur that hasn’t been around for the last 66 million years.
I’ve already seen Floyd Mayweather, Sr., outside the building. Once again chief trainer for his son, he was surrounded by about 30 determined operators of smart phones and other electronic devices, their users drinking in his every word as though he held the secret to world peace.
There’s already griping among the boxing media, even among us greenies, because we know that on fight night in Las Vegas the MGM Grand Arena holds only 16,000, and some of those seats are so bad you could call them joke seats. In terms of capacity, there will be a monstrous shortage for media and fans. Those in the joke seats will barely see the ring. Some won’t even be in sight of the big screens.
And with tickets selling for a minimum price of $1,500 before the scalpers bid them higher, that means if the promoters give someone in the media even a crummy seat, they’re giving up $1,500 from a paying customer.
Of those media people who do obtain decent seats, many won’t be boxing writers. They’ll represent big outlets that rarely cover prizefighting, if ever. Most boxing writers on fight night will get screwed, relegated to hotel ballrooms to watch on closed circuit in Siberia.
The catch is, they don’t inform you of your seat location until you get there. By holding out the promise of seating in the arena, the promoters obtain more coverage from more outlets.
Many of the excluded ones watching off-site will write their stories as though they were on the scene, without informing readers of their shamed circumstances. And today, many of the 600 excluded ones to be allowed inside later won’t inform their readers that they weren’t present for the good parts. They’ll write around it somehow.
Our color-coded credentials and the system of insiders and outsiders today and on fight night reminds me of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a novel that describes a nightmare future in which everyone’s station in life is designated at birth, ranging from alpha to epsilon. But they get plenty of drugs to ease the pain.
Why will a fight that could easily sell 50,000 tickets be held in a venue that holds less than a fourth of that? For the answer you’d have to understand the rock-solid business relationships the MGM Grand has formed with the principals.
Mayweather Promotions won its place as lead promoter during pre-fight negotiations. Many fighters are superstitious. Floyd’s never lost at the MGM Grand, so why take a chance? Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, wanted the bout in the much bigger Dallas Cowboys stadium, but he’s not complaining, at least publicly.
Golden Boy Promotions, which normally handles the details of Floyd’s fights, was shut out. Former CEO Richard Schaefer is gone, and Floyd and Oscar, the Golden Boy president, dislike each other.
Many of us wonder whether Floyd’s company, which isn’t used to handling all these details, has enough experience to present FloydPac to the world. But it turns out this event is well organized. We’re fed breakfasts with hot, scrambled eggs and buffet lines are short. There are plenty of people to direct us. Nothing is exactly on time, but these things are never punctual.
I’m prepared with laptop, water bottle, and Dodgers baseball cap to shield my eyes from the glare of TV lighting.
Ah, what’s that? Why it’s the champ, Floyd Mayweather, who entered rather quietly. He takes a seat up front, and the questions begin. You can find the interview elsewhere on this site.