Floyd Mayweather has, for several years, been the highest-paid athlete in sports, not just boxing. But Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, said the multi-fight deal the superstar boxer signed with Showtime Sports will take it to another level.
Mayweather rejected a multi-fight deal from longtime television partner HBO to sign with archrival Showtime. His first bout under the terms of the new deal will be on May 4 in Las Vegas on Showtime pay-per-view against Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden.
In June, Forbes ranked Mayweather atop its 100 highest-paid athletes list with earnings of $85 million.
"This is an enormous deal and – and I want you to use all of these words – Showtime really, really, really, really, really stepped up in what they offered Floyd," Ellerbe said. "The actual terms are confidential, but the deal [Showtime] offered, from top to bottom, was substantially better than what we received from HBO. Substantially better. They made it clear, without a doubt, that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is their guy and that they wanted to be in the Floyd Mayweather business."
Mayweather turns 36 on Sunday. Ellerbe laughed and said, "This is quite the nice early birthday present for Floyd." Mayweather, he said, "is skinning and grinning right now."
The deal is a coup for Showtime Sports general manager Stephen Espinoza and the network, and a body blow to HBO. Mayweather had been with HBO from the beginning of his career after he won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
His 2007 fight with Oscar De La Hoya smashed all existing pay-per-view records, selling more than 2.5 million units. He's averaged more than 1 million pay-per-view sales per fight over the last six years.
Ellerbe said Mayweather had been loyal to HBO, but suggested that HBO may have been taking its star for granted.
"Floyd made a business decision that is best for him and best for his family," Ellerbe said. "Floyd had a tremendous amount of success on HBO and he appreciates everything they've done for him over the last 17 years.
"But I'll liken this to a guy's relationship with his lady. When you have been in a longterm relationship with a young lady, you have to do the same things you did to get her to keep her. You can't take the relationship for granted."
Though Top Rank took Manny Pacquiao from HBO to Showtime for a 2011 fight with Shane Mosley, this is the biggest defection from HBO since former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson bolted for Showtime in 1990.
No HBO Sports executives were willing to speak on the record.
"We made an aggressive and responsible pay-per-view offer," an HBO spokesman said. "Now we move on. We are focused on the best boxing franchise in the television business. We are proud of the roster of superstar fighters and emerging stars who are scheduled to appear on the multiple HBO television platforms this year."
Mayweather has only fought six times, including his record-setting win over De La Hoya, in the last six years. But Ellerbe said he got the itch to become more active after working in his Las Vegas gym with some of the young boxers Mayweather Promotions signed.
Ellerbe wouldn't commit to any specific opponents and said the only date beyond May 4 that Mayweather is committed to is Sept. 14. But he said Mayweather is definitely eager to fight more often.
He fought twice in 2007, skipped 2008 and then fought once each from 2009 through 2012. The last time Mayweather fought six times in a 30-month period was just as he was transitioning from HBO to pay-per-view. He fought Phillip Ndou on Nov. 1, 2003, on HBO, then fought five more times in the next 30 months, with the finale being an April 8, 2006, pay-per-view match with Zab Judah.
Ellerbe wouldn't speculate on potential opponents, but said Mayweather is solely interested in "doing exciting fights the fans want to see."
"Floyd could beat any of them guys, from 140 to 147 and from 154 to 160," Ellerbe said. "I didn't say he was fighting at [middleweight], just that he could beat all them guys in those weights. We'll see what he chooses to do."
Canelo Alvarez has been widely speculated to fight on Mayweather's undercard, with the expectation that if he won he would meet Mayweather on Sept. 14. Alvarez said Monday he will be fighting Austin Trout, but Ellerbe said Tuesday "we're still working through details" of who will be on the May 4 undercard.
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